MeadowCreek HT – Part 2

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!

It hot, but I ok

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.

still waiting on pro pics so you have to make do with screen shots for now

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.

I freaking love him

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*…

They love each other

MeadowCreek HT – Part 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.

How Henny prepares for dressage

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.

entering at A
he’s happiest when he’s cantering

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.

We had a giggle at the 8 for gaits and impulsion

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!


Mini Reviews: Cambox ISIS, I-Quip gloves, Decopony

I keep slacking a bit on the review thing, mostly because I’m lazy and reviews are work. So I decided to group some things together in review posts – tack, clothes, etc – starting today with “show season extras”, because otherwise lets be honest it’ll take me a year to get to everything.

Cambox ISIS helmet camera

This is pretty new to the American market, with Dover being the only US retailer at the moment. They have it listed for $290, but I bought mine from a French website for $270.

The Cambox is, IMO, the absolute best helmet camera on the market. It’s very light weight and unobtrusive, to the point where you don’t even notice it’s there. I also find it much easier to use than my GoPro, too, due to the design. The camera sits under the brim of your helmet and has little LED indicator lights that you can see in your peripheral, letting you know when the camera is on and when it’s filming. No more fumbling around blindly for buttons or trying in vain to hear a faint little beep.

The Cambox comes in a convenient little hard shell carrying case that fits the camera itself, a cleaning cloth for the lens, and the USB cable for charging and file transfer. This also makes it really easy to carry around or toss in my purse without worrying about damaging it.

The video quality is about the same as what I was getting from the GoPro, no noticeable difference to me for better or for worse. The battery life is the only real complaint I have – it’s about 90 minutes MAX. Not a big deal if you’re using it at a show, but something to keep in mind if you want to use it for a long ride or an XC schooling. Also, like the GoPro it is not waterproof, but unlike the GoPro there isn’t a waterproof case available. If it’s a super rainy day, don’t wear it; the footage would be crap anyway. I had a bit of a hard time getting the velcro attachment to stick to the alcantara on the underside of my Samshield brim – I ended up having to use some glue to make it stay. Didn’t bother me because you can’t see it, but I know some people would not be delighted at the idea of gluing velcro to the underside of their brim. I think it would stick best to plastic.

Spot the helmet cam

I’ve had to order a couple of accessories to optimize the camera for my skull cap – a second velcro attachment of course, and their brim stabilizer so that it doesn’t flop around on the looser brim of the cover. A little bit more investment ($25) but I really like the fact that I can put the camera on either of my helmets very easily.

Overall – 4 out of 5 stars for the Cambox, really only dinged for the battery life. If you’re a helmet cam lover, you need this.


I-Quip custom gloves

I posted about I-Quip a couple months ago in a Brand Spotlight feature, so I figured I would update y’all now that my gloves have arrived and I’ve been using them. Those with keen eyes might have spotted them in some of my pictures or the helmet cam video from Holly Hill, their first show outing. I’ve been wearing them every day at home too, because I really want to test their claim for exceptional durability and because I just really like wearing them.

I-Quip cameo

The first impression right out of the box is that these gloves are super high quality and exquisitely made. I examined every stitch, inside and out, and couldn’t find a flaw. They’re butter soft while also feeling rugged. On the first ride they felt a little tight, but by the next time I put them on they had already molded to the shape of my hands and now they fit, well, like a glove.

In the past I’ve tended to stay away from leather gloves because of how they felt stiff and crunchy when they dried, and a lot of them leeched dye and stained my hands. I hate both of those things. But despite getting these things absolutely soaked through with sweat on many occasions, they’ve always dried just as soft as they were before and never left a hint of color on my hands. They are also showing absolutely zero wear so far. None. Zip. Nada. I have high hopes that these gloves are everything they claim to be, in addition to being beautiful and super grippy.

I know that the price is a deterrent to most people on these gloves. Their stock model, the black Signature, starts around $70, and the custom Luxury Eventer like I purchased runs more toward $150. Expensive? Yes. But a) they’re totally custom, color-wise and fit-wise b) even if I only get 3 years out of them, that’s how much I would have spent on Roeckl’s in the interim anyway. They make me happy both to look at and to wear, so to me they’re worth it. Treat yo’self.

Overall – 4.5 out of 5, only because the price point means I can’t justify 10 pairs.

