Here are the pictures and video from the show.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
... must come to an end. And by end, I mean a pretty spectacularly bad show.
We arrived on time, warmed up for dressage, Brego was nice and forward in warmup. We had a throng of spectators, mostly 13 year old girls, that ooohed and ahhhhed. He did well.
Then the actual test was in an indoor, that is stifling and sucks the life out of you. My one goal was to keep him forward. The ring was running 20 minutes behind which really irks me. You have ride times for a reason. It completely messes with your warmup to peak your horse, prepare to enter, and then have to cool your heels for 20 minutes. Uhg. He did a reasonable test, although we broke to a trot from the left canter. But it was good enough for second place after dressage, with a 37.6. Not our best performance, but adequate.
Then cross country was a disaster. People were falling off left and right, major refusals at the water and the bench. The course was held many times and ran behind by over 45 minutes. Again, I warmed up Brego and he peaked and then I had to cool my heels for 45 minutes.
Anyway, we went on course and Brego was way too forward and looky over the two first logs. He was perfect in warmup so I was confused and figured he would just settle in. At fence 3, a bench, I felt him lock on. At three strides out, I knew our distance would be fine. At two strides out, I still felt good and started taking my eyes off the fence to line up the next one. Then he stopped. I was shocked. Brego has never refused a fence on course. I circled him around and took it at a trot so I could drive it and he way over jumped it, very spooked about this bench. Then a long downhill to a birch ramp. The red flag had fallen down and was suck in the middle of the fence (Major Problem #1). Brego took a hard look at the flag and stopped, helped along by the Aussie which ran out under the fence and yapped at him (Major Problem #2). I circled around and he took the fence fine. I considered retiring after the water, he was way too weirded out. He went fine through the water, and our next coop was fine so I decided to continue.
So we headed down a steep hill. I made him trot down the hill because he was too strong (yes, I will bit him up next time). We got to the bottom of the hill and started to get our gallop stride down and then I saw the next fence was knocked down. It's a railroad tie fence and the top tie was off the pile and POINTED BACK AT THE CHEST OF THE ONCOMING HORSE!!! Major effing problem #3. I hauled my horse to a stop and started waving at the jump judges sitting in the truck halfway up the hill. It took them over three minutes to get out of the truck and come fix the fence. When they approached, they commented "Wow, how did that happen?" Gee, I don't know, that's the fence you are SUPPOSED to be monitoring.
Meanwhile, Brego is amped and jigging, trying to get back up the hill. He knows the course and knows he is almost done.
So they finally put the fence back up so it's slightly less of a death trap and I trot Brego over it to make sure we don't knock it down worse. Then a fast gallop up the hill to finish over three more fences.
So total bizarreness cross country. Brego really doesn't refuse. In fact, the last time he refused a fence was, oh, two and a half years ago. Something got into his head and scared him and I worry that it was the completely trappy course. Of the 11 people in my division, only THREE got around without any jumping penalties on XC. This is supposed to be a schooling show, nice and inviting.
Then for stadium, I walked the course. Ten fences with a ROLLBACK to a SKINNY. Are you kidding me? Beginner Novice, people, not Grand Prix. Major Problem #4. Plus, the arena was shortened by a third, due to rain, and there were massive puddles, so the lines were all messed up. It was a very tight course. I considered jumping the first fence and retiring, especially since the rider who was ahead of me (and had a fall at the water on XC) fell off at one of the walls and possibly broke her leg. Where was the ambulance? Oh wait, no ambulance. Major Problem #5.
I decide to just see how it goes, but I was not about to ruin my horse's confidence on such a trappy stadium round. We went in and he was way too forward to the first fence, but then seemed to settle in nicely. We even jumped the rolltop and all the walls without too much drama. All his canter work helped with the rollback and he didn't worry about the skinny. At one point, I forgot the course and he thought we were going around a fence and I pulled him to it at the last second and he still managed to clear it. Then we chipped into the combination and he added to get out, but he saved my butt and we went clear. So couple his obvious heroics to go clear in stadium with his strange stop on XC, and I am very confused.
So somehow, with 40 jumping penalties, we ended up sixth which is just a testament to how insane the course was. When I turned in my penny, they had lost my dressage test, so now I have no idea what the judge thought of Brego. Major Problem #6.
The whole show was amateur hour. Horses were flat out galloping around the ELEMENTARY course, riders were way out of control. It was just some very scary stuff.
So I have one more show in June at Groton House and I might just quite with that. It will be a great course since they also run recognized. I am not a big fan of these trappy, bush-league courses. Plus, I have a lot of homework to do on my riding before we head out there again. Brego and I need to work on control at speed, no matter how much he loves to run and jump. And I need to get him better distances in stadium so he doesn't have to be a hero.
