25 Questions

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do after a random hiatus round here, but first I figured I’d post the thing that inspired me to write after this break – a blog hop started by The $900 Facebook Pony earlier this week.

  1. Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling? Honestly nothing else ever stuck. I don’t enjoy team stuff, and horses just work for me.
  2. What was your riding “career” like as a kid? The first place I kept my pony was a backyard farm near my house; I could ride my bike there. When my family moved to Southern California it switched to massive boarding stables with many trainers and barns. I did hunters, mostly schooling shows.
  3. If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be? I still think about a gorgeous thoroughbred in Kentucky I tried before I bought Juice. He pops up in Area 8 eventing social media sometimes. I think he would’ve been too high maintenance for me, though.
  4. What disciplines have you participated in? My first lessons were at a saddle seat barn. Then hunters, equitation, jumpers, eventing.
  5. What disciplines do you want to participate in some day? Working equitation seems fun.
  6. Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue? No, I would though.
  7. What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid? Probably Morgans or Arabians thanks to books and movies!
  8. If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be? Ireland. So many fields to gallop through.
  9. Do you have any horse-related regrets? I wish I had advocated more for myself when I got my second horse and throughout my time with him. I was sick of hunters long before I sold him and took a break. I learned a lot but didn’t enjoy it as much as I could’ve.
  10. If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be? My former event trainer that moved to Colorado.
  11. What is one item on your horse-related bucket list? Ride on a beach.
  12. If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses? Probably not, to be honest. I struggle to spend the time when health issues keep me from riding, so, yeah.
  13. What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal? To compete at Split Rock.
  14. What horse do you feel like has taught you the most? My first pony Dooney. He had a great heart but was a little shit when he was still green, yet I persisted and showed up to ride even when I didn’t want to (sometimes because my mom made me!)
  15. If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be? Truck and trailer.
  16. If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be? The Oaks in San Juan Capistrano, because I never got to show there when it was right down the street.
  17. If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice? Probably Burghley or Blenheim Palace.
  18. Have you ever thought about quitting horses? Yes and I did for a while!
  19. If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be? Oversight within USEF and USEA.
  20. What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well? Got a three year old pony when I was nine.
  21. As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of? Um, everything. Getting hurt, mostly.
  22. What horse-related book impacted you the most? I can’t remember the name or author but it was written in the 80’s by an east coast trainer, with lots of black and white photos – taught me a ton about equitation.
  23. What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most? Value: personality. Dislike: kind of the same? I don’t want to own a horse that isn’t friendly to me like some people and pros do. He or she needs to be my buddy.
  24. What do you love most about your discipline? Camaraderie, overall get-it-done attitude in eventing is much appreciated.
  25. What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment? Just getting out to ride and appreciating the horse and everything that I have, and not wasting energy worrying about what the next show or big goal will be. My life changes too much day to day to handle it any other way, I’ve learned.
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Brave Horse VI – Saturday

Please excuse the break between posts.. my illness over the weekend of this show morphed into a nasty sinus infection, and I was waiting on some pro photos.

So Saturday! The ring started a bit earlier that morning and I got to get up well before 6.. my favorite thing. I didn’t mind that much, I was excited after Friday went so well, and the weather was going to be muggy but cooperative as long as my classes finished before mid-afternoon.

at least the morning drive is pretty

I was mostly on my own to get ready, and I kept my show shirt clean.. we deserve a ribbon for that, I think. My trainer had said to spend more time in the warmup this day to get Juice listening to me more so he’d respond to my half halts a little more promptly. He was a chill dude and accepted contact immediately, I almost had to spur him along. I was glad I was no longer riding a giraffe, but I hand galloped a little to make sure he still had a motor.

Our clear blue round went fine. I just wanted to make sure I had a forward pony.

Next up was the .70 add back with a jump-off. Come to find out, it’s easier to remember the jump-off when you aren’t losing your shit from anxiety. Last year at this show, I had rails and never actually did any of the jump-offs I was struggling to remember, so this time I just wanted to be clean so I could actually get to that part.

