Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's new pussy cat?

So......there is so much going on, I don't know where to start.  I guess I'll talk to you about the horses first.
River: I rode River in a lesson with 4* rider Heather Gillette in December.  He was fabulous! River is really coming into his own and very fun to ride now. His body feels good after some chiropractic work by Dr. Mark Wooten and saddle fitting by Kate Wooten (aka team Wooten) and some more confident riding by Megan Corbett, things seem to be on track for him to make his Training level debut next season.  Go River Booty!

Mia: I wish I could be doing a lot more gymnastic work on Mia through the winter but it's pretty difficult to do that when you are by yourself. It is even harder when your horse mistakes a gymnastic line for bowling pins and herself for a bowling ball.  I've gained too many holiday fudge pounds to be hauling my butt in and out of the saddle 10,000 times setting up poles. 

Instead, we've been focusing on her dressage which will, in turn, help her jumping.  She is learning to keep a steady rhythm, give over a bit more control to mom, stay connected, and become more flexible to the right.  Tough work for ol' Mims.  But, I'm finding that the more consistent and and firm I am with what I ask of her, the more willing she is to comply.  Go figure. 

Griffy: Oh, Griffy.  He is a character.  His flatwork is really started to get more consistent.  For being a draft cross, he is very light and sensitive in the bridle.  He's really made me ride more from my leg and seat and stay quiet with my hand.  When I ride him, I hear Tami Crawford say, "Leg, seat, THEN hand!" He makes me laugh and makes me grind my teeth for the same quirky characteristics.  It's kinda like being married to Hub, really.

Liam: I really have high hopes for this young man.  He is still a bit barn sour, distracted, and aloof, but in all is a sweetheart with a good mind.  My biggest challenge has been getting him to pick up his right lead.  I've tried every trick in the book until I finally found what seemed to work.  He also has been introduced to his first bounce and oxer!  He needs a lot more education in his footwork and I'm hoping to take some grid lessons on him with Amy in the next few weeks. 

Oh, and Liam has acquired a very strange nickname.  First his Jockey Club name was Nantachie Joe.  When I got him, I thought I would change it to Benji, a nickname of Hub's jockey brother, Glenn, who brought Liam into our lives. It didn't take.  He looked more like William Fox-Pitt or my dad or brother, all named William.  So, he became Liam.  It shortened it to Li Li.  Then it became Lee Lee Jones, which is Phillip Dutton's step-daughter's name.  Now it's Jonesy.  The evolution of nicknames is fascinating and strange. 

Lee Lee Jones and Model Cadet (who sadly passed last month due to colic)

Now, for the big news.  We're moving!  Hub has been living and working in Louisville for the last 5 months.  It was meant to be temporary, but circumstances changed and his boss decided to stay put.  I have no idea what to expect for my life in Kentucky.  I am looking forward to the new opportunities it poses, but am sad to leave my awesome eventing buddies here.

One of the things I've regretted in the past when I've moved is never following through with taking some pictures of my neighborhood.  This time I did.  I'm going to miss our little house on Evergreen Road.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flying Cross HT

I'm a sexy beast.
It's amazing how an amazing cross country round can negate all the tense dressage, rain, early mornings and back pain one experiences before hand! Looking back on the weekend, it's the part I keep replaying in my mind.  It was so FUN!  Going from riding a horse who may or may not jump for one reason or another to riding a horse that will jump anything she's pointed at (so be careful what you point her at) is quite a shock to the system!!!  It is both exhilarating and relieving.

Mia and I traveled up to Flying Cross Horse Trials with Stacy, her borrowed pony Doc, Carol, Crescent, Hazel, and my four dogs.  That's right.  6 dogs, 3 people, 2 horses and a LOT of stuff.  Somehow, we made it work! 

Where is MY stuff?
 It was Doc's first horse trial in a while and Stacy and Doc's first HT together.  It was Mia's first Novice and her second ever horse trial.  We weren't quite sure how our horses would perform but were excited to give them the most positive experience possible!

The Doctor is in.
The best part of the weekend was the fact that Flying Cross is near Louisville, KY which is also where Hub has been living for the last few weeks!  Hub was able to hang out with us!  That is, when he actually was there...
I made a list of the places Hub will most likely be when I ask "Where did Hub go?"
1. getting coffee
2. bathroom (too much coffee)
3. "store" (aka beer run)
4. nap (no amount of coffee will prevent it)
5. schmoozing

"Oh look,the program says ol' Ralph Holstein is here this weekend."
Mims' dressage warm up was interesting.  I sing the ABC's to myself when I ride her to keep a steady rhythm. Didn't work so much this time.  She would not settle did NOT want to canter on the left lead.  I looked at Hub like "Help!"  He reminded me to just relax and act like it wasn't a big deal or she would keep acting up (just to spite me).  As we trotted around the arena she was snorting and spooking at everything. The tractor started up. Then she saw herself in the mirror behind the judge.  Then the whistle blew.  Um, OK.  Here we go!  Ironically, she picked up her left lead but cross cantered when she picked up her right.  When she is able to relax a bit more, she will be awesome!  She is a cute mover and will stay in a nice frame when focused. It will come. 