Pictures and video coming soon, I just had to get this off my chest.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Even as I wish Andrea the best of luck this weekend, I am preparing for my own little show. Tomorrow will be the first three phase of the season, a little schooling outing just down the road.
It's been raining nonstop since Tuesday so my last ride on the big boy was Monday afternoon. We hauled out to the show facility and schooled cross country. Brego did well over fences but he was very strong in the gallops and I had to pull some evasive maneuvers, employing a pulley rein or two, to keep us safe. I was happy he was happy to be out, but not happy with his disregard for our own mortality.
I had planned on riding him heavily all week to take the edge off, but the rain had other plans for us. I became even more concerned when Brego started jigging, about to jump out of his skin, while leading him to and fro the barn.
So the plan for today, aside from filling out medical armband records and scrubbing tack, is to take advantage of the break in the rain and go gallop him. I never gallop the day before a show, but in this case, I would rather him be too tired than too much to handle, especially for a dinky schooling show that doesn't even keep time.
I am opting at this time not to bit him up. I will continue to run him in his egg-butt, french link snaffle. I sincerely hope I do not regret that decision.
My ride times for tomorrow are:
Dressage: 9:50 am
XC: 11:50 am
Stadium: 12:20 pm
I will try to tweet our progress. Have a nice weekend everyone!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Brego got two days rest after the big hunter pace while I worked on the farm. Today, we went back to work on dressage. It's been awhile since we've done dressage and neither one of us were excited to be back in the arena. But we have to pay our dues in dressage to be balanced and obedient enough to have fun cross country.
Brego started stiff, but more forward than usual. I was sure to be very clear with my leg aids, so I didn't fall back into the nagging trap. He did very well, consider he's had a couple days off. To mix things up a bit, I worked on him just responding to my legs from sidepass to turn on the forehand to turn on the haunches to reinback to walk to shoulderin. I would change his bend or his direction every few steps which has a lightening effect on his front end. My former dressage trainer used to say that you want your horse so balanced it feels like you're perched on top of a big exercise ball: he could go any direction at any time. Brego is not quite that balanced, but he was very obedient to my leg and moved instantly in the direction I indicated.
I also concentrated on not collapsing my inside shoulder on circles which is a terrible habit I have. And miraculously, when I sat up straight, he stopped dropping his own shoulder into the circle as well. I really shouldn't be surprised when I am taught again and again by my horse that my riding is the issue, but it still amazes me that he can be at once such a sensitive creature and a giant meathead. It's all about expectations, I suppose.
We're due for a string of beautiful dry weather so his foot adhesive is off and we're gearing up for the schooling three phase on May 31. I plan to go schooling on the cross country course early next week. Tomorrow, we will be doing dressage, but I am going to ride down to the fairgrounds to the big turf arena in the parking lot and see if that gets us more excited. I do love dressage, but the rush of the hunter pace is still pounding in our hearts.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Last Wednesday, I had an excellent jumping lesson with my neighbor/trainer. It was our first jumping lesson of the season and first with my new trainer, so I was nervous that we would do poorly. As always, I was worried that a "This horse should not be jumping" verdict would come forth from a professional.
As always, I need not have worried.
The theme of the lesson was "forward". Specifically, go forward away from the fence. Be quiet to the fence, allow him to think about it, then bam go fast after the fence which sets up the impulsion for the next fence. This is very much in line with the work that Steuart Pittman taught me about riding cross country fences.
We also trotted the fences. One thing I love about my trainer is that she is big on fundamentals and not rushing through training. One valuable skill a horse must have is to be able to be forward enough to trot a large fence. Needless to say, this is something I have never worked on. I use Brego's canter to propel us over the fence and never school from the trot. This is a big hole in our discipline and ability. My trainer means to plug the hole.
So despite my skepticism, we trotted fences. And of course, the key to trotting fences nicely is having a forward trot (which is why I have been so unsuccessful), so the real lesson of the day was about getting a forward trot when I asked for it without any resistance. Once we had the trot, the fences were easy.
So the video is somewhat boring, nothing earth shattering, a bunch of trotted fences. But the quality of the work is what makes me happy. Brego just worked well.
At the end, my trainer agreed that Brego loved to jump and he should be jumping. She thought they were easy for him and he could trot 3'6" with no problem. She did not want us to rush up the training scale because she thought Brego had enough quality as a jumper to teach him properly and slowly so he would go farther.
