Friday, May 15, 2015

Come Ride With Me!

Via cell phone video. Sorry it's so shaky, I'll use a helmet cam next time! Make sure you hit the HD option!

The white thing on the side of his head is a gauze square wrapped around his bridle because he had a pus filled tick bite that popped and then oozed blood... and I didn't want to get blood on my bridle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I rode last night and was thrilled with Mikey! I started with a lot of walking, encouraging deeper throughness. I had a bad time getting him together because I've been letting him go around without any real constraints except long and low, and yesterday was exceptionally windy and distracting. I worked a little on walk/trot transitions and realized how much Mikey was ignoring my half halt for the downward transition. He talked me into taking my hands back towards my seat, which enabled him to invert, so I used a heavier hand, so he collapsed downward in the transition.

Rein length is important. Yes, I should be able to half halt on my long rein and ride a proper transition from trot to walk. That doesn't work when your horse is ignoring you. I shortened my reins, not to where I'd normally hold the rein for 3rd level work, but slightly longer. Shorter reins let me carry my hands more forward, so when he inverts to avoid me, I can add leg to push him into the bridle a bit easier and get a faster result.

I also sat the trot to fix his transitions. My posting trot isn't as strong as it should be- the sit part doesn't get the contact that my sitting trot does. A different instructor had told me that's the problem with my posting trot... but I just don't get how you can get in and out of that deep sitting seat in time to keep up with the posting, and do it without smashing down on the horse's back. But that's apparently why I find it hard to influence Mikey in posting trot. I haven't sat the trot since his surgery because I didn't want to stress him. Sitting the trot also helps me get my inside leg available to nail him when he's bulging or distracted.

Anyway, after some insisting on my part, Mikey became super through, soft, light, connected and pliable. And strong- he felt very solid behind. I kept sitting the trot since he was giving me somewhere to sit. He really filled out his neck the whole way from poll to withers, I was very excited to see that. I did several more transitions before moving on to canter.

His canter was awesome- none of the almost through moments. I started with my super connected trot and asked for canter, which started super connected and then stayed that way. I barely had to remind him to stay connected, just a small half halt every now and then. I mixed in some simple changes through trot which stayed better connected for the left to right change. I had to take more time to rebalance in trot for the right to left.

I was thrilled with his work at that point and pulled him up and went to walk him back home to the barn. A tree chose that moment to fall down and my relaxed horse was gone, but I was able to convince him to walk back into the woods without too much fuss and go back to the barn. The farm owner was there getting ready to hop on a horse and go for a short trail ride, so we joined her.

So I'm super happy that this get back to work period is really paying off with filling in the holes in Mikey's training. I hope we get to use them in public! Anyway, I'd really like some video of him now so I can compare it with video from our last show.

Stretching out, nose to the sand, after a good work.
The barn we were boarding at is holding a dressage show June 20th. I think I'm going to try to have a first level test together for that show. I think it'll be within Mikey's ability. By then we'll have started our lateral work again, leg yields and maybe shoulder fore. I'd aim for just training level or something, but I don't think that would be fair. Perhaps I'll show in the Open division instead of AA. It's really not fair to take my almost 3rd level horse and compete against AA riders two to three levels below what I was showing last year. I'd really like to have him ready for 2nd level for the June show, but I think that's going to be asking for too much.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Bear in the Woods

Out for a hack Sunday morning. Beautiful scenery. 
Last week I spent my time packing Mikey's stuff up and reorganizing his medical supplies and my trailer tackroom. Why? On Friday I helped move a barnful of horses (20) and their buckets, feed, hay, and assorted other stuff to a different barn. My trainer moved her operation back to her family's farm, (where we had spent almost 2 years at previously) after her lease to buy contract fell through on the farm she had relocated to last December.

Not much to say on it except Mikey has moved back to his favorite place ever. He loves that farm. The only downside of the farm is a lack of indoor arena, and an outdoor that doesn't have true riding footing. It's a mix of clay and sand that can be quite mucky or exceptionally hard depending on the rain/sun. It has over 130 acres of trails and field. Plenty to ride on if it's rainy, just gotta be willing to change your plan.

The plan is to build a 70' by 120' indoor by winter, so I'm hopeful for somewhere to ride this winter!

After we got all the horses moved and went to lunch, one of the working students and I went for a road walk. If you walk to the end of the road and back, it's about 4 miles.