Deco Pony custom stall guard

Deco Pony is a small company that makes custom printed vinyl stall guards and halter guards (as well as some other accessories like bags and shirts). I’ve seen their stuff popping up at events all over the place, especially the stall guards, so at Christmas Bobby and I went in together to get a custom one for our coach.


I liked hers so much that I went back and ordered one for myself a few weeks later. I needed a stall guard anyway, and most of them are in the $40 range, so why not spend $10 more and get something custom?

Since I was the one that set up our original design in the first place, I got to work one on one with Deco Pony owner Jenn to get everything just right. She made a few mock-up designs for me using the barn logo and I picked the one I liked most. She was very easy to work with and did a great job with the design, and there is no minimum order. Once your original design is set up its easy to just go in and order more of the same design, which makes it awesome for barns – everyone can order and pay for their own, rather than having to do one big giant order and pool money.


The stall guard arrived within just a couple weeks and I was really happy with the quality. The vinyl is thick and very well constructed. I keep mine rolled up and stored in my trailer in between shows, and just hose it off whenever it’s dirty. Henry has chewed on it, licked it, and even stepped on it, and it’s survived all of that with no damage. Plus I love the united, matching look of the stall guards together at horse shows.

Overall – 5 out of 5. Great value, durable, practical, and an easy company to work with!

Other items on the docket for review soon:

  • Majyk Equipe leather stadium boots (next week!)
  • Back on Track saddle pad, quick wraps, and mesh sheet
  • Ice Horse tendon boots
  • QHP breeches
  • Camelot anatomic girth
  • PS of Sweden 3 point breastplate
  • Sporthorse Lifestyle Hudson shirt
  • Style Stock stock tie
  • Winston show shirt (gonna roll into review of Winston coat)

Texas Rose HT – cross country !!!

Our great stadium round on Saturday afternoon really boosted my confidence about XC even more… I woke up feeling ready to kick some ass and take some names. My ride time was 9:09 so by the time I got to the show grounds, fed, watered, cleaned the (disgusting) stall, and checked Henry out to make sure he was good to go, it was time to get ready. He looked bright eyed and bushy tailed, and I told him that the bank was going to look big and scary but to trust me and just keep going forward. He just pinned his ears and glared at me, then immediately begged for a cookie, which I’m pretty sure is Henry’s version of “Don’t insult me, I’m a professional. Now get me a cookie, slave woman.”. So I did.

Cookie for Henry? Henry. Cookie. Cooookieeeee. Me. GIVE.

I got on him around 8:45 and headed over to XC warm-up. Again my tactic was to keep it as short as possible so he didn’t get too hot (it was only about 80 degrees but also 80% humidity – gross). Since the cold water sponging worked so well before stadium, Bobby brought a bucket over and we did the same thing again. We took one big lap of the field at a trot, a couple laps at the canter, and opened up and re-collected his gallop a few times to check for rideability. After a little breather we jumped a coop and a table a few times under Amanda’s direction, one time of which I completely botched by micro-managing (thanks Henry for the butt saving, sorry I tried to kill us). I gave myself a stern lecture about letting the horse go forward and leaving him alone to do his job and we jumped it again with much more success. Amanda gave us her blessing and then off to the start box we went.

Bobby got short clips of us leaving the start box and then coming through the second water towards the end.

The awesome pro photographer got several great pictures, one of which is my new favorite picture of Henry EVER, but it could take a few days to get them so they’ll have to be a separate post.

But – there’s HELMET CAM! Sorry bout the early morning glare when we’re headed into the sun. It just is what it is. And I continue to fail at cleaning the smudges off the lens. Sigh. I guess I’m just a really smudgy person.

The play by play:

Henry came out of the box calmly and all business, looking for the first jump. He hopped over it easily and then we headed to the stair step. I thought he might be a little distracted by the highway traffic but nope – he focused on his fence and took me right to it. He jumped it so well, so balanced and with such good power off the ground from the base, right then was when I thought “We’ve got this in the bag”. He landed galloping after that and I let him go a little until the vertical logs at 3. He came back, but it took a few half halts. He was eating it up.

Then it was up the hill to the table at 4, which he jumped just as well as fence 2. I started getting a little excited about how awesome my horse is. I really wish I was a more eloquent writer so I could better explain to y’all exactly how he feels on cross country… it’s phenomenal. He’s made for this. Amanda suggested that we jump fence 5 slightly right to left so that we landed on a flatter surface instead of a downhill one. That worked out perfectly and let us roll right along to the up bank at 6 without as much interference from me. We jumped up the bank and then turned right to splash through the water and jump out over the cabin. He was a little surprised at the water but charged right through with no questions asked. The cabin was easy, and then I let him roll a little bit again to the table at 8.

