"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Waredaca N3D prep

I knew nothing about eventing until after college. For the last seven years, I have tried to learn as much as I can about the sport. There is a lot to know and I'm still trying to practice the basics correctly. When I found out that Waredaca Farm offers a long format three day event for Novice I was thrilled! It seemed like a huge goal but I set it as a long term goal anyway.

Turns out I found the right horse and we have qualified and entered for the N3DE(Novice 3-Day Event)!  Things happened in the last year that led me to believe entering the event was very possible.  Last year I bought Sherwin (Win) in July.  We completed beginner novice at Carousel and then finished second at Fair Hill.  We moved up to Novice at Plantation and won! We finished the year at Maryland HT.  Win and I had experience now and knew what we had to work on over the winter.

We started taking dressage lessons with Kristin Severson.  Lauren Clark stayed on my case until I finally rode with Kristin and thank goodness Lauren made me! Kristin took us back to square one.  Win is much more confident now. She taught me how my actions influence his movement and brain.  Kristin taught me how to work with Win in a way that he builds muscle and confidence first.  The fancy moves will come easily after a good foundation is laid.

In the spring, we went to MDHT not long after returning from Aiken.  I was quite pleased with Win's dressage test.  He is often very nervous and distracted during dressage.  Stadium was perkier than I preferred but XC was a breeze. 

I finally had to start spending the big bucks for recognized events because the N3DE requires novice entries to have four competitions with numerical scores.  So our next event was MCTA.  Dressage was quite unpleasant.  I was nervous and had left my small spurs on from a jump lesson the day before.  However, we did all the movements at the right time and stayed in the ring! We had time on stadium because I took a tour of the ring.  XC was quite positive.  Many riders had a stop at a new bank going down but Win didn't care! Granted, the road crossing was terrifying! 

Yes, I'm going to recap event event.  This blog is a good way for me to remember and analyze things again.  It also serves as a way to document what brought me to my goal. 

Fair Hill's novice course didn't scare me as much as it did the year before.  Dressage was greatly improved.  We were in the ring by the grandstands and it went better than expected.  Win was almost too slow.  Show jumping was a disaster.  We pulled 5 rails! Front and back legs caught rails.  XC went well and we were easily under the time.  Our show jumping round meant we were enrolling in Sally Cousins' boot camp.  Extra lessons and extra work! Win is more likely to pull a rail than not.  I know this and while I try to go clean, I accept that it may happen.  One rail I can forgive, five I cannot. 

Once in bootcamp, we decided that there was no reason not to enter at Plantation in early June.  Sherwin likes Plantation! We were first in our Novice Rider division after dressage.  I was thrilled!  We were walking out of the ring and the judge yelled for Sherwin.  I was so nervous that I had done something dumb.  It turns out the judge was Mary Grace.  Mary, or a student of hers, owned Sherwin before I did.  She was extremely happy with how he went and how happy he seemed.  We pulled one rail in show jumping because I didn't ride the first two jumps at all.  The XC was massive and long! 21 jumps back and forth across the field in the mud.  There was a brush jump from the light into the woods and other big questions along the way.  Win was focused and almost made the original time set for the course (prior to the mud).  Lauren and Poleon moved up to third and we finished fourth.  I couldn't complain!

By this time we had 3 of our four qualifications.  MDHT #1 was next on the list.  I don't do summer heat very well thanks to my extra squishiness and an air conditioned office work environment.  I had heard MDHT does well with the heat and boy do they ever! Dressage was almost a bit too quiet.  The judge wanted to see more out of the trot, but if I did too big of a trot, I wouldn't have anything worthwhile in the walk or canter.  I'll take a 6 or 7 in the trot work for 8s in the walk and canter! I was so excited to be in the same division as the amazing Tipperary Liadnham.  What a big, cool horse! We had two rails in stadium. A silly one over the smallest jump and one of the red planks! I was not happy with the red plank faultsCross country was an easy course and Win did it without issue.  We made the time but I felt like Win and I both had a tough time with the warm air. 

We qualifed for the three day! 4 events without cross country faults and respectable dressage scores.  Show jumping was improving so I wasn't as worried.

Six weeks later, mid August, we ran at Waredaca.  I didn't want to compete in the heat but it would have been a mistake to pass up the opportunity to compete there before the N3D.  Dressage was better for the judges than for me apparently.  Win spooked at every letter.  The letters were hinged pieces of wood next to the white fence.  At least I know he doesn't like them now!  Stadium was our best round up to this point.  Sally was nice enough to warm us up.  We did fine except for fence eight which I didn't read well.  Still, we recovered and rallied through the end of the course.  Unfortunately, spooky Sherwin showed up for XC.  We did fine for the first 4 fences and then the monsters came out.  The pond was scary, the people were scary, and the jump decorations were scary! This didn't help my confidence as it was a big, long course.  We had to trot two sections and didn't make the time.  I also realized we weren't fit enough.  There were positives such as jumping a real corner, getting through the hardest combination (log, hard right through a swale, to another log) we had done, and simply finishing! I needed a day like that to remind myself that I can ride Win.  When I ride better, he goes better. 

