Friday, August 21, 2015

GHF Summer Classic 6/21/15: Stadium and XC

Alright, the good stuff!

The rain had actually let up during my dressage warmup and throughout my test, but just as I got on Maggie to head out for jumping it started to spritz again. A heavy mist of sorts hung in the air, without it actually raining per se. It would have been a miserable day if it were cold, but the temperature was actually around 80 degrees. So at least we weren't freezing. Still, the grass was wet and that's what my main concern was. I didn't check to see if my dressage score was posted - for once I preferred not to know. I guess I figured that incase it put me in good standing, I wouldn't add any pressure onto myself to keep going if the jumping got sketchy.

What a nice guy, helping take the braids out!
There was no loudspeaker at the show, so I guessed a bit with my timing and I was hoping to get up to the stadium ring with just enough time to walk the course and then pop Maggie over the warm up jumps a couple times while the riders ahead of me went. Apparently I missed the opportunity to walk the course though (if there was one) so I took Maggie over the warmup jumps a few times before standing and watching a few riders go so as to memorize the course - fortunately I'm pretty good at memorizing courses from my dog agility days!

We trotted the cross rail in warmup and then I decided to just go for it and pick up the canter. Stadium itself was in a sand ring, but the warmup fences were on grass and even had a little terrain around them that you needed to navigate. I figured it would be a good opportunity to test out the ground conditions and see how the wet grass affected us. To my surprise and delight, it didn't appear to affect us at all. There was no slipping and I felt comfortable at the canter - that made be feel better about the upcoming XC for sure! Despite feeling fine with the footing, I could not get a good distance to any of the warmup fences. After trying a few times, I just called it quits since it wouldn't do me any good to tire Maggie out in the warmup.

The stadium course itself was very straight forward and the height actually looked tiny. However, there was some nice slop in front of a few of the fences. We started out on a good foot, but then at fence 4 Maggie took a good look at the fence for some reason and dropped back behind my leg. I was able to egg her on enough to get over the fence without stopping and then we wiggled our way to fence 5 where I got a little left behind, but no worse for the wear.

And then fence 7...I don't even know what happened... See for yourself:

I think she tried to take a long spot and slipped? Or decided she couldn't? Let's see that again in slow motion...and in GIF form:

Frankly, I'm surprised we only took down one rail instead of the entire jump. As we trotted away from it I made sure that Maggie felt ok underneath me, which she did, and decided to proceed to the last jump which was comparatively uneventful.

I was a little bit shaken by totally eating that jump, but I made sure I paid attention to how Maggie was feeling as we walked down the hill to the XC start. She seemed fine, so we proceeded.

We got a count down from the start "box" steward, even though the course was untimed. I tried my darnedest to get Maggie in front of my leg and going enough to get over the first fence...but it wasn't quite enough. Remember how I said I had a hunch that she would spook at those pretty flowers? Yup. Refusal at fence 1. Awesome. We made a circle and she bunny-hopped over it the second time, fortunately.

Maggie ended up being pretty behind my leg for the first part of the  course and kept wanting to drop back to the trot. She proceeded to bunny hop the second fence and I think I said aloud before fence 3, "OK, can you please jump like a real horse now??"

Looking (sort of) like pros.
Photo by Flatlands Photography, used with permission
Aside from being a little sticky, we had no other trouble for the rest of the course. It took until around fence 5 for her to really get the idea that yes, in fact I was going to insist that she go over all the jumps, and for her to actually go forward to the fence instead of sucking back. 

Fence 7
Photo by Nature of Light Photography, used with permission

Dan got the first two and last two fences on video:

I was bummed she refused the first fence, but we were able to keep on and get more confident with each fence - that's really all I can ask for at this stage. By the time we reached the "monstrosity" that was the last fence, I knew she would do it. Someday we'll get to the point where she has the same gusto on course at an event as she does when we're jumping at home or XC schooling. For now though, it's all about confidence building.

Photo by Sophia Bitel

I swear she could make time at a rated BN with that power trot though. It's pretty ridiculous.

Fence 8, Photo by Sophia Bitel
And I seriously wish I could get my equitation under control. Learning to release would be nice, for one. Alas...things to work on. 