We got 2nd place for this one! I need to get more comfortable pushing for speed and setting up for the jumps, but at this height we got around fine. As usual I felt like I was flying but we weren’t for the most part.

iconic jump is iconic, my face is.. not cute (Winslow photography)

Now we were finished with what I’d signed up for, but Bill urged me to do the .80m add back. The course would be the same except it was power & speed, with different jumps for the speed portion. There were about 22 trips of anther division to go before that class. I knew Juice’s ride home wasn’t coming for a few hours so I decided to go for it.

I put him back in his stall and tried to do the things normal people do at horse shows, but I struggle so much with down time. After sitting with water and a snack, I cleaned off his jump boots, topped off pony’s water and hay, and rode my bike down to the ring to see how things were going. There was still time so I checked results. We were reserve champion for .70m! I had the add back bonus points to thank for that. It was a nice boost.

Finally it was time to play hurry up and wait. Juice was very complacent about tacking back up and going back out there. I truly appreciate how easy he can be at shows.

So, this.. went. The timer malfunctioned and I got beeped out of the ring. My brain was going a mile a minute and I was wondering if the time allowed was shorter than we thought.. or had I missed a jump, crossed my line somehow? I was so upset to end the day on a weird note – the first part of the round had been great, and I was happy with Juice. I didn’t want to hold up the ring and make a fuss; all I could think to do was to take care of him, so I booked it back to the barn and hosed him off and fed him treats.

always pat your pone (Winslow photography)

Once I calmed down and went back to the ring to watch a friend and graze him, I noted that other riders were doing the same course with similar times to what I had and having no issues. I finally decided to speak with the steward. Add back classes are expensive and I was sure that whatever had happened was not my fault. She spoke to the judge and show manager and nobody could really say what happened. But they agreed I did nothing wrong, and refunded my fee for that one. While in the office I took the opportunity to settle up for the weekend and my printout showed I still got 5th in the class.

well-decorated fan

It cheered me up to get my big reserve champ ribbon and prize (a Brave Horse branded leather an multi-tool, which will surely come in handy). I really was super proud of Juice and of myself for many reasons, the ribbons were just a bonus.

When I can get past my anxiety, I do enjoy jumpers. I’d love to get better at nailing the jump-offs and feel a little more accurate in the ring with more speed. It’s something I can set as a goal for next year that is definitely attainable, and there’s a very good chance I’ll make it to more of these kinds of shows to put what we learn into practice since they are close and I know lots of people that go to them.

The rest of the year is uncertain for us. I scratched a mini trial for this coming weekend due to my illness and impending buckets of rain. I’m honestly fine with it, the trial is being put on by a new association and I’m glad my entry fee will help support them, if they are able to continue after their first year, I can enter more of their events in the future. Right now I’m going to focus on getting myself completely healthy and see if the last Heritage Novice mini is an option for us. If not, we will just enjoy fall and get to work on everything we could possibly improve.. that list is never-ending for sure!

Brave Horse VI – Thursday & Friday

There have been a lot of ups and downs since I last wrote anything. A LOT. My last post went up August 22 (I wrote it the night before). That evening, I had my foot injected, and then later in the week my barn manager magna waved it for me. I’ve finally caught up to my horse in the maintenance department! The injection caused some pain in different places of my foot that were previously ok, but the affected ligament and areas of arthritis improved immediately. I still have bruising and a tiny bit of soreness, but I’m glad I did it. Except for the part that I had no anesthetic for the shot, do not recommend that, holy shit it hurt. Juice had a couple more guest rides and I rode a grand total of two times before he was hauled over to the horse show last week.