After 8 I distinctly remember thinking “OMG I can’t breathe and we’re only halfway done.” and started trying to make a more conscious effort to exhale. Henry seemed non-plussed though, as he happily jumped the Trakehner at 9 (which he also jumped the crap out of, as you can see by the face full of mane that I got in the video) and rolled down the hill toward the oxer. Honestly at this point I was kinda just a passenger… which is why you see less of his ears in this video and pretty much only hear me saying whoa. I supported him to the base and kept him balanced but otherwise was trying to stay out of his way so he could figure things out on his own. Big boy pants and all that.

And then… the bank! Henry spotted it several strides out and I felt him go “What the holy hell is that giant CRATER?”. I gave him a little verbal encouragement, closed my left leg, and he surged forward again, cannonballing off the bank. If there was a picture, GERONIMO would be the perfect caption. We landed so far down the crater, and with such gusto, that I had to really sit him on his butt and stick my right spur in to get him turned left up the hill toward the chevron. It was a little bit of an “oh shit oh shit oh shit” there for a second (which I probably would have said if I had enough oxygen to say anything more than “whoa”), but as soon as Henry got his eye on the chevron he made a beeline for it. Fantastic pony is fantastic.

From then on I knew the rest would be smooth sailing. He didn’t even blink at the Weldon’s Wall at 13, and he was going so confidently that I took Amanda’s suggestion of angling the bending line at 14ab.

angling the B element

He honed in on both and rode perfectly through it, taking the second element at a pretty decent angle way to the right side. After that he pretty much just cantered home over the red cabin, through the water, over the ridiculously wide table, and then the last brush box. My goal for the XC was to let him make some decisions on his own, baby him less, and let him just keep coming forward… I feel like we accomplished all of that. We came in 15 seconds under optimum time to give us a double clear XC, finishing his first Novice on his dressage score of 36.3. I’m beyond proud of him and couldn’t help but get a little teary eyed when I hopped off and loosened his girth and thanked him for the ride. What an incredible opportunity this horse is – it’s an honor to step out of the start box with him.

Henry was absolutely foot perfect the entire weekend and really rose to the occasion, just as he’s done all season. And even better – we moved up to 6th after XC! Since it was an open division USEA has our amateur placing listed as 3rd… it’s kinda cool to see those 4 Novice Amateur points on our record. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut from this super pony.

On to AEC in September! At BN… boo. I kinda wish he handled the heat better so I could do another event and try to get more qualifiers at Novice instead, but it’s just too hot. We’ll go back up to Novice after AEC. This boy has earned his move up (and the entire jar of cookies he ate on Sunday).

Texas Rose HT – dressage and stadium

The great thing about being in the Novice Horse division was getting to run XC in the morning on Sunday, when it wasn’t 9000 degrees. The bad thing about being in the Novice Horse division was having to do dressage and stadium late in the afternoon on Saturday, when it was 9000 degrees. Bobby did his dressage around 11 and his XC around 2… he was 2/3rds of the way done (and in 2nd place in Open BN!) before I even got on for dressage. Grumpy and hot and ready to get it over with doesn’t even begin to describe it.

first attempt at dutch braids!

By the time I got on for dressage it was mid-90’s with 50% humidity. I’m a diehard about wearing a coat even when they’re waived, but I’d been a constant puddle for 8 hours already by that point and just couldn’t bear it. As soon as I got on I knew Henry wasn’t feeling it in the heat either, because he pretty much trudged to the warm-up ring like he was marching to his death. We trotted for a few minutes with my spurs basically embedded in his ribs before I realized I might as well just give up on the warm-up. I could either spend 30 minutes trying to get him forward and likely use up all of his energy before stadium, or I could just let him be and get through dressage with as much energy as possible reserved on tap for later. I chose the latter, because having a great dressage just wasn’t as important as having a great stadium. Not here anyway, where our mission was to finish with a happy confident horse.