So Mikey and I are leading, and we're going downhill to a hairpin turn to the left that goes up and wraps around the next hill. I hear something crash out of the woods, down by the turn, and I figure it's probably a deer. Nope. It's a black bear.

First thought is, "Stop!"

Next thought is "Oh shit."

It wasn't just a bear, it was a momma bear with her two cubs.

I stopped Mikey as soon as I saw the bear, then turned him to walk away after I saw the cubs. No running I figured, we're large, so just walk. Well I had said "Oh shit" and that cued the girl I was riding with to turn around and trot/canter away! I was like "Wait! Stop! Just walk away."

The bear turned immediately and went back into the woods, but we weren't keen on continuing our road walk and possibly seeing the bears again. We went up to the outdoor and trotted around for a few minutes, during which I found Mikey wasn't dealing well in his hind end with the road and hill work. He had a consistent lameness behind that was almost a stiffness.

I told my trainer about it when we got back, and she said next time he's due to be shod, she'll have the farrier put his hind shoes back on. It didn't matter much when I was working him in sand for the most part. We opted to give him a little more time to heal before putting the hind shoes back on since it wasn't essential. But  now he's going to walk on gravel/dirt roads to get to the outdoor and his turnout, and the outdoor footing is harder than the sand, so he'll probably benefit from hind shoes again even with a lower workload.

So sleepy after one night outside eating ungrazed grass! 
Saturday we had a lovely ride in the outdoor after I got my head on right. He was back to being sound behind, so I think his hind end was tired/sore on Friday after walking. The dressage arena was taken down for the winter, so there aren't any true edges to the arena, just the sand/grass line (creating probably a 100' by 240' sand area). I couldn't get him as through as I wanted without the wall to balance on, and he was wandering a bit. I was not happy, but then I realized, suck it up and create the wall with your outside aids like you should. I picked some lines in the sand as my "walls" and forced myself to ride each long and short side like I had walls. More outside leg to compensate for a strong inside leg that pushes to the outside rein. He was super after that.

Hacking to the outdoor. 

I worked a few simple changes through trot for our canter work. I have trouble keeping him through and keeping his shoulders from bulging left when I try to make the flying change from right to left, so I figure I'll start over with that too. I still have the same problem, so I'll fix it in a less stressful fashion, especially because I need to break his habit of bolting through me as soon as he hits a diagonal line.

I put the horses out Saturday night. Ten geldings and eight mares are in two smaller fields for the moment until water troughs can be put up on the hill where each herd has 8+ acres to graze.

The gelding herd Saturday night.

Sunday we went for a hack with a friend who had never been to the farm before. I wanted to go down to the river walk, but there's a mile long big rock/gravel hill that can be quite steep and I don't think Mikey could handle that yet. We hacked through the Christmas tree farm and had a lovely 40 min ride.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Building a Stronger Bridge

I found a link on Facebook to an article from Dressage Today that pretty much details my goals for Mikey's first two months back in work, and it's nice to know I'm on the right track:

Building a Stronger Bridge

My goal with his work is to build the muscle right in front of the shoulder using long and low so he ends up with a better, stronger topline overall.

Mikey is a narrow sided, ewe-necked, high whithered thoroughbred. He did not come with a nice warmblood neck that has the muscles already there in the right shape. I didn't spend a lot of time in the past building the neck up right there, partially because I didn't really know it was that important, partially because I was jumping and eventing so it wasn't that high on my list, and partially because I had goals I wanted to keep on trucking at and I was trying to make the best of the situations I was in. In our rides since he started back to work, I've made sure that as he goes along, the muscle right in front of the whithers is crunching and bulging (as much as it can). In a month's time, the thick part of his neck has come down a couple inches closer to his shoulder, and he's more consistent about using those muscles.

Mikey looks more like the horse on the right at this time when he's just standing. I've got him filling up the whole neck more often like the horse on the left when we're riding now, but I don't think the base of the neck will ever be wider than the top. I'll settle for matching! When I watch horses for throughness, I check to see if the muscles directly behind the saddle pad and the muscles right in front of the shoulder are crunching.
As the article goes on to say, on horses where the neck attaches low on the shoulder (aka Mikey), you have to work extra low at first to get them to build the proper muscle. I realized this last year when I finally figured out that he wasn't as available as he needed to be when I pushed him up. I noticed the biggest improvement when I started doing a long and low day and a walking very through day to build that neck muscle, which is now Mikey's only job. It was hard to achieve at first, but it's worth the work. It's nice to know I'm in the right direction. I figured I'd share because I thought it was neat.