After Waredaca, I started Weight Watchers again.  Sherwin and I also incorporated hill walks into most rides and at least one fitness day around the field going up and down the big hill.  I also started yoga.  I did a month of classes and what a difference it makes! I feel better overall and my body isn't as tight in the tack.  10 pounds down and I feel better.  Now to take a few more pounds off.

In late August I was forming my plan to make sure we were ready.  I entered on opening day and my entry has been accepted! I talked to Sally and Lauren Gress.  We decided to enter Seneca and Morven.

Seneca was mid-September.  The weather was gorgeous!  The dressage test went very well.  I was pleased with our score. We have been between 30 and 35 since Fair Hill.  I know Kristin will improve those scores but I am not at all disappointed. For the first time, we jumped clear in stadium! I was elated.  Sherwin listened to me which meant we had balance and the correct speed.  The ground was hard at Seneca.  I went first in my division following a lunch break.  Believe me, the XC fence judges deserved a break.  However, the warmup was 3 trailers away from ours and Win started to be quiet antsy about Napoleon.  If Win is working, he doesn't mind as much.  I thought about making him work but with the hard ground, XC coming up, and a delay to the start, I let him walk circles.  Sherwin came out of the start box a little distracted.  The first jump was in the fence line so he had no choice.  I tapped him on the shoulder anyway before it.  I usually do that anyway, more for me than him.  The second fence was a little red cabin.  In the approach I started to think about how well the day was going and how great Win felt.  Note to other riders - STAY FOCUSED ON THE FENCE IN FRONT OF YOU! Bam, we glanced off the right side of the fence for a run out. 20 points just like that.  I was so mad and disappointed at Sherwin.  I rode the rest of the course with determination and it went very well.  Win listened and jumped well.  We easily made the time and Win felt great at the finish.  After crossing the finish line, I realized what I did and I was mad at myself.  It was my mistake.  Competition pressure is not something I am used to and it will play a part of the 3 day.  I have to tell myself I want to complete the event and have a happy horse.  That is my true goal.

We head to Morven on Sunday. I have never been and am excited. We had a wonderful jump lesson with Sally last Friday.  I have to keep doing what I'm doing and we will be ready.  Win feels good, both mentally and physically.  I am doing my best to maintain him for the next three weeks.  We have one more lesson with Sally and Kristin between Morven and Waredaca.  Sherwin had body work done last week. I learned different ways to engage his back and stretch his body.  I incorporate that into our daily routine now.  Sherwin's ulcers seem under control and his overall health is good. 

Sherwin and I will leave early Wednesday morning the week of Waredaca.  My dad is meeting us there to help me get set up and through the horse inspection.  Dressage is Thursday along with steeplechase practice.  Friday is endurance day.  LG and Jen will be there helping me.  I couldn't ask for two better people to help us! Saturday wraps up with show jumping. 

No matter the outcome, I am certain that this goal has been worth the time and money.  I have had a great season so far with Sherwin.  Fingers crossed it only gets better and we make it through the event in one piece!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Burghley Stalking 2012

The most challenging 4* event in the world is taking place right now.  After watching only a few dressage rides today while stuck in the office, maybe I should go to England next year.  I can't even imagine what an adventure it would be.  (Psst - Mom, we should go to England instead of going to Sea Isle City.  Think about it.)

Here's the basic information:

  • August 30 to September 2
  • 85 international entries from 10 nations 
    • Only 5 mares are competing
  • Thursday and Friday - dressage
  • Saturday - cross country
  • Sunday - show jumping
  • Last year's winners, William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk, are in contention again.  
    • This could be WFP's 7th win at Burghley. 
  • American representatives
    • Erin Sylvester
    • Kristi Nunnick
    • Kate Hicks
    • Allison Springer
    • Will Faudree
    • Sinead Halpin

Cross Country

Watch the recaps at Burghley.tv (but not when the boss is around!) 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Return of the... mediocre blog posts.

After a major hiatus from writing, here is my triumphant return.  Many people have been waiting for my next blog installation.  For example, Rob has been texting me every day for a new post detailing every last equine moment of my weekends.  Ha, I totally just lied, especially about the Rob part. 

Since I last wrote, a lot has happened!  I ran two more 5Ks, competed in three novice events, celebrated a birthday, enjoyed the Olympics through hours of TV and internet, and bought a new horse.  

 Sitta and I.
 Dad and I on the river.