Lackluster is a pretty good word to describe it. He was a good boy but he had no energy from behind and kept wanting to drop his head and fall on his forehand. For a 5 minute warm-up, I’m ok with that. Also, why is Novice Test A the longest test ever? God, even I was getting bored. But considering just a couple months ago his test was filled with the word “tense”, it was actually pretty amusing to get this test back and see “lazy” and “needs more energy” the entire way down. Our score of 36.3 (not gonna lie, that was a bit of an ouch) left us in 9th after dressage, but I was just happy to be done with it and ready to get on with the jumping.

so many LOLs

I only had a little over an hour between dressage and stadium, so I hosed him off and tied him in front of his fan to cool out as much as possible. After a quick tack change it was back on and down to the warm-up for stadium. Henry walked in, saw the jumps, and immediately went “I’M HERE TO PLAY, BITCHES!”. Totally different horse than I had in dressage warm-up, and in fact I handed my whip to Bobby lest I get completely run away with. We trotted a couple long and low laps, picked up the canter, jumped 3 fences, then went to the shade to wait our turn. He was huffing and puffing quite a bit, having a hard time with the heat, so Bobby kept sponging him with cold water which really seemed to help a lot. After what seemed like a couple of eternities it was finally our turn.

I was really really happy with the round. The rhythm was good, he was brave, he was careful, and it actually felt easy. He got many many pats and many many cookies for his double clear. I can’t wait to see what pictures the photographer got! Other folks were not so lucky in stadium, and we moved up to 7th place.

screen grab of the guitar jump because it was super cool

After Henry was bathed and put away, I was off to meet up with Amanda Merritt of Anchor Equestrian for an XC course walk to get some tips and pointers. She helped me at Greenwood too and I thought she was great, so I had arranged for the same “XC walk and warm-up” with her at Texas Rose as well. She had a few helpful tips and ideas on how to ride some of the more technical elements, which was greatly appreciated, and said she thought we’d be just fine. I thought so too, but it was nice to hear it from someone else who actually knows what they’re doing.

Cherry on top – JUST as we got back from the course walk we walked up to the video trailer (which was playing the Belmont on their big screens) right as the horses were turning for home. I got to stand there and watch a Triple Crown victory amongst a swarm of screaming horse people at a horse show on a video trailer screen. Pretty fantastic end to a great day.


Texas Rose HT: course walk and pre-game

For those of you who follow my $900 fb pony facebook page, you already know how this weekend turned out. But before we can get to the conclusion, first we’ve got to take a journey, and that journey of course includes a soon-to-be-famous (surely?) Course Walk with Bobby. Brace yourselves.

We arrived at Texas Rose Horse Park on Friday around mid-day, unloaded the boys, set our stuff up, checked in, and then got on to ride around. It was quite warm and humid so we opted to mostly just hack around the grounds, enjoying the beauty and wide open spaces of TRHP. It truly is the most beautiful facility in Texas, hands down. I can’t wait for AEC there.

One of four dressage arenas in the foreground and stadium warm-up in the background


riding with Bobby and Halo in the front field

AND THEN… it was course walk time. Bobby was doing BN and I was doing Novice, so first we walked our courses separately, then walked each others together. You know what sucks in 90 degree heat and crazy humidity? 3 course walks. But we’ve got a reputation that we’ve got to live up to now with our jump photos, so we suffered for the sake of art. Unfortunately, because we were about to die, we only did fun pictures for my Novice course walk. As suggested by Sarah, we did a “Where’s Bobby?” theme to start with, then it kinda morphed out of control as we got delirious from heat stroke, which is of course where things got funny.

nice inviting little fence to start with, heading straight towards the highway in the background


fence 2, a stair step box next to the highway


Very simple vertical logs at 3


decent size table at 4, off of an uphill approach


little slanty log on the hillside at 5


little up bank on an uphill approach. There’s water right behind that Training rolltop, which wasn’t flagged for Novice but if you didn’t go through it your approach to 7 was not gonna work.


cabin set a couple strides out of the water


another decent sized table at 8, very square but not too wide


to the Trakehner at 9


then it was a slight downhill roll to 10, the open oxer, which I thought looked small


11 was the down bank, which wasn’t actually that big of a drop but because it was set on a big hill, it looked ginormous when you were cantering up to it. Plus the landing was on a very downhill slope, which meant it would ride bigger.


to get to 12 we had to take a hard left after the bank and canter back up the steep hill, with the chevron jump at the top. This was a serious question because of the terrain.


straight ahead to 13, the Weldon’s Wall


14ab was two rolltops set on a bending line. Another good question, but I loved how there were a couple different approaches you could take on how to ride this. I dig it.


dead Bobby on the b element


another little house thing at 15, set a couple of strides before the water (which is shaped like the state of Texas. Because Texas.)