I tried to employ my combination of soft inside rein, a lot of inside leg support, and a steady outside rein contact when I rode yesterday evening to achieve what the article said: impulsion, throughness at the shoulder, and a lift to the front end. In walk and trot we have it down- I can keep that lovely arch in his neck from shoulder to poll, nice and even. He's light, and a half halt is all it takes to remind him to stay that way. He's holds himself when I give the inside rein (which is most of the time as a reminder for me so I don't lock my arm and hold him), and he lowers his head and stretches when I give both reins. He needs more lift, but when my goal right now is training level work, there isn't much to be had. Transitions are tougher, as to be expected since he's not in shape and now I've got him over his topline properly so it's double hard to hold it together while transitioning. Canter is also difficult. It's his strongest gait (hello, thoroughbred!), and my weakest at being able to influence him (the poor flying changes aren't his fault).

For several steps last night in left lead canter, I finally felt that uphill jump. Not that I hadn't felt it before. I get it in the first few steps of extended canter before he falls flat. I get it when I'm really asking hard for it. I've gotten it just before he speeds out from under me. Yesterday I got it by riding him properly, giving him somewhere to go, and engaging my seat just a hair more to ask for more canter to offset riding him with a stronger core and really push him up into the bridle. What I got was a nice, light, lifted canter that engaged the right muscles and was a cinch to keep going. We got down the longside of the indoor before he got discombobulated by the short side. Now that I know the feeling, I'm keen to replicate!

I cannot express how much this quote from the article describes when I half halt and ask for a downward transition and it all falls apart, and how I asked him for a lifted canter:
The result is that every time the rider affects the horse in a half halt, either asking him to come into more collection or do a downward transition, the horse instantly takes himself out of self-carriage. 
The weak links in the horse’s bridge of muscle show up immediately causing the bridge to break. The horse’s hind legs may stop as he shortens and lifts his neck while he drops his withers and back. He may stop stepping through the poll by either collapsing at the poll and bringing his chin toward his chest, shortening the neck and coming “behind the bit,” or he may become rigid in the poll as he drops his back and braces against his rider’s hands.  
In either case, the rider needs to start over by paying attention to whichever are the weak links in his connection, strengthening them and then persisting in training the horse to half halts and downward transitions again. Successful half halts and downward transitions are the rider’s opportunity to close up the horse’s frame and improve his balance and collection. Sequentially, here’s what happens in the downward transition or half halt: 
• The driving aids of your seat and leg send power through the horse’s topline to meet the hand. 
• In response to the impulsion, your hand qualifies the energy with a waiting outside rein that says “Don’t go forward faster,” and then the hind legs take a millimeter more of a step than the front, which makes a rounder, more closed-up frame. 
• In the moment of increased engagement, you start to feel the horse’s thoracic lift (see sidebar, “When the Bridge is Missing,” pg. 38). He lifts up underneath your hands and seat, becoming rounder in the base of his neck. Olympian Robert Dover says that the feeling reminds him of blowing up a balloon in front of you. At this point, the rider’s half halts tell his horse whether he wants more engagement within a gait or a transition to a different gait—upward or downward. 
• Finally you soften your aids to allow the horse to feel a reward for his correct response and to enjoy his expressive body. He goes forward in a shorter, rounder, more pumped up and more elastic shape.
I did a little work yesterday on a shorter rein in trot and canter, just to see what would happen. I was thrilled by the push, swing, and the fill in front of the shoulder that I had. He was light, available, and awesome feeling. Most of all he felt strong. Not pulling on me strong, just an I feel good strong.

 It's a little hard to see the difference- but a month of walking and trotting low and through has made a big difference. The bottom of the neck muscle is still big, but the top of the neck muscle is getting bigger.