As for my form, she said I was loose and I tipped forward but she was not too concerned about it, there was time to work on it and I was in no danger of killing myself. I got a big green light to jump at will at the hunter pace. It was a very positive lesson.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Today was perfection. The weather was great, sunny with a cool breeze. The countryside was the deepest shade of emerald, my eyes couldn't drink it fast enough. Dogwoods were in full bloom, scenting the air as we rode by. And of course, the hunter pace was the most fun I've had in months.
Brego was beyond good. He actually enjoyed the ride, getting out and stretching his muscles. We rode the 12 mile course in 1 hour, 40 minutes, and 38 seconds. Optimum time was 1 hour, 40 minutes even, so we placed first out of seven teams.
The footing was at times wet and slick and then dry and rocky. We rode the course mostly at a trot, but had long stretches of gallop. Brego jumped every fence I pointed him at, including some three foot coops, with ease, out of stride. He did not chip, hesitate, tap, or look. He was absolutely foot perfect. At one point, I was riding second on the team and the lead horse stayed on the trail and gapped a coop set just off the trail to the left. I asked Brego to leave the trail, line up, and clear a 3' coop and return to the team all in the space of four strides. He responded without hesitation, leaving the leader and never questioning the fence. Such maturity for a green horse!
We also managed to master forward. And when I say that we have mastered forward, I mean that at mile 10, I asked for a canter and he leapt forward with so much enthusiasm, I had to bridge my reins to bring him back to me and we had to complete the ride at the trot. He was just too fast at the canter.
It was a perfect ride, on a horse loving his job and finally shaking off the boredom of winter. This will be a very fun summer indeed.
As for his feet, I can say that the Super Fast "shoes" were great. They held up reasonably well, with one chip coming out of the front. That was most likely an application error where his foot was not dry enough before applying the adhesive. He felt comfortable in them, obviously unencumbered, and his stride felt normal. I am very impressed with the technology and I will certainly use them again. He did have one or two ouchy steps over very large rocks, but considering how much galloping on gravel and stones we did today, including the usual wear and tear of a fast 12 miles, I could not ask for more. They protected his feet but didn't get in the way. The mud was so deep in spots that boots would have never made it through, they would have been sucked off.
As for the rest of the season, Brego is showing me that he loves to run and jump, so we're going to try to squeeze in the Groton House schooling three phase in June. Still no recognized events for me this year, but I will take him out on course every chance I get. He's coming back faster, stronger, and jumping better than we finished last year, and I consider that somewhat miraculous.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's been raining off and on and Brego's feet are definitely soft. After the last debacle with his boots, I was looking for alternatives. We will be riding in a Hunter Pace this weekend and the course will be 12 miles long and fairly rocky. I didn't want him to finish sore, but I also know his feet will be fine with a little more wall growth (he's trimmed short to reduce the winter flare) and some dry weather. I also want to jump him and I didn't want to worry about concussion.
So I need something temporary, optional, non-bulky, protective, yet not restrictive. Hmmmm.
Total trim to finished rasping was 1 hour 20 minutes. It will definitely go faster next time. Since it's still raining, I won't get to try him out until tomorrow. We will do a short dressage ride and then the Hunter Pace is on Saturday.
The nice thing about this option is that it will wear down just like his hoof wall, so as his new wall comes in, it will kindly get out of the way (perhaps with a little help from the rasp). If it is not working, I can rasp it off and there are no nail holes to grow out. Plus, startup cost, plus enough adhesive for four more sets of "shoes" were less than a single pair of steel shoes for a draft. Additionally, it's not bulky so it won't interfere with jumping and it does move with the hoof as needed on impact.
A note on the photos. The flash highlights the adhesive coloring difference. In normal light, you can barely tell it is there.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The rain is supposed to return over the next two days so if I wanted to be sure to get some jumping in before this weekend's Hunter Pace, I had to ride today. So make that four days in a row. Brego and I approached the task with about as much enthusiasm as you would expect.
But the game of eventing is long, and one of the "skills" is mustering the strength of will to finish. It is also a test of discipline. Brego certainly tested my ability to keep him forward in warm up. He had decided to quit before we even got started.
Even in my darkest moments of frustration of having a horse who lives perpetually behind the leg, I know that he is the horse I trained. He is the product of my training. So if I have a habit of nagging (I do), or working too hard (I do), or being clumsy or noisy with my aids (I do), Brego has slowly been trained to only pay attention part of the time. Usually the part of the time right after I pop him with the whip and tell him, no, this time I mean it.
All of Brego's bad habits are mirrors of my own. So when I get frustrated, I have to constantly remind myself that this is the hole I dug for myself and now we need to climb out.