Our pimp cups took a water break at 16.


Another table at 17, this one not super tall but very very wide. Like 4 1/2 feet wide at the base. Honestly I tried not to make eye contact with it when I walked by.


and a cute little brushy box to finish

After the course walk I actually felt pretty good about it. I got a few raised eyebrows from friends when I chose Texas Rose as our move-up, because it’s not known to be an easy course, but I actually walked off feeling like this could potentially be perfect for him. The course was open and gallopy, which suits him well, and he has zero water issues so having two water crossings was no biggie. I thought there were a couple of legitimate questions but nothing super hard or unfair… it’s really well designed and flowed nicely, and there was a little bit of everything. Water, tables, trakehner, related distance, weldon’s wall, etc – great variety. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about for Henry was the giant-looking down bank followed by the sharp turn back up the hill to the chevron. Otherwise I felt like as long as I rode him forward and positively, he’d handle all of it just fine. Nothing looked super big to me either (except the width of 17, mother effer that thing was as wide as a house), which I thought was a good sign.

After the course walk I put XC out of mind because first we had to get through Saturday – dressage and stadium!

Weekend recap: adventures and shows

Since monsoon season shows absolutely no signs of relenting, and we have another event next weekend, the plan for this past weekend was to RIDE at all costs. Since our place is basically under water, on Saturday we hauled over to a covered arena down the road and did a little dressage work. It was the first I’ve been able to ride Henry since Greenwood the weekend before, so he was a little tense but the wicked humidity soon zapped all of his energy right out, nervous or otherwise.

how Henry feels about adventures

There were mirrors on one end of the ring, which was both AWESOME and awful at the same time. It’s great to be able to see things, but it’s also horrible to be able to see things. Sometimes I’d be like “this feels pretty good” and then I’d look in the mirror and be like “Oh, nevermind…”. Mirrors are like having a lesson in and of themselves.

Who dat derpy horse?

On Sunday I decided to take him over to the local h/j show that was happening this weekend and just enter a couple jumper classes. I figured this would be good experience for him – get tossed on the trailer, come out, get tacked up, warm up, then go in the ring. Usually when we go places we have the benefit of taking a day to settle in.

This is my majestic creature. He is very very majestic. Also, I forgot to bring a hairnet. My ears felt so naked and exposed.

I had originally signed up for a 2’6″-2’9″ and a 2’9″-3′ class, but upon seeing how little the jumps were set I decided to scratch the smaller one and add the 3′-3’3″ instead. It ended up being pretty perfect because the first class was more like 2’9″ and the second class was more like 3′ (I think maybe one or two of the jumps was actually 3’3″ but that’s probably it). They weren’t our best courses ever but he clocked right around that spooky ring with no questions asked and was a trooper about it. If I could quit pulling to the short distance that would be great.

No touchy


It was fun to get back to our jumper roots for a while, but it also really made me appreciate eventing and having ride times. Oh how quickly I’d forgotten about the “hurry up and wait”. And wait. And wait. I had to be somewhere at noon so as soon as we finished our second class I jumped off, shoved him full of cookies, stuffed him back on the trailer, and away we went. Although I did stop on the way back from closing out my check to grab his ribbon from the bigger class. Don’t be impressed, there were only 3 of us.

He’s not impressed either.

All in all it was a good weekend with lots of riding time, even if it did require trailering out to get it done. It looks like we’re going to end up having to do the same thing this week too if we want to ride at all before the event next weekend, since this stupid daily rain shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Over it.



Greenwood recap Part 3: Cross Country

Yay, finally, the fun part!


After Saturday’s adventures I was pretty happy to be done with dressage, but I was still quite worried about the two down banks on XC. Saturday evening I walked the course with a trainer that I had never met before but was recommended to me by my trainer, and she had some good suggestions about how to ride the down banks. Still, mostly I just laid awake and thought about it all night. Figuring out the brain of Henry and what will work best for him can be a tricky thing.