I'm glad there's a tiny silver lining to his injury. In forcing me to essentially start over in his training, I'm getting to go back and redo the beginning work that had so many holes that were apparent in our 3rd level work that I really should have gone back and filled in. There's no pressure to get the work done because I'm going to be borrowing Cody to attempt to finish my bronze, and then there's no rush to get Mikey out on the show circuit. Maybe we'll come back and just do 2nd level work. Maybe he'll be physically fine and we can get to my PSG goal. Either is fine. A Silver Medal would be nice, but I've never won a Dover Medal either, and I wouldn't mind being a Second Level Queen and seeing just how high I can get that percent next to my name on

Monday, May 4, 2015

Birthdays Galore, Working Outside (horses and humans)

Last week had a number of things happen:

Mikey tried on his new Back on Track Mesh Sheet last Monday.
He loves it.
Back on Track pad. This is after our ride, the girth is loose so everything slipped back.
I hate how it fits under my saddle. I do not like extra fabric in front of or behind the saddle!
So I won't be buying a white one.
But he seems to like it. It really warms up his back a good bit before we ride.
Tuesday we rode, hand grazed, then dug ticks off the horse.
Back on Track poster child. Just needs his no bows on to make it complete.
Wednesday was my 28th birthday. Yay me! My day started off horribly. I normally work from home Wednesdays, but I had to go in that day. I forgot to set an alarm so I woke up late. Then as I'm driving to the bus stop, my purse, lunch bag, and laptop set off my car's seat belt warning beeper (which wouldn't turn off until the seat belt got plugged in), so it's beeping like crazy and I have no where to pull over, so I'm trying to buckle the passenger seatbelt and drive. Then I faceplanted into the side walk when I was walking to the bus stop from my car. Darn uneven pavement and easily rolled ankles. I did not rip my pant open but I have an awesome set of bruises on my knees and a tweaked shoulder. I wish I had ripped my pants, I would have said screw it, I'm going home.

Thursday was Mikey's 16th birthday. Yay Mikey! I pulled more ticks off of him for his birthday after a quiet ride.

Friday was Nickels' 4th birthday. Yay Nickels, you made it to 4 years old! Go you for outliving your life expectancy. He enjoyed some extra attention and a steam while I got a shower. Penny was not happy to be locked out of the bathroom (see paw under the door).

"I want to sit in here while you shower. Do I have to let Penny in?"
Friday night we attacked our umbrella tree. Our house's old owner just kept adding mulch to the to base, and the base overflowed the trim so the trim didn't even meet anymore. We took a whole lot of dirt out, dug the base in, removed some of the crown that formed at the grass line from the expanded base, weeded, and then put the trim back and mulched under it.

Pre-mulch. We we in the process of smoothing out the crown (on the left) so when we mow the grass, the mower doesn't wack away ground. We just need to plant seed. No after mulch pictures on Friday because we spread mulch my tractor headlight as it was dark by the time we got that far.
I finally rode Mikey outside on Saturday. First time since last fall. We ended up joining the weekly Jump School so I'd have some structure as we rode. Our trainer sometimes starts off with pole work in her jump school, and she opted for that since I asked to join for the beginning and it was the first jump school outside for the year.
We're outside! And I didn't get bucked off!
She was happy she went with 6 canter poles in a row to start- we trotted through first, then trot in, pick up canter in the middle, canter out- because as soon as we added canter, the horses started acting goofy and some jumped around a little.

I learned that Cody taught me several things over the winter. The first I talked about on here before, the second is more relevant to Saturday's ride as I finally made it happen with Mikey:

  1. The horse can't come through to the left when I have my left hand/elbow/arm locked and tight and heavy. I learned to give and relax to get motion back in my elbow, which is something my trainer has been after me for a long time. Cody cemented it. He would not come through if I locked my elbow. I got an immediate reward from Cody for softening my elbow. Two way street on the rewarding for softening thing, who knew?
  2. This was more relevant for this ride: When Mikey shortens his neck, give my hand and send him forward instead of taking my hand back and giving him no where to go. Go figure that the answer has always been forward. I never worked it out myself (or rather convinced myself to do it) because I was worried about Mikey imploding. Cody just did it to evade and waited for me to figure it out, so I got to find out giving and more leg works to lengthen the neck. Once again, doh!

After Mikey figured out the pattern, trot in canter out, he was gung-ho about the canter part and leaped the first two poles in one bound. He wanted to jump so badly. So when I got him back together in trot, he shortened his neck and tucked in his chin so that he could hop around when I took up the rein to get contact again. But I didn't fall for that! I diffused him almost immediately with a giving hand and more leg. It went against everything I felt, "I'm riding a bomb. I should hold it together, not add leg!" As soon as I diffused him, he was perfect. No jumping around, no being naughty, just soft and listening. Not to say he didn't enjoy an inverted romp through the canter poles and ignore me in there, but he stayed with me until we entered the poles and came back to me immediately as soon as we left the poles. He did have trouble picking up the right lead in the poles- not sure if that's a failure on my part (crookedness), a strength issue, or an I hurt issue. We didn't pressure him to continue until he (or I) got it right, I just made sure to do a simple change immediately after the poles.