I learned that I’ve got more of a handle on my showing anxiety, it was just my various health issues that I hoped would cooperate. I got on and went down to the rings and realized they had moved everything around. The jumper ring was where one of the hunter rings usually is, and nobody seemed to know what was going on with that even though the first full day of the show was now over. I finally asked a trainer I recognized but had never met, and she explained they wanted to use the big ring for the hunter derby cup on Sunday. I was admittedly happy about the change; the ring for jumpers was still plenty big, closer to the barns, and there was actually some shade next to it now. I walked Juice around while some people schooled, he was behaving but felt like he was going to explode any second. As soon as I picked up a trot and tried to get him to stretch out, the trainers in the ring finished setting fences and big horses were cantering by with riders not bothering to call their jumps; I found myself wrangling a bay giraffe around them. Fun (not really).

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this is a lot, mom

I didn’t let it bother me too much and took my time, and eventually we had a pretty decent school. He didn’t look sideways at any of the jumps and was definitely forward, so I was fine with it. We took a long walk around the grounds, I groomed him and cleaned my tack and went home to sleep. Oh and guess what? At this point I came down with a weird sore throat/cold thing, and I felt like complete garbage. Cue pre-bedtime meltdown and extra Ambien. My foot wasn’t hurting, at least.

Friday morning I woke up and my throat still hurt but I felt okay. Got to the show and got photos of my courses, walked, and tacked up with help from my friend Laura. My first class was a .70m against the clock round, the course was fairly simple and Juice was being pretty good so I may have relaxed a little too much.

We wound up having a runout at the second jump, which had a weird shadow and I just did not create a good approach to it. I was mad because I didn’t sign up to do a warmup for the smaller jumps, so this class counted. I was also mad because the runout reminded me of last year when we kept having stops in our first rides of the day. I tried to pick up the pace and ride a little more defensively and the rest of the course was fine. We still took 4th place out of eight.

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side-ear at waiting forever by the ring, guest appearance by pony wrangler Tyline

My next round was a warmup for the .80m – in hindsight maybe I should’ve put the warmup before everything, but I wanted to make sure Juice noticed the jumps were higher, and it was nice to have a chance to ride them and not feel any pressure to go fast or make tight rollbacks. I took a longer option from 2 to 3 and it rode nicely.

My brain did not fall out of my head when the jumps went up! I was proud of myself. We were very comfortable at this height. The division was pretty small so I went back in pretty quick.

Same course for the third time, which was nice (Confession: I signed up for only classes without jump-offs this day, which greatly reduced my anxiety.. I am terrible at remembering courses). I picked up the pace but kept the bigger rollback, and we got 3rd out of six. Probably could’ve gotten 2nd had I taken the inside turn, but I was fine with it and SO happy with our day.

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having my husband’s bike made life amazing

We were signed up for one more class with the possibility of adding another, plus a warmup the next day.. lots of excitement in store so stay tuned!

Stream of Consciousness Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days. Saturday was so fun spending time with my favorite trainer, getting to know Bruce and my husband hanging with us, since he couldn’t volunteer (he went home to my step-kids once we were done that morning). I didn’t even get a chance to mention the friends (THANK YOU) who spent tons of time helping me get the pony and my stuff ready, to keep me from walking back and forth across the barn 100 times because I’m forgetful.

Seeing a professional compete Juice gave me so much to think about. In the right situation, this pony will do just about anything you ask of him. He may swish his tail and put his ears sideways, and he may throw a buck or two when you’re jumping, but he does not have a malicious bone in his body. One thing I knew but never really thought about was how kind his eye is – Bruce noticed it immediately. “If that eye was more almond shaped or smaller, I’d be getting on with caution”. He just wants you to love him, and he generally wants to try. If something goes wrong, you don’t have to worry.. he conveniently has a very short memory. And if he’s not doing the thing you ask, 95% of the time, it’s your fault. The other 5% can be chalked up to an ingrained pony attitude or possibly pain somewhere in his body.

He is also way more athletic than you’d think. He has lit up the faces of each trainer I’ve ridden with when the jumps approach 3′. It doesn’t even feel like he is trying terribly hard at that height, especially if you get to a nice spot. And if you don’t? He’ll usually take the one you ask for. If he doesn’t, you’ll realize after that HE was right. And for all this, I am SO proud of him. He came to me with a great foundation in January 2015, but we have put in a lot of work the last few years.