Dan had checked the scores on our way back to the trailer after XC and reported back that I was in second place after dressage on a 35.8! I was pretty impressed with that actually, and very pleased. However, I knew that my rail in stadium and then refusal on XC probably ended up taking us out of the ribbons. Indeed, it did, but hey - we still completed and I was (and am) still stoked about that. It's honestly been a dream of mine to ride XC on the Groton House grounds and even doing so at the lowest level counts. 

Later that day after Maggie had been taken care of and we were back home, Dan commented that I was in a rather good mood for not coming home with a ribbon. He's only ever seen me place, so he was expecting me to be upset or disappointed. I learned a while ago though (again, in my dog agility days) that success can be defined in many different ways. Especially with animals. It's not just win or lose - it's did you have a positive experience and did your horse (or dog as it was when I first learned these lessons) try their hardest for you? For this event, the answer to that is most certainly yes. And that's success in my book.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

GHF Summer Classic 6/21/15: XC Preview and Dressage

Yes, you read that correctly; this event was WAY back in June. I think things are finally settling down in a way that I can get some more posts up. So without even further ado, here's the recap of our only 3-phase this season thus far! (Well...half of maybe that's a little more ado ;)

The day before the event, the trainer that I had recently started taking jump lessons with was hosting a course walk, so I attended that and got some excellent advice. Even at the elementary level it was helpful to have someone point out what things you might need to think about at and in between each fence. After the official course walk I walked it again on my own to make sure I remembered it and I took pictures of each fence:

Fence 1 was a relatively short distance away from the "start box" and slightly uphill. My trainer warned everyone that some horses could be a little sticky getting going on the uphill and advised us to ride strongly right from the start.

Fence 1 itself was a nice normal log lined with flowers. Not gonna lie - I was a little nervous about the flowers being spooky, even though Maggie is a boss about flower boxes. Just call it a hunch I guess...

After Fence 1, the gradual uphill continued and the course routed through a gap in the fence.

A left turn after passing through the fence takes us to Fence 2, directly to the right of the big tree. I was a little worried that Maggie might be hesitant to pass under the tree in the shadows.

A long bending line to the left leads to Fence 3:

A right turn after Fence 3 shows Fence 4 on the other side of the field. There was a tiny bit of sloping terrain in between these fences.

Fence 4 was a log over some very bright straw bales. My trainer cautioned everyone that horses may back off this jump due to either the contrast of the bright bales or fact that you're jumping towards a wall of trees (or both). 

At this point a mother and daughter with a very cute dachshund (who was having the time of her life running around the course on her tiny little legs) caught up with me and walked with me the rest of the way. The dachshund impressively even scrambled over a few of the jumps!

After Fence 4 we had to cut through a pass in the woods, taking a right.

Downhill with rocks. Welcome to eventing in New England.

Leaving the woods and turning left. Dachshund still leading the way.

The approach to Fence 5 was slightly downhill, so we were cautioned not to get too forward. This was a good fence to trot if you were picking up the pace after walking through the woods. 

Fence 6 was in sight to the right of Fence 5. The ground flattened out between the fences.

Back here they were building a brand new corner complex for the Prelim course the next weekend.

Then it was uphill again to Fence 7.

And still uphill to Fence 8 after crossing a dirt road, which I wasn't sure if Maggie would try to jump or not.

The uphill continued until a bit after Fence 8 and then sloped downhill again on the way to 9. My trainer said that this is where horses would most likely begin to get tired so we needed to keep leg on, especially since this fence is facing the forest again.

After Fence 9 the course went through a gap in the trees which leads to the water complex. The elementary division didn't go into the water though, but routed alongside it to Fence 10.

Almost there! After Fence 10 we had to take a sharp right to Fence 11, the last fence. Advice for these fences was to turn your head to look at the last fence as we jumped 10 in order to make sure we turned in time and didn't get run away with back to the trailers, which were in the field ahead and to the left.

Fence 11, the last one, was definitely the most imposing-looking to me, particularly in person. It was just solid. And kind of wide. I thought it looked more along the lines of 2'6" instead of 2'3", but who knows. The fence to the left of it was actually an option for the BN course (as you can see by how it's flagged) since it was technically larger than BN height.  