I did feel a couple bad steps behind when we tracked right in the trot on our way back to the poles. I asked him for some more throughness and they went away, so I'm really not sure if it was disconnect I felt or an I hurt. Something to keep an eye on.

We changed the pattern to a pole across the school at X, then track left to almost the rail and go over a pole, back around to X, then track right to almost the rail and go over a pole. Mikey got excited about this- he was hopping the poles until I forced him to be more through. We did it in trot first, then canter. Ideally I would have encouraged a flying change over the pole at X, but I didn't want to wind him up or ask too much, so I asked for a simple change in trot  as soon as we were straight and before the pole. He got very through, very round, and super tuned in after a couple rounds. He was also very tired by then. We did more work Saturday than we had any other day since he's been back to work, so we were done. Everyone else continued as the poles became jumps, and we watched them go around.

Guess what's really scary? Trees falling. Guess who spooked? Me. Guess who looked and did nothing? Mikey. Across the street from the farm someone is logging the hillside and the trees are super loud when they fall. I'm sure being in a group helped Mikey. It also helped that it's been going on for at least a week so Mikey is used to the sound and I wasn't aware it was going on.

Mikey and King. I swear their field has a ton of green grass. I don't know why I always end up taking pictures near the woods.
After icing Mikey and letting him nestle into his BOT mesh sheet for a while, I put him outside and went home. My husband took me out to see the new Avengers movie for my birthday in IMAX 3D. One of the ladies at the barn was like, I need to hurry and head out, going to see the Avengers tonight! We realized we were going to the same show, so we had a fun night out on a double date.

Sunday was no fun, even if it was productive. I paid the price for a fun Saturday by working at the house all day Sunday, no Mikey. He did a lot on Saturday, so I'm sure he appreciated the break. Husband mowed the lawn, I weeded and moved plants around in the big garden bed. Then we both attacked the big garden bed in removing all the weeds and leaves and extra dirt before mulching it.

The umbrella tree, all mulched and awaiting grass seed.
The big garden bed. Husband removed a dead bush/tree a few weeks ago that was next to the steps. I moved all the little purple hyacinths to the least imaginative configuration possible: all next to each other so they're easy to weed between. I moved some other bulbs so the plant wouldn't get stepped on as we were clearing out all the crap that was in there. We ran out of mulch for this bed, so it has a random empty space until we get more mulch.
Panorama of the front, all neat and tidy.
To the right: the side we worked on. It's missing mulch, but the planter to the right has to come out because there's stumps in it from bushes we hacked down last summer. No use mulching it yet.
To the left: An untouched garden bed. Full of leaves, weeds and other undesirable things. That's the next project. That is also how the big garden bed looked before Sunday.
I hate gardening and taking care of the outside. I wish I could hire a gardener. I'd rather clean stalls than pull weeds.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Long Rolex Recap (Pictures, Videos)

Photo collage made by one of my trainer's students from pictures from the professional photographers.
Sorry photographers!
So my recap is a touch late, oh well. I'll do an abridged version. ** I just came back to this sentence after writing the post. Sorry, if this is abridged... well... then it's a good thing I didn't do the unabridged version.

Wednesday 4/22:
I stole one of my trainer's high school students as a driving buddy and we took off to Lexington, KY. We had a small nightmare when we got to the hotel and they said our reservation started the next day. Remember, when you book your hotel online, KEEP YOUR CONFIRMATION EMAIL. I was like, no no no, whipped out my phone and showed them the email with that dates. They were sketchy with me about getting me a room for the night and honoring our reservation (I was told to call to correct the error in the Hotel's system!!!). That is until the reservation manager came out to see what the fuss was all about. He fumbled all over himself to get us into a newly renovated, never slept in before room (the hotel was a disaster- it had spring renovations that were supposed to be done before Rolex. They were not).

Our room wasn't ready, so we dropped our bags in the room out of the way and went over to Kentucky Horse Park to meet up with my trainer. She asked me to bring a couple things from home (including an extra set of shoes for Cody).