Gimme your hat


more weird licking. Mmmm Animo tastes good…

It was another long day of sitting around, since my ride time wasn’t until 1:32. We were all bored to tears. Finally it was time to get on and head to the warmup. Trainer For The Day came over about halfway through my warmup, watched me jump a few fences, made some more suggestions, and bid me adieu so she could get back to her clients. I greatly appreciate her taking a few minutes to help, it made me feel more confident in my plan. We marched over to the start box, walked a few circles, then wandered in at 30 seconds to go. I faced him backwards until we got to the last 10 seconds, then we turned around and waited for every eventer’s favorite words – “HAVE A GREAT RIDE!”. The best sentence in the world.

I will put the helmet cam footage here first, for those that want to watch it. I dunno what the weird clicking noise is, but if you can endure it there’s a little bit of fun audio. I’ve already ordered a skull cap so I can mount the helmet more securely next time and hopefully get rid of the clicking. I’ll angle it a little more downward too so you can see more Henry. But hey, it was our first foray into the world of Helmet Cam.

He came out of the box all business, looking for the jumps. We popped right over the first three, made our left turn onto the path into the woods, and hopped over 4. Fence 5 had several people standing near it, and he flicked an ear back at me like “Mom?” but as soon as I put my leg on he went right ahead and paid them no mind. The big oxer at 6 was easy, then we wound our way out of the woods, down the hill and into the field for 7. He got a little forward down the hill but I let him roll until I needed to make the turn to 7, told him to pay attention, and he came right back with no problem. Fence 8 was the little Trakehner, which he didn’t even blink at. With every “Good boy” I gave him, he flicked an ear back at me like “I know, I’m amazing aren’t I?!?“.

Then we came out into the big field and made our sharp right hand turn down the hill to the water. He saw it and hesitated ever so slightly, so I sat deep and put my leg on him and he just bounded forward, no further questions asked. He took a little bit of a leap into the water but cantered through and out over the rolltop like a pro.

He got a little too excited with himself on the long uphill gallop to the steeplechase… this was our only icky fence on course. He saw the flyer but I told him to wait (no flyers allowed) and add one more. He did it, but in a very derpy uncoordinated unicorn leap type of way. Evidence:

How he can jump so derpy and still be so tidy with his knees is beyond me, but he gets points for waiting when I told him to. After the steeplechase fence was the big long hill, which he seemed to take great joy in galloping up.


We hopped the log at 12, then I pointed him toward the first of the down banks. My plan was to ride it aggressively, with the “over or through” mentality, and circle after 13 before taking the up bank at 14. You can do this legally without incurring penalties as long as it’s clear you weren’t presenting your horse to the fence before you circled. So I called twice that I was circling afterward, pointed him at the down bank, tapped him on the shoulder with the whip, and wouldn’t you know it – that boy never even so much as thought about hesitating. He was like “Oh look a bank – WHEEE!” and I was like “Well what the hell…”. So much for it being a problem. It was quite the expressive leap off the bank but I’ll take it. We circled around some trees, tried to avoid running over the jump judge, then hopped up the bank at 14. Then it was back down the hill…

To the hanging log at 15, and 3 strides to the next down bank. I gave him a little growl just in case but again he showed zero hesitation and leapt right off. With gusto. Lots of gusto.

After that it was a pretty straight shot to The Decapitator at 17 (thankfully I didn’t decapitate myself on the low hanging branches, and I’m sorry Greenwood for calling your fence that). I slowed down just a titch headed to the last since we were slightly ahead of time, and to do a rideability check I rode him to the close quiet distance, and he politely cantered the flamingo fence like no big deal. We crossed the finish line 6 seconds under optimum time, giving us a double clear XC.

To say I’m proud of him doesn’t even come close to expressing it. You would never have known that it was only his third time out and that he’d never been to this facility before. He did absolutely everything I asked, he did it with joy, he loved every second of it, and he remained totally rideable the whole time. It felt EASY. I totally could have ridden 13 to 14 straight through. This BN course that was pretty hard and technical and had me feeling like we were in way over our heads rode like a walk in the park. I think he would have jumped around Novice if I’d asked him to, and what a great feeling that is, to be sitting on a confident horse. That feeling is exactly why we do this.

Even better – we moved up to 6th after XC. Sadly we were only one point away from that AEC qualifying placing we needed (darn that cheap rail in stadium!) but I don’t even care. I’ve never “lost” and felt so much like a winner at the same time.

Henry really outdid himself this time. I knew going into Greenwood that I was asking a lot of him. He stepped up to the plate in a big way, and I’m so thankful for it. The Best Boy: pro status.