The weather was absolutely glorious during the course walk, but the forecast for show day was the complete opposite: rain all day long. I was pretty confident and comfortable with all of the fences on my course. The height looked totally doable for everything (even if the last jump made me nervous, I knew we were capable) and every fence looked super inviting, with the exception of Fence 1. However, the rain threw in a new element. I've never jumped XC in the rain and was really nervous about the footing and slippery grass. I talked to my trainer about this after the course walk was over and she felt that the rain might actually improve the ground since it had been so dry. She told me I'd need a strong leg since the take-off area for some of the jump might get bogged down by the time I rode, but not to worry too much about slipping. Stay balanced and leg on. That made me feel a little better, but of course my nerves weren't completely put to rest. 

Show day dawned and it indeed was pouring rain. I was lucky enough to have a late ride time since I was in the elementary division as opposed to BN so I wasn't riding in the worst of it, but there was still a slight drizzle as we pulled into the show grounds.

We got to the event about an hour or so before my ride time. I took my time polishing Maggie off and tacking her up before I got on and headed over to the dressage warm up with about 30 minutes to spare.

I recall purposefully doing two things differently during warm up this time:
  1. We walked a lot before even seriously starting our warm up.
  2. We cantered.

Both of those things probably seem like 'duhs'.

Walking for a good 10ish minutes before even picking up the trot has been something I've been implementing when riding at home as well (again, duh). Not only is waking part of the warm up in getting her muscles starting to work, but getting Maggie to march forward on a loose rein before asking for anything else had been helping to get her to relax and therefore be less distracted during our ride. That's the theory anyway, and most of the time it certainly helps! It's much easier for us to establish a baseline of relaxation at the walk before even attempting to trot.

As for the canter, we've been mostly doing Intro Test B for the past couple shows we've done. Because Intro B doesn't ask for the canter I had avoided warming up at the canter to try and keep Maggie from potentially getting riled up. But with this show, Maggie was demonstrating to me that she had a good bit of energy she needed to expel, as I was having a hard time settling her at the trot. I went ahead and asked for the canter sooner in the warm up than I was planning to and I think it actually worked in our favor. I let Maggie to a few circles of somewhat-all-over-the-place canter before bringing her back to a trot. And whatdaya know, our warm up after that was really pretty good. She felt pretty balanced and responsive and mostly relaxed.

As I watched the few riders left ahead of me go, my husband and I realized that the corners of the court had gotten completely torn up. You can see the brown spots in the video below, but it doesn't get across just how chopped up and muddy the footing there was. I could the other riders having trouble with it, so I knew I'd have to take our ride with a grain of salt since the footing wasn't in our favor.

Video below thanks to my husband! And I took a leaf out of Emma's book (who I think took a leaf out of someone else's book...) and added the scores and notes as subtitles. Wonderful idea!

We started off nicely. Our entering centerline is pretty bangin' - we consistently do pretty well there an got an 8 for that! I felt pretty good in our first 20 meter trot circle too. I thought Maggie was giving me some good energy, trotting through, and staying mostly steady in the bridle. 

Then came the canter....late. That corner between K and A had been totally torn up. We got totally bogged down in the mud and couldn't make the transition in time and ended up running into it. That's about what I expected to happen after watching the riders ahead of me. We just don't quite have the balance yet overcome that kind of footing. 

After an unbalanced transition, the whole canter was a little more rushed that I would have liked and Maggie started to get a little tense, but we kept it together.

Then free walk. Dude, this was the best free walk we have ever done and I don't even know how it happened! Usually Maggie roots the reins away from me when I start letting them out, but she didn't this time and we managed to keep a relatively straight, forward pace. I remember being pleased with it even as I picked the the reins back up and collected the walk again. 

I thought the trot circle to right was ok and then came the canter again. The ground was torn up between H and C as well, but not as badly as the other corner. Our transition was unbalanced again, by at least it was on time. The unbalanced transition resulted in us being rushed and counter flexed though.

I don't even know what I was thinking / how I ended up overshooting the centerline that badly at the end of the test - lost a few easy points there! And then something caught Maggie's eye far off to the right and she popped her head up to look at it and swing her haunches out. D'oh.