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not me, obviously, but #glitterboots. photo by reality studios

I’ve been told he has potential to do so much more but I have issues with the fitness, money, time, and energy to match it.  Besides the health problems I’ve mentioned here in the past, I struggle with anxiety and depression. I try not to let it but it spills over into the horsey part of my life. I also have an autoimmune disease (celiac) and chronic back and foot pain that can make it hard to function some days. If I had the funds and transportation to go to every event I wanted, I wouldn’t be able to get through them without an extra person to help.

I feel as though I take care of Juice the best I can in every aspect, but I’ve struggled this year wondering if I even deserve him. I will say he is at a farm where the management and staff love him and understand his stupid quirks (he has to be turned out alone, and then where the hell else would the owner mount a stall mat on one wall to cushion his hip checks against it, which he does in protest of not receiving ALL THE ATTENTION?). The farm is at the top of my budget but he will not move from there unless I become forced to sell him to someone out of town. So at least I know he’s being taken care of on my bad days.

This past week or so I’ve wondered if I should be having a pro take him around, or at least someone more ambitious than I am, and playing the owner full time, so he can reach his potential. Does he really care? Of course not, Juice cares more about where the food is than anything. But I won’t lie, it was a bit of a relief last weekend just being there to help where I could. At the same time, if I just poked around the farm and never competed or had any goals, I’d be bored. So where is the middle ground?

Anyway. I’ve got too much time on my hands with my bad foot right now, maybe. We are set to compete at Brave Horse for rated jumpers Labor Day weekend and I’ve no clue if I’m going to be able to ride by then, or at least well enough for that kind of atmosphere after this much time off. Hoping the doctor will tell me tomorrow morning.

Heritage mini-trial, 8/18/18

So I think I’ve finally figured out a way to drastically reduce horse show stress.

Having someone else ride your horse!

Especially having this guy

Take your pony around his first Novice XC.

In my previous post I alluded to the issues I’ve been having with my foot. This week I was unable to ride or even go out to the barn because when I wasn’t at work, I was sitting on the couch icing it.

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sweet new brace the podiatrist gave me

On Wednesday I decided it was not going to be a good idea to ride even if I miraculously healed, so I asked around to see if I could find someone to ride Juice in the CT we had entered. A lot of people who would’ve been willing were busy that day and I was getting close to scratching. Then Bill, my sometimes jump trainer, piped up. He is way too tall for Juice, but his husband is not.

“Bruce said he would!!”

I told him to stop lying. Bruce Mandeville, two time Olympian and WEG veteran, does not want to ride my mutt pony around a schooling show.

“He did!!”

Wut.

I sent him a message saying if they’re really serious, he is obviously welcome to ride. From there we arranged a quick schooling ride for Friday since he had never ridden my horse before. The ride went fine, Juice glared at me like “what are you doing to me, Mom” as they leg yielded back and forth across the ring.

Saturday we hauled to the show and met Bruce there. I walked (well, limped) with him to get his number and remind management I wouldn’t be riding. I asked if he wanted to run cross country, and explained I originally didn’t plan to because I haven’t schooled much this year, I didn’t care about making time, I’d just like Juice to have a good experience. It had rained a lot towards the end of the week, but the weather was looking like it’d cooperate for the morning, and the ground wasn’t terribly sloppy.

“Sure!”

OMG.

I was trying to stay off my foot as much as I could, since Bill was there to groom I was able to park myself by the rings and not do too much back and forth.

Mimosa required for watching dressage

It was Upper Level Pros Visit The Mini Trial day I guess, Jim Nealon was also there doing a couple CT’s so it was fun to watch him ride while waiting for Juice’s turn.

Not bad for having barely ridden my horse, right? The judge scored him as though she knew exactly who was riding (maybe she did), they received a 38. Bruce didn’t have much to say about the comments, other than “my circles were perfect”. He wandered off to walk XC while we untacked and let Juice chill at the trailer for a bit.