Greenwood recap Part 2: dressage and stadium

The format for the lower levels at Greenwood meant that we did dressage and stadium on Saturday and XC on Sunday. Since I was in BN Senior (note to self: start entering Horse instead of Senior) my ride times were quite late – dressage was at 2:33 and stadium was at 4:31. That resulted in a very long morning of boredom.

Henry got to walk around and make a new friend with one of the tack shop trailers

Then he stood out behind the barn and grazed while my friend Amy and I enjoyed the sunshine and nice breeze. Granted, he seemed to be more interested in giving me a tongue bath than in grazing. It was a strange experience, he wouldn’t stop licking me, covered just about every inch of bare skin, and I might be a little traumatized.

Then he got braided

Then he took a nap (thanks buddy)

And then finally – FINALLY – it was time to get on for dressage. Since this was only our 3rd horse trial, I’m still learning the best way to prepare him and warm him up. Based on our experience at Pine Hill a few weeks ago where he got pretty tense in the warm-up and had a bit of a meltdown mid test, I changed my entire approach. This time I got on an hour ahead of time, walked for a while, trotted a little, cantered ONCE, and then spent the rest of the time walking and trotting, doing the same exercises that we do at home, and lots of halts and free walk. I didn’t ask him for brilliance, I just asked him for obedience and tried to keep him relaxed. I opted to go without spurs, which I normally wear for dressage work. I knew I would be giving some points away with this approach but I want him to learn that dressage is no big deal and to just relax, so I chose the good experience over trying to get every possible point and risking a brain overload. I didn’t have a trainer with me to validate that decision, but it’s what I knew was the right thing for Henry so I went with it.


He was a little flat and on the forehand and not really pushing much from behind, but he was super chill so I left it at that. When we were on deck they let us into the inner warm-up area to prepare to go into the ring. Again I just walked, halted, did some trot leg yields, and patted him and told him he was The Best Boy.


Then they rang the bell and in we went


We didn’t have much brilliance, and our canters were heavy and leaning on the inside shoulder (I missed my spurs at those moments) but he was very calm and obedient and happy. I was thrilled with him. The score didn’t reflect it (we got a 37) but this test was miles better than the one a few weeks ago at Pine Hill that got a 31. Funnily enough our best score from this judge was a 7 for our halt, which is usually one of our lowest scores. Everything else was a 6 or 6.5, which I’m ok with because at least it was consistent! This judge was harsh, but she was harsh to everyone so it was fair. After dressage we were in a 3-way tie for 6th, and only 2 points separated the second through ninth place horses.

After many cookies, a quick bath, and a graze, it was time to get ready for stadium. I just hopped on and did a quick 10 minutes of trot and canter, hopped two fences, and let him chill by the gate. He went in and marched right around without a single peek, and honestly he was super. The traffic on the road that I was a little concerned about the day before when I walked the course didn’t bother him at all. Sadly, we had a really cheap rail at the last fence. He just barely ticked it with a hind foot (I should have done a better job of keeping the power in the canter going up the hill) and it toppled out of the cup. I find it so much harder to ride these little fences well than it is to ride the bigger ones.

That rail dropped us to 9th, which was both a big bummer and a bit of a relief. On one hand it meant my chances of getting a top 5 placing (which I need one more to qualify for AEC’s) were slim to none. On the other hand, it meant that the pressure was off for XC, and if we had a problem with the banks I could just use it as a schooling opportunity.

I ended the day with mixed feelings about our situation but a whole lot of pride for my pony. So far he’d done everything I asked of him and done it like a pro, no questions asked. You just can’t be disappointed with that, no matter what place you’re in.

Tomorrow – XC! On to the fun stuff.

Pine Hill Part 2: Show Time!

After getting almost no sleep on Friday night (I don’t sleep at horse shows) I was not particularly bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday morning. We fed the boys, did one more course walk of XC and stadium with Trainer Karen, braided, and slowly got ready. Henry actually felt pretty good when I got on for dressage but started getting more tense as we warmed up. There was a lot of traffic and he kept eyeing the jumps like “YAAASSS”. No buddy, not yet. Boring stuff first.

PH from amanda chance on Vimeo.