My last 5K in June was the Hershey Miracle race.  Amanda and Julie ran with me and the extra support was huge!  I finished in 32:50.  Admittedly,  I haven't run much since then and it's showing! There's a run at Gravel Hill, right by my parents house, in October and I should do it.

My 28th birthday was a quiet event.  The folks at work took me out to dinner, which was much appreciated.  M&D pitched in to help buy me a Point Two air vest! Go Safety!

(Random observation - Sunday night tv is disappointing.)

I love the Olympics.  Not everyone will agree, but I thought NBC and Comcast did a great job with the coverage.  The eventing was amazing to watch.  Michael Jung is outrageous!  While the US didn't have the best trip in the equestrian events, the big sports had some major moments.   My Olympic obsession - Oscar Pistorius.  Oh, and he has race horses.

Archie and I completed three novice recognized events - MCTA, Fair Hill, and Seneca Valley.  Lauren, Amanda, and I made a weekend out of the trip to SV.  Piece of advice, don't run a 5K on Saturday and event on Sunday unless you know you can.  Yeesh, that weekend was a bit much.  

Archie and Aileen have made such an impact on my riding this year.  When at one of my lowest points, Aileen stepped in and offered me what I needed.  I haven't properly thanked Aileen and I don't know how I truly could.  Archie gave me a huge boost in the few months we worked together.  

Our last XC run did not go as I expected.  Archie jumped everything but I felt like he was laboring to make short work of the course.  A week later, we found out that his RF tendon was very sore.  The vet told me that with a lot of time off and rehab, he could come back to the Novice or Training level.  The decision is ultimately Aileen's, but I couldn't justify risking Archie's long term riding so he had a month off and has been doing light work for the month of August.  I hopped on him Friday night and he feels spectacular.  Archie is staying at Walnut Hill in "semi-retirement."  He has a very special role in the barn for us girls as we depend on him to teach us.  He is also a great babysitter for my new horse!

Oh yeah, I got a new horse.  Sherwin Williams has proven to be what I've wanted!  The timing was right.  I called his owner, Jen, shortly after Archie's news to find out if she knew of a horse which might work for me.  Only days before, she had decided to sell Win/Winsome/Sherwin.  Two weeks after the phone call, we had a great schooling day at Carousel and I brought him home!  Win is a 13 y/o Paint who has done several Training level events.  He also is extremely cute, snuggles, and is just adorable.  Can you tell how in love I am?

 Day 1. 
 Being Lauren's back rest in between jumper rounds.

We didn't waste any time getting out and eventing.  After only 7 weeks together, we tackled our first horse trial today.  Dressage was better than at home, I let him roll through stadium too fast and we pulled a rail, and then I took a fence for granted and he ran to the left about two strides before it.  Not exactly a great start, but I learned so much from the event that I wouldn't have learned without going out there.  I am still smiling and so very excited about our future.  (Sssshhhh, Fair Hill on Sept 15.)

Many, many thanks to Valerie (Rough Coat Photography) for these fantastic photos of our first HT.  

 Oh, don't worry, Tyler is doing quite well.  He is the same - fat, happy, and in charge.  Hmm, is that the dictionary definition of spoiled? 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Change is inevitable and change is good.

After the loss of Fred, I made some major changes in my life.  Ok, primarily my equine life but the rest of it too.

My very good friend Aileen made me an offer I couldn't refuse when I returned from Aiken.  Until I find a horse to buy, she is free leasing her appendix gelding Archie to me.  Archie and Aileen had several successful runs at Training last year.  Aileen recently purchased a beautiful mare allowing me to sneak Archie away for a few months.  I'm still horse shopping but very carefully and slowly.  

Archie and I are entered in my first recognized event on May 5, MCTA Shawan Downs.  I'm nervous and excited!

Along with the new ride, I'm at a new barn.  Archie moved in next to LClark and Pony at a wonderful facility in Manheim.  I miss HVS but am anxious to open new chapters. 

Outside of the horse life, Amanda and I completed our very first 5k today!  We had both started working out around the same time.  I nudged Amanda into a bit and she proved to be strong and resilient! I was really nervous if I could make my goal.  I felt like three 12 minute miles was reasonable and so wanted to finish around 36 minutes.  Turns out the race adrenaline helped and I ran it in 34:13!! I didn't walk and felt pretty good when I was done.  

My mom, my sister, and our BFF Jackie were there to cheer us on at the finish.  Ok, that was kind of freakin' cool.

 Me and Amanda pre-race
 Finish line!!
 Never thought I'd have a 5K tshirt that I earned.
 Me and Sitta "tailgating" before 8am with the Nav (work car!)

A very delayed continuation of the Aiken blog.

Wow, it's been too long since I've blogged.  Sadly, this means I'm doing an abbreviated post so I can catch up.