So after a fairly half-hearted, naggy, lackluster warm up, I stopped. I regrouped. Instead of going around on autopilot, I thought very hard about the exact response and actions I wanted out of Brego. For the next 30 minutes, I was going to say (with my aids) what I meant and mean what I say and it was his job to respond appropriately. A little conviction goes a long way. But first, a minor extinction burst. I asked for a canter and he lazed into it and could barely keep it from going four beat. That certainly was not going to get us over any fences. So I added leg and he ignored me, or maybe he even slowed down and raised his head, stiffly resistant. So I popped him. Hard. Quick, immediate, then reapply the aid. Again he said no, so I popped him again and he bucked so hard he threw himself into the wrong lead. But then he went forward. He auto swapped coming around the corner and we nailed the distance to a dinky 2'3" oxer and he jumped it at like it was 4' and went tearing off on the backside. Now we're getting somewhere.
So the horse can go, when I mean it. When I am clear and don't settle for putsing around. We had several more good rounds, each time requiring less effort on my part to get a nice working canter around fences instead of his western pleasure lope.
He finished stronger than he started and I hope, I know, we had a break through.
Keep me honest, Brego. I can't expect you to not be lazy when I am lazy with my aids.
With the rain comes two days of rest and then: New Horse, New Rider. Another chance for me to improve my communication.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
We're in day 3 of Training for 2010 and we already ran into the main limiting factor: Daun's brain.
But let me back up. After the disappointing ride Friday, Brego came back strong Saturday morning. We returned to the fairgrounds, in the rain, and he did much better. He's always better after some work, so I was expecting less stiffness and resistance, but he was actually better overall. So maybe he just wasn't in the mood Friday, or the heat really was affecting him.
Since we did canter work both Friday and Saturday, I decided our Sunday ride would be a long, slow ride along some trails I've been meaning to explore. The trail in question is the trail that leads to the state park 3 miles way. But between me and the state park is a swamp. For those of you who have never visited New Hampshire, it may come as quite a shock to learn that it's a giant swamp. Wet, wet, wet everywhere. This particular swamp is large, broad, deep, and exactly in my way.
So the goal was to ride out from the house, hand walk down the 1/4 mile of real road to get to the power lines, then head north towards the swamp along the easement trails under the lines. Then, the hope was to find a path around the swamp. From Google Earth, there is clearly a trail to the swamp and clearly a trail away from the swamp towards the park, but unless you had a boat, I was unable to connect the dots.
Since we would be doing a walking ride among the rocky power lines, I opted to boot Brego. The power line trails here rival any of the gnarly, rocky, steep, treacherous trails we frequented in Texas and since it's been raining for a week, Brego's feet would be soft. Best to boot him.
The ride was pretty uneventful going out. Brego was perfect along the road, very excited and forward to go somewhere new along the trail. He crossed very large puddles in the trail where the water came up to his knees without hesitation. After an hour, we arrived at the swamp and lo, there WAS a path, tucked away in the woods. We followed the trail as far as I felt comfortable since I did not know who owned the land, even with no "keep out" signs, it pays to be courteous. I could tell from the lay of the land that the trail would skirt the swamp, so there was my gateway to the State Park. Happy with our exploration we turned for him.
And that's when all my awesome brain power became completely useless. On a particularly steep downhill area, there was water actively running down the center of the trail. Brego opted to step onto the bank of the trail and he lost traction and slipped. Because of the large boulders dotting the wet trail, he was unable to catch himself fast enough and off I fell. He did manage to stay upright, and luckily stumbled off to my right as I braced for impact and hit the rocks. Road rash on hips, ribs, hands. Pleasant.
Brego stood calmly while I got up and checked him out. He did not appear to have hit a rock himself, no bumps or cuts, but I immediately removed his boots and attached them to his pommel. I am not sure if the boots were the problem, but they are clunky since they don't properly fit and he normally does very well over this kind of terrain. I hobbled on to his back and we proceeded. Luckily, I've taught Brego how to pack so the bulky boots banging against his shoulders as he navigated the trail did not seem to bother him. He felt even and fine on the way home and we finished the ride without incident.
Now for the Stupidity Analysis:
Although I did not ride alone, neither one of us carried a phone.
We did not carry a first aid kit or even a roll of vet wrap.
We failed to recognize that a ride out of the house can still be challenging and dangerous.
We started the ride at 4:30 pm, way too close to dusk if we were delayed by an accident.
Boots are a double-edged sword with Brego, I should have let him wear them on an easier ride first.