P.S. Anyone want to buy my dressage saddle? I’ve decided to sell it, and now that it’s had this guy ride in it, surely that makes it worth at least $50 more, no?

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being an owner at a show is exhausting

Stadium time approached, and I hobbled back over and moved my chair over to the ring. Novice was just about to get started and eventually Bruce and Juice (Bruice?) came over from warmup and waited their turn.

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insert heart eyes emoji here

They had a nice clear round. One wiggly bad spot, which resulted in a couple bucks on the other side. Nobody can tame the sassmaster, apparently. At least it’s not just me.

It was straight to XC from there, and I wasn’t about to miss watching from the course itself, even with a bum foot. Thankfully Bruce still needed to put his vest on so there was plenty of time for me to make my way over to a good vantage point. I just realized I never post the awesome maps they make for Heritage events, and they really deserve to be shared. So here is the one from this event:

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Some of the N jumps are obviously shared with BN with or without modifications, but there were a lot that Juice had never done before, not even when we’ve schooled there.

I removed the sound on this video because the hooting and hollering of my husband, Bill and myself is nothing anybody needs to hear. I may have switched from mimosas to just wine at some point and it was still only 10:30 in the morning.. yeah. But! They totally rocked it! He didn’t even slow down at the ditch or anything else. My heart melted for the pats at the big bench – I could tell he asked for the long spot and Juice was totally game. I wish this course had water because it would’ve been awesome to see them attack that. Bruce told me he was awesome and fun and very polite – even in a snaffle. To which I replied “ha ha are you sure you’re talking about this pony because he pulls my arms out of their sockets in a two ring gag”, but he is obviously way better at this and way stronger than me so I guess it makes sense.

They wound up winning – only one other person did the full Novice mini trial, but it’s nice to finally have a blue ribbon from this event even though I wasn’t riding! I have a lot of other thoughts relating to this day but this shit is way too long already, so I’ll end it here for now. THANK YOU to Bruce for having a sense of humor and to Heritage for being so flexible, I so appreciate this community.

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yes, those are $8 glitter splint boots

Best laid plans

Tentatively, the next event on my calendar is a mini trial on August 18th. I’ve been waffling about doing Novice; the CT went fine in June but we have not been able to cross country school off property all year unless you count the hunter pace we essentially walked our way through (I don’t). Last year Heritage dug a more realistic ditch and Juice is always hesitant about it, and they also have some new jumps.

So I was pleased when an opportunity for a cross country lesson with a local 4* rider at another farm nearby presented itself. A friend and I were set to haul over early this past Saturday morning. I figured I’d hop over everything Novice over there, get some pointers and hopefully feel good about it.

Well. Our trainer canceled a few days before. We tried to look into schooling there on our own, but couldn’t get an answer. So I contacted Heritage, and we planned to just go over there instead. We’d be able to jump everything that would be on the course, even if it gets moved around, that’d be perfect.

Friday afternoon my friend I was going to go with showed up to hack her horse and.. one of his shoes was half off and bent, a nail starting to dig into his sole. Son of a B*#%$! (He is doing fine thankfully) So hauling anywhere was off.

Fine, I thought, maybe I can get Bill to come over and school me on the stuff at home. Nope, out of town. Resident jumper trainer? Away judging a horse show. This shit was REALLY not meant to be and to be honest, I was hesitant to even try jumping because I figured I was in for some kind of disaster.

But, luckily, it was fine. We hadn’t jumped anything, let alone schooled in the field, in ages and Juice was all about it. Unfortunately I have no media of it but he was a super good boy. He took all the distances I asked for and best of all: NO bucking! We didn’t spend too long out there since it was insanely hot and humid. He had yesterday off and we have a little jump lesson tonight.. I think this is exactly what I need right now after slogging along doing only dressage the last month.

This whole lack of a truck and trailer thing is getting so tired. I wish I was made of money sometimes.