Best butts around.
Show jumping started a little shaky (I could FEEL her eyes bugging out of her head), but as we continued we fell into a good rhythm and gained confidence. I had to laugh at her after the third fence and thought 'she is jumping out of her skin!' She was a bit unbalanced to the in and out (my bad), added in a quick stride and ticked the first vertical with her front end, but finished the rest of the course strong.  It was FUN and I was super happy with her attitude and ridability. 

What funnel cake?  I'm not eating funnel cake!
I was as happy with our cross country as....well as Opal was when she stole some one's funnel cake.  Mims warmed up super focused.  It was like she had been waiting for XC all weekend (how did she know?). I thought the course looked really fun but on the tougher side for the level.  I took pictures of a couple of the ones I thought might keep me up the night before.

2 stride in the woods

picture frame

half coffin
Now I'm going to interview myself about my cross country course.  I'm practicing for when I'm famous.

Favorite part of the course?
Half coffin.  She acted like she done it a bazillion times (her first one!!)
Part  you were most worried about?
Well, there were a few places.  I think I was most worried about the 2 stride combo in the woods.
Did anything take you by surprise?
Mia LAUNCHED off the down bank and we almost missed the table.  She landed waaaaay out and I had to quickly pull her to the left and pray that she jumped.  She did!
Funny moment?
After the near miss at the bank, a competitor walking the course yelled "Good save!!"

Here is a helmet cam of the course (pretty sure it's Margaret Kimmel's) I found on (wish I had a helmet cam, Dad?). BTW, we had the fastest time of the level (3 divisions, about 60 teams).  Hmmm.

The End.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Champagne Run

It's been over a month and I haven't blogged about Champagne Run!  Hopefully I can remember all the important bits of River's FIRST NOVICE!!!  The coolest most important bit?  River won the dressage! (technically TWO of us did but shh)  The funniest bit?  He trotted into the arena lame.  He warmed up well and as we trotted around the arena my goal was to score in the low 30's.  The bell rang and as I trotted a circle to enter at A there was some coarse gravel on the edge of the arena that I didn't see until the last second and River stepped on it with his near fore.  He trotted a few lame steps and I was like, REALLY!? Right before we go into the arena?  I quickly transitioned to walk for a few steps to let him get over the temporary pain of stepping on the sharp gravel, then carried on trotting.  I gave my best pageant smile and jazz hands hoping the judge would be entranced by my strange giddiness and not watch his head bob down center line.  He seemed to get over the worst off it and the test went well. I walked back to the barn feeling happy that the test was as accurate and smooth of a performance as we had ever given.

I don't like to know where I'm placed after dressage.  This stems from my experiences with Flo where I usually was placed well after dressage but didn't need the extra pressure of keeping my placing going into our weakest phase, cross country.  I only want to know if I'm tied so I know whether or not I have to come in as close to optimum time as possible.  Amy said I was tied and that my score was a significant improvement. Hm. Then, I got a text from Stace congratulating me on my dressage.  OK... Then, someone told me we were tied for 1st.  YIKES!  HUH? YAY!  River won the dressage?  Apparently the judge WAS taken by my sparkly smile because her comments were this, "Aids appear to be correct but could not quite give you the higher scores because horse appeared to be 'lame' to the left but well done on your part."  Come again?  Your horse was lame but you rode well so you won?  OK?  Did I accidentally wear my striped underwear again? (last year, old man judge, all 7's, comment: good job).  Whatever! 34?  I'll take it!

During my dressage lesson with Amy on Friday evening, she suggested that we switch from the slow twist snaffle to an elevator for cross country.  I found an elevator with a waterford mouth piece at the big blue trailer and bought it.  I was worried about trying something new in warm up.  He had been pulling down on me while galloping between fences and I knew I needed a stronger bit that would bring his head up without having to fight him so much before each fence.  He jumped great in warm up!

We headed out and his first 4 fences were awesome.  I had to really be conscious of the fact that I had a stronger bit in his mouth and follow Amy's instructions to ride quieter and equally with both hands.  I did alright for the most part.  One too many tugs would make him jump inverted.  I tried to stay out of his way as much as I could without letting him revert in to complete racehorse mode.  The best feeling was when we came down a hill after a bit of a gallop stretch to a two stride log combination.  He came right back to me, stayed in my hand and was super confident.  I trotted him to the fence before the water so he could have a look-see then kicked like a kid in a grocery store tantrum over it. Success!