Overall though, I was actually really happy with how we did given the conditions. I felt like we finally had a good, relaxed warm up and kept that relaxation (mostly) into the ring. I figured that the playing field was pretty level (figuratively, not literally) in terms of the conditions so the scores would work themselves out since everyone in the division was dealing with the same torn up footing. Without even seeing my score though, I was pleased with how we did and handled the situation. I really couldn't have asked for a better effort from Maggie! (Well, maybe she could have not looked off the right at the halt, but oh well!)

I knew our biggest hurdles were yet to come (pun absolutely intended) however, and we headed back over the the trailer for some much needed Gatorade and hay. Stadium and XC to come in the next post since this one is long enough!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

...And Then I Popped an Abscess!

Yes, I still have a lot of catching up to do on this blog (there's still a long overdue show recap, for one) so this post will be out of order chronologically since it's just from this past weekend.

Disclaimer: If you're squeamish at the site of blood you may want to scroll quick past the second picture in this post.

Baby's first hoof wrap.
Everything has been a whirlwind lately since my husband and I closed on a house a week and a half ago and spent the next four days painting everything and moving in. There was next to no barn time during that period since we were obviously quite focused on getting everything done in the new house and moving ourselves out of our apartment. I finally got the opportunity for a little barn time on Friday so I went after work with the intention of grooming and at least lunging Maggie since she had had a week off. 

I gave her a nice curry, a brushing, and then picked out three hooves and was picking out the fourth...and then I popped and abscess.

I didn't know it was an abscess at the time, though. Maggie was completely weight bearing on all four limbs and walked out of her stall totally normally. But as I dug into the collateral groove of her left front hoof she jerked her leg out of my hand.


Here's where you want to start scrolling quick if you don't like blood.

When I picked it up again to see what was matter here is what I saw: 

Obviously my immediate reaction to this sight was, "OH GOD I'VE KILLED MY HORSE SHE IS GOING TO BLEED OUT OF HER HOOF AND DIE SHIT WHAT HAVE I DONE." Completely rational, of course.
My second reaction was, "It's ok...I think...I'll hose it out and see what going on and then I can freak out accordingly."

My third reaction was to take the above picture.

Fortunately the bleeding seemed to stem itself pretty quickly since Maggie didn't leave a trail of bloody hoof prints down the aisle as I led her outside to the hose. She was also still walking completely normally with no sign of lameness. 

I picked up her foot to cold hose it a bit and when all the blood was washed out I found this: 

Indeed, it appeared that I punctured the outside of her frog with my hoof pick. Mind you, I don't have a very sharp pick; just a standard one like this:

So that spot on her hoof must have been super soft. After cold hosing, I soaked a ball of cotton in betadine, packed it in the groove, and wrapped the hoof.

"What dis??"
I was able to get a hold of my farrier, who I have a great relationship with and have worked with for a long time - I know he's not a vet, but I trust him with any and all issues with my horse's feet. He said it sounded like I hit an existing bruise or abcess and thought what I did with the Betadine and hoof wrap sounded good for now. Fortunately, I already had him scheduled to come out on Sunday morning for a trim.

When he removed the wrap on Sunday (I had re-betadined and re-wrapped it Saturday and it looked mostly the same as Friday after the incident, but with no fresh blood) we found a little puss on the previously betadine-soaked piece of cotton and he said it definitely looked like I had popped an abscess that was brewing. So...good for me? 

It seemed to be draining/ have drained well, so my farrier didn't think continuing to wrap it would be necessary. I just applied a little more betadine and some Alusheild and stuck Maggie back into her stall where she continued to munch her breakfast with delight. 

So instead of riding my horse this weekend I continued to unpack stuff into the new house. I guess it works out. I'm getting seriously antsy about getting some saddle time soon though, but I'm going to keep letting Maggie take it easy for the next couple days. She had still been completely sound, but I certainly wouldn't want to push it and risk bruising her sole while it's still soft. 

Maybe I'll actually have some time to catch up with blogging.

So, anyone had something like this happen to them before? It totally took me by surprise!