The video starts a bit late so the first few movements are missing, but basically the first half was decent and then it came off the rails a bit in all the work to the right. He was good when we went in but kind of just tight, and after we walked he was convinced we were supposed to canter canter canter NOW. He was a good boy, he just got a little anxious and tense. For his second event I can’t complain. I was happy with how the first half of the test went, and we FINALLY got better than 5 on the free walk, so we just have to make the second half match the first and I need to do a better job of helping him through the tension. The judge was super forgiving and way too nice, I was expecting a 38-40ish score but we got a 31.6. I’ll take the charity! The two 8’s (first centerline and first medium walk) and all the 7’s in the beginning helped a lot. I thought the remark of “Lovely when not tense” summed it up pretty well. She was equally forgiving to everyone, so our score put us right at mid pack in 5th, which was fair. I need a top 5 placing with no xc penalties for an AEC qualifier, so now the pressure was on to add nothing to that score.

After dressage I was admittedly relieved, mostly because I really thought I’d blown it and was happy when scores were posted and I still had a chance. Stadium is our easiest phase since we come from jumper land, so I was just focused on remembering the course and not making any dumb mistakes. I don’t think anyone got video of it, but the course rode well and he was great, despite the sloppy and deep footing. It really sucked you down in the corners and stole your momentum. After stadium we didn’t move up any, since the only people who had trouble were already below us in the standings. Still in 5th, so we couldn’t afford a single penalty on XC. It was do or die time.

Although it kept threatening to rain all day, we got really lucky and just had a short rain shower. Reports from those who ran XC before me were that there were still some very slippery and wet spots so take it easy and ride defensively. Henry came out of the start box hunting for a jump and momentarily locked on the Prelim rolltop. Uh, nope… ours is the tiny little log over there Hens. He landed from that and we had a good little stretch to 2. Right before 2 there was a dip that had standing water and deep mud, so I had to whoa and get in the back seat a bit but he saw it and managed himself just fine.

ph XC from amanda chance on Vimeo.

No problems with the tiny coop, then around the very muddy bend past the pond (thought he might spook or slip there so I kept my butt in the tack but he went right through with no problem) and hopped over 3. Fence 4 was a little log on top of a big mound. My plan was to trot this and then trot down since the footing on the other side was very uneven, but as soon as we landed I saw a pretty muddy trench of death so I made the decision to walk down instead. Yup, hello everyone, we’ll just be over here walking down this hill on XC. I figured better safe than sorry.

After that we picked back up and he happily popped over the white brush fence at 5 and around the bend through the mud to a log at 6. By this point I had figured out that the best track through the mud was right up the middle… it was a little deeper but sandier and tackier than the shallow black mud at the edges. He was quite surprised by the jump judge at 6, who was sitting back in the bushes around a blind turn, so he leapt slightly right but never took his ears off the jump. I laughed and told him he was ok, and we cantered down the hill, back up, over the log at 7 and the trakehner at 8. This was the halfway point and when I looked at my watch I saw we were 8 seconds behind time. I had to pick it up a little. I let him canter forward a bit down the next stretch since he seemed to be having no problem handling the mud, then packaged him back up to prepare for all the jumps around the water.

ph XC from amanda chance on Vimeo.

I stayed in the back seat over the brush, through the water and around to the log, just in case, but he chugged right on through no problem. Next was the only jump I’d really been worried about – the Coal Train. Again into the back seat, just in case, but he was like “It’s just a train car with rocks in it mom, I dunno why you’re on my butt” and over he went.

I knew the rest would be no problem so I opened him up, got off his back, and let him canter forward up the hill to make up some time. We hopped over the bench on a slight angle to save some ground, back into the woods around a tight short approach to a box, then I let him open up again and gallop the stretch to the last. We came in 5 seconds under OT and he positively STRUTTED back to the barn. That boy thinks he’s hot stuff. No one tell him it was only BN.

Dis muh bunny face WHEEEE

Overall we finished 4th, on our dressage score. One AEC qualifying placing is in the bag! Mission accomplished, now we’ve got one more to go. I think this event was really good for Henry’s confidence on XC and it helped highlight what we need to work on more for dressage. At his first event last November he came out of the start box feeling a little bit “deer in the headlights” but this time he was all business from the word go. He was really locking in on the fences and looking for what was next, but still listening well and being very rideable. In the warmup he liked standing and watching all the horses out on the course, intently focused on what was going on. He seems engaged and interested and eager. All the jumping parts were easy. Next stop, Greenwood in 3 weeks.

Many eternal thanks to Brandy for all her help and support this weekend!