I traveled to Aiken with Lauren Gress again.  Why she puts up with me, who knows! We also went with the mom and daughter pair of Laura and Alexa.  Laura had to leave Moose at home with sore feet but Alexa brought her rockin' mare, Jewel.

The girls were spectacular!  Lauren and Poleon looked great coming out of winter.  They entered Sporting Days and focused on preparing all week.  Alexa and Jewel were introduced to jumping Novice fences and were AH-MAY-ZING.  Jewel was on springs and Alexa did her best to analyze the new challenge and adjust.  It was so cool to watch them.  Since Jess is green and Moose was at home, Laura and I enjoyed watching the girls and learning from their lessons.

Lauren and Poleon had a great go at Sporting Days.  The dressage ring was sloppy but Poleon sucked it up.  They show jumped very well.  The XC course looked awesome! They had a near perfect round.  Poleon has a H20 phobia and stopped at a log before the water complex.  Lauren made him do it on the second try and finished the rest of the course strongly.  There were a few fences, the brush and bench combo, that Lauren couldn't have done more perfectly.  It was so much fun to watch them!  

The pieces fell together so LClark, Gwen, Kelsea, and Antoinette were all at Sally's while we were.  I love those girls!  They are smart, hilarious, and supportive!  We had several meals with them full of good food and laughs.  I don't see any of them enough, even LClark, so I tried to make the most of the week with them.

All of the girls competed at Sporting Days and kicked ass.  We had a great week training, laughing, and entertaining Snuffy.  

 Susan and Trick
 Snuffy putting Martine through bootcamp.
 LClark and the pony.
 LClark and Scotch showing off.
 Gwen and Barney
 Gwen and Barney
 Lauren and the track kitchen
 Antoinette and James
 Antoinette and James getting big air.
 Laura :)
 Jack (minus Kelsea)
 Alexa and Jewel
 Alexa and Jewel
Annemarie and Cigar

The week in Aiken was outstanding and I'm not doing it justice.  It was a sad year, too, with just losing Fred.  There wasn't a better place for me.  A huge thank you to everyone who helped make the trip to Aiken a success. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aiken 2012 - Part 1

It's a big relief that February is over.  Losing Fred has made my equine life very sad.  I was fortunate that only days after his death, I was able to make the trip to Aiken, South Carolina and spend a week with people who truly understand what I'm feeling.  I'll try over the next few days to recap the week I had in Aiken.  It was good for my riding and my life.

Laurie McDowell, of McDowell Racing Stables, is an extraordinary woman I have never met.  She has trusted the HVS family to care for her mare, Jess.  I happen to be the primary person with Jess right now. Jess is a lovely 14 year old TB mare who raced very successfully and produced four amazing foals.

Poor Jess showed up the night before Fred's death and I didn't spend more than a few minutes with her until the day before we left for Aiken.  The good girl let me flat her in the indoor before our giant adventure began.  We experimented with shipping boots and she took to them in seconds.  By 5:30am on Saturday she was wrapped up, on the trailer, and escaping the snow for a week in Aiken.

Jess is good on the flat but green when it comes to jumping.  She may be green, but oh my is she sane and brave!  Her footwork is still a work in progress but she'll jump what you put in front of her.  We had four jump lessons that were simple, short, and straightforward.  I was majorly impressed with her.  I'm not one to get on a horse I don't know and ride it around much less jump a green one.  Jess was relaxed and then so was I.

 Lesson 1 - starting with trot poles.
  Lesson 1 - ending over the flower cross rail.
Lesson 2 - Jess jumped a little vertical, the white gate, the barrels, and the yellow and blue gate WITH a rail! Now to fix my hands and chicken wings.
 Lesson 3 - Gymnastics! Cross rail, stride, vertical, stride, vertical.  We started out small and simple and built up.  Jess was very smart through the grid. We finished with a one time try at 2'6 on the end and she looks great!
 Lesson 4 - We attempted the green box at the end of lesson once and Jess was great so we called it quits. 

Jess behaved perfectly the entire time we were there.  Oh wait, ok, she wasn't 100% perfect.  Two different nights I didn't pay attention to where I left the hay bales and she helped herself to them!   At least she never escaped like Tyler did.  

I'm looking forward to working with Jess when I get home.  She's been a very pleasant surprise!

Here's my draft plan for the rest of the Aiken blog:
Part 2 - Lauren and Alexa and Laura
Part 3 - Gwen & LClark
Part 4 - Kelsea & Antoinette
Part 5 - Annemarie
Part 6 - horse shopping (that's right, I'm in the market!) and everything else I've missed 


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Homemade Sin died on February 19, 2012 from an unknown neurologic disease.   

I will write more about it all when I have more energy.