We got to the horse park, contacted the dressage coach my trainer had there to find out where the stabling was, and walked right into stabling, sans passes, pretending we belonged since we were holding a bunch of horse stuff.

Noteable comment: "OMG, that person looks famous!" Yes, we both fan-girled a bit. We had no idea who we were looking at, but my 28 yr old self giggled just as much as my 18 yr old friend.

A selfie in Cody's tack stall? Well when we weren't supposed to be there, so yea, duh!
We watched our trainer's dressage school, watched Cody's head explode, and then we went for a cross country course walk with my trainer. Right up to the jumps, up close and personal. Here's the highlights:

8, 9a, 9b- Coffin complex. Hedge, one stride, ditch, one stride, hedge. It was so steep down to the ditch, the pic doesn't do it justice.

11- Ditch and wall. F***ing big ditch and F***ing big wall. The damn wall kept growing as we walked closer and closer. Hard to force your brain to read it as an 8ft ditch paired with 'only' a 4.5 foot rise or so. All I was seeing was a huge wall. But that's the trick isn't it? Seeing it as the actual jumping effort instead of the mind boggling 8' wall?

Wall. That is all.

Cabins and the Head of the Lake complex. After watching it for years on tv, it wasn't as big as we thought it was.
Kind of a let down!

The Mounds. up a mound, jump through the keyhole, down the mound, pick a side of the angled brush and up the mound and over. More huge shrubberies to jump.

The Land Rover Hollow.
Over the log, down a freaking steep hill, skinny (almost taller than my trainer) brush, then up to a corner.

Fallen tree. We were like, big tree. Nothing ground breaking.

Until we got to this side. Gotta make sure you really jump across it, there's more ditch on the landing side than the takeoff.
 We headed out for dinner after a course walk and settled in the room for the night.

This margarita was amazing.
Thursday 4/23:
We watched some dressage and visited the trade fair. Our dressage seats for Thursday and Friday were right up front and at B. Or as close to B as we could get considering the dressage arena was so far into the main arena. I got an excellent sunburn.

I promised Mikey a Back on Track Mesh Sheet if he recovered enough to go to horse shows again. I made good on my promise when I visited the BOT store. I asked if there were discounts this weekend and one of them was buy the mesh sheet (fleece, turnout, or other large expensive item), and you get a free BOT saddle pad or 4 polos. Mikey got a mesh sheet and navy saddle pad. Spoiled bastard. I love him. After almost 11 years together, he earned it.

We watched some ring familiarization after dressage ended.

We oogled William Fox Pitt and Bay My Hero.

Then we got a smile from our trainer as they went by. She just realized we were sitting there.
Got treated to the awesome extended trot Cody show.
Friday 4/24:
Friday was our trainer's dressage day. I didn't get any good pics, and I don't want to outright steal from the professional photographers. So check out the pic of his extended trot, then my trainer celebrating, and then crying that's in the collage at the beginning of the post. I know she's always most nervous for dressage, and it's not Cody's best phase. He can be very strong and get offended quickly, and his movement and throughness suffers. He's been much better since she got his ulcers worked out over the winter. She had some bobbles in the test: her extended canter back to collected and then a flying change- she overdid the half halt and she got a perfect simple change instead of flying. Oops. Her walk work was tense and hurried (almost breaking to trot), and then he almost flipped her the bird when she asked for halt before a rein back to canter. The stiffness into halt translated into the rein back, then he went to pick up the wrong canter lead, she stopped it, but ended up with a lot of trot steps into canter. She had some excellent moments, but ended up around 55%, not as good as she would like, but when you make 3 big bobbles at the biggest FEI event in the northern hemisphere, there's a bigger price to pay!

After her test, she invited the group of 18+ of us to walk xc again with her. Obviously not on the course like we did on Wednesday, but I still went cause hell, I'm at Rolex and it was beautiful out.

Jump 3. Wide airy oxer with a ditchy feel.

Walking through the Frog Pond. Trainer was trying to walk the distance and Whiskey (her Jack Russel) wasn't sure she could walk in the water so she waddled/dog paddled through.
Coffin complex again.
"Mandy, your jump is to your left!!"
I took Whiskey for most of the walk. We stopped at the new Footbridge for a drink and cool off dip.
We went to Walmart after dinner to get rain gear. We were very glad that we did!