Thankfully, my horse was not hurt in the painful learning of this lesson. I have pommel bags for my English saddle, I will use them. And I will put a phone in them. And some vet wrap, for crying out loud. I will start my exploring rides early in the day and let my neighbors know where we are going. I will not assume any ride out my back door is an easy stroll. I will continue to train Brego to accept packs every chance I get. I will continue to mount from the off side, which was required on this particular trail after my fall. I will continue to train him to stand when I make my sudden dismounts. A horse running loose towards home down that road could have been a complete disaster.
He's a good guy, that Brego. He saved my ass today and had the good graces not to judge me for it.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
A week of rain. Every since we've been training in the neighbor's outdoor (for free), I have been loathe to go to the indoor. It's a very nice indoor, but the footing is deep for reining and it's small for Brego. He doesn't move forward in it. As a result, I have not ridden since Monday at all.
Friday after work, there was a break in the rain and we rode to the fairgrounds and tucked ourselves into a corner of the parking lot, a full mile from the actual fairgrounds fence. The place is HUGE. In that particular corner, there is a well drained field that is surrounded on three sides by banks and trees so it's almost like a perfect rectangular outdoor that is 500' x 1000'. In other words: plenty big.
We mostly focused on canter work, after a warmup. Brego can trot all day, but his conditioning hinges on his ability to canter. He was stiff and cranky, which is normal after more than two days off. He just really didn't want to work. It was pretty warm and humid, but I was a little disappointed in his fitness, which is 100% my fault. I felt like he did better on his conditioning ride a couple of weeks ago.
And that's the crux of it, the last conditioning ride was a couple of weeks ago. Eventers at my level should be riding six days a week, five days bare minimum. There has not been one week this year where I have ridden four days or more. That's just not going to keep him fit enough for his safety and health.
Seeing Andrea's pictures of King Oak made me wish we were out there competing. That course looks so fun. I know it's not in the cards this year, but that doesn't mean I can let Brego's conditioning base erode, especially since the long term goal of 2010 is to go Novice at the end of the year. Which means, if things go well this summer, I might do a schooling Novice by October of 2009. My 2010 season starts today.
So even though it's raining, again, we're suiting up and riding out. Are we men or are we amoebas???
I am shooting for four days a week to start, and if the weather ever clears, bump to five. The farm and work still squabble for my time, but being on the back of my horse is where I am truly happy, so I should strive to be there more often.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It's been raining nonstop for three days now, so I have no excited Brego news to report. I thought I might take this opportunity to answer a question I was asked recently, however.
We'll keep doing what we're doing until Brego doesn't want to do it anymore. Then we'll go try something else, perhaps Long Riding. ;)
Monday, May 4, 2009
Today was the first real jumping of the season. We set up a bounce to a one stride that could be ridden both ways. We started with the poles on the ground and just cantered through, working on striding and adjustability. Then we put up cross rails and finally finished at 2'3". The grid was certainly not challenging, but for our first day out, I wanted to see what we remembered, if anything.
I'll just cut to the chase and I say I was very pleased with Brego. His brain is 100% there from last year, didn't skip a beat, completely understood the question, was forward and willing. My position was about 80% from last year. My lower body was ok, my release was fine, but I did tend to duck too much over such small fences. Brego was a little sticky getting into the canter, and he wanted to do his little dressage canter. So when I pushed him forward into a little more, he really didn't understand. He thought I was just pushing to push, I think. It wasn't until a couple of times through the grid that he started to understand he needs a little more.
But even with what he had, he felt so much better than last year. I can actually say, with no self delusion, that his canter was adjustable. I could easily compress it, but not as much extend it, but even compressed he kept his impulsion. He didn't quit at the fences. Last year, he didn't refuse, but he lost 10% at a fence and over a grid, that adds up. Well today, there was no quitting, in fact he would finish stronger. Not longer and sprawled out all over the place, but bigger, more "up".
Another big difference was when I blew the entry, he reached for the distance. He did not chip once. And he did not do the creepy front foot tap thing that got us into trouble last year.
So all in all, I felt like Brego was good, very interested, very keen to fences. He needs a little more work on getting that canter going from the start, and obviously, we need more fitness. But, coming from Texas and the 12 month schooling schedule, I am absolutely floored by how little he has lost over the winter, both mentally and physically. Yes, he is too heavy for serious competition, but he did the grid probably 10 times today and never broke a sweat and certainly never felt any tiredness.
He felt so good, I had to consciously stick to my plan and quit early, since it was our first time jumping. He felt like he had plenty of gas in the tank.
We've got a schooling three phase at the end of the month and I think he's going to be just fine for it.