Saturday 4/25:
Let's start with the fact that the cloudless sky we had on both dressage days decided to lay down an incredible amount of water for cross country day. They were forecasting tornados and strong thunder storms, so they started xc early, ran horses every 3 min instead of 5, and skipped every break in an attempt to get everyone through before the afternoon horribleness.

In the morning we got our trainer a present: a black jump pad that had the Rolex logo on it, personalized with her name above the logo and Cody's real name below. She loved it.

We waded out to the cross country course and settled ourselves next to 4abc and the last water complex. From there we could see #2,3,4abc, 26abc, 28ab, and 29. Not a bad spot to sit. We got dumped on though, so much rain!

We watched one rider keep her foot on the gas coming up to 4a (huge rampy table), hit a long spot, the horse took off, then thought better of it and stopped, landed on the table, ejected the rider, then fell off the table onto his side. Both horse and rider jumped back up, but the horse was holding his left hind. They encouraged him to walk and he seemed to walk it off. He jabbed a front stud into the left front forearm though and he was streaming blood. That promptly freaked out one of the 4 of us standing there- a young adult who had never been to an event before and had just joined us over the winter from hunter/jumper land. She opted to watch the horses gallop in and then watch the rest of our faces to see what happened. We were all worried for our trainer, not that she couldn't do it or would take a risk, but we wanted her to come home safe to ride another day.

She did awesome! She took her time to be accurate and safe in the deteriorating footing (she rode in the second half of the field), and made sure she and Cody got home. She took every direct route on course. They owned the Head of the Lake- the rest of our group was there so they have video, but I can't get it on here!! It was an awesome, quiet, you know they're going to make it happen in a nice workman-like fashion ride. It was like they had schooled it a million times. Her cross country round was conservative, but she's never going to compromise her horse in an effort to 'look good' and make time, so she had quite a bit of time. Her conservative ride lead to a run out at the mounds. She said afterwards that he was underpowered jumping through the keyhole so he popped through it, and she just didn't see her line to the brush after. Instead of forcing a line to happen in shitty footing, she opted to canter past, circle around, and make a good clean jump.

Here's 2,3,4abc (2 and 3 are hard to see, sorry!): Watch in HD please! I did record it in HD.

Here's 26abc: Watch in HD please! I did record it in HD.

Cody had a heel grab on XC due to the footing, but came up sound for Sunday!

Sunday 4/26:
We did some last bit of shopping then settled in at the stadium. They didn't have a good SJ round. Cody was tired, and he's not a super show jumper- he's just not as careful as he should be. A lot of their issues have come from him just being a strong horse and pulling her to the fences, then they battle over that, and hook rails. I think for this, she rode conservatively since he did have a heel grab, was tired, and  I think he was a bit different of a SJ horse than she's used to, the pulling horse didn't come to show jumping. It didn't come together for them, but they finished and jumped it all without stops. Hey, even the awesome-seen-it-all Buck make a mistake- we watched his horse run into the second jump of the triple.

She finished in last with a lot of penalties, but she was thrilled to have finished and have a sound horse to come home with.

We watched until the end and as prizes were handed out, and then hauled off to go home. I walked in my door at 12:10am. A long day!

Behind the Scenes Rolex Recap:
There was a lot that went on behind the scenes that is shaping her next trip there in 2016 (in her words: "I don't know why I thought one trip would be enough!"). The first major change is that I am going to groom for her next year. She didn't give me a choice about that (not that I'd need convincing!). There were issues with her groom this year and the groom ended up leaving sometime after XC and before SJ. Her dressage coach had an emergency and left on Friday, and the 3rd pass she got went to her farrier, who was the only one left. He became her groom. I told him he should have called and I would have hauled butt to make sure everything was set for her to SJ, but he didn't realize everything he'd need to do and there just wasn't time. The second major change is that Cody will go south next winter. Our trainer was not happy with how he felt and knows its because he was up here in the cold and snow instead of down south training. It will make sure he maintains his fitness throughout the winter. She's planning on going for a better dressage and better xc time for next year!

Anyway, Cody is currently enjoying 2 months off with lots of attention and snuggles from everyone who walks by. He'll go back to work in mid-June. At that point I'll start riding him again in prep to go to a USEF/USDF show July 10/11/12. After that, Cody will go back to event training and fitness in prep for the fall 3*'s. So much planning!

Welcome home pictures!