The only section of the course that gave me pause when I walked it was the bank combination.  There were tiny barrels, 3 strides to bank up, sharp left turn around tree to maximum Novice table.  I thought that if I didn't have his attention or enough energy after coming up the bank I would yell, "Not presenting," turn right, circle, and come back to the table.  When we came to the barrels he was really backed off because he was looking at the bank after it.  I barely managed to kick him over the barrels and then he was great to the bank.  On top of the bank I thought, "I'm good," so I continued around the corner to the table.  He was suprised by it, sucked back the last two strides, panicked, and stopped.  I made him CLIMB it so he would know he made the dishonest choice.  It was a green moment, granted, but he could have/should have gone on.  He made a big effort over it the second time.  Quick rinse of my mouth with soap and we carried on.

River jumped the rest of the course well.  There was even a little half coffin with a faux ditch that he cruised through without a second thought.  I thought for sure he would launch over the ditch but he just skipped over it like, no-biggie, Mom.  Even with the stop, we made time.   I was SUPER bummed about the greeny stop, but was happy over all.  Amy thought it was the best round we'd had to date. 

Show jumping was a step back for us.  I jumped him in the elevator and I don't think I was ready to show jump him in it.  He was totally inverted over the first and never fell into a rhythm. Jim Graham was my SJ judge and I was thinking way too much about how Jim was probably watching the rest of my round through the cracks beween his fingers. We only had a rail down later in the course (don't remember which), but none of it was very pretty.  Something to improve on next time!

Looky here for show pics.

The weekend had it's ups and downs.  River does seem to improve at something every show even if the placings don't show it. He is slightly ADHD and progress is slow but steady.  He is a sweet, sweet pony and it's been so educational bringing him along.  He recently stepped on one of the clips of his off hind shoe and is still sore.  We didn't shoe him behind this cycle to let his hind feet grow out.  I hope I can get one more show in on him this season.  I've really been focusing on building my confidence since Champagne Run and Flo's retirement.  The month or so off from showing has been a good let down from the pressure.  I'm feeling refocused and am acutally excited for and not dreading XC! Bring it on!

The End.

I heart Liam.

Aren't I handsome?
Meet Liam, our newest off the track thoroughbred (OTTB)!  To make a long story short, my brother-in-law, Glenn Corbett, found this little gem for me.  Glenn was his jockey in his last two races and thought he was perfect for me given his height (16.2 1/2), gender (gelding), age (4), and temperament (slow and quiet) and of course, his smashing good looks.  Glenn had been looking for years for the right candidate, and Liam fit the bill!  His JC name is Nantachie JoeThis is his racing record and here you can see his last two races (7/29 race 6 and 7/11 race 5).  Glenn called us on the Saturday after his last race and told us to meet the horse in Lexington on Tuesday evening.  Well, OK!  We did!  The picture above is of Nantachie Joe, now Liam, on his first day. 

Liam and Griffy hit it off right away.  Well, more like Griffy was smitten with Liam and Liam could have cared less.

Since he's been at DW's, Liam's had some time off and then started some light ground work and hacking. He also had a mini makeover, although he looked pretty good when I got him. I wanted to get his attention for this picture so I whistled.  His eyes bugged OUT!  Not sure what that's about...maybe his groom whistled to him to settle him down (and now it has the opposite effect?!).

Who whistled at me?
Last Saturday we went to Percy Warner Park to school XC.  I rode Griffy and Hub lunged Liam. They were both total rockstars!  Griffy loved the water so much that he decided to take a quick bath in the water complex. No warning.  Walking around then WET. Goober.  Next time, I will pay closer attention.

I have introduced Liam to lunging and now lunging with the neck stretcher, picking up his right lead, hacking on a long rein, lots of turnout, and yummy Pennfield grain.  He's had his teeth floated and his feet trimmed.  He seems quite happy and well adjusted to his new cushy life!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Humpty Dumpty

Meet Griffy! 
We pick him on on Saturday.  He's a 5 yr old 15.2ish hand Percheron/Quarter Horse.  I started him as a 3 year old and fell in love with him.  He was so quiet and sweet and easy to get along with that I didn't want his owner to take him back home!  He has done some trail riding in the last 2 years but not much else.  He will come to DW's for a while and then may become a lesson horse if he's quiet enough.  I can't wait to start riding him! 

I've been getting up early to ride and have been loving the quiet foggy mornings.  Can you spot my ponies?

LB and Princess, DW's retired horses, are enjoying a morning graze. 

Remember these days?

Now I feel like this (my neice, Noe).
Now the serious stuff...

Riding River today I really started to question whether my confidence is so low from my rocky eventing career with Flo that it is effecting his training.  We've had a stop at our last 3 horse trials.  I know River is green, can be a difficult horse to ride, and I've just moved him up, but I'm worried that I'm not always the leader he needs me to be. I'm looking forward to a whole MONTH of weekend XC schoolings at PWP in August.

 I was having a conversation with Kate H's mom at Champagne Run and she mentioned that she read Overcoming The Fear of Riding after she had a bad fall.  She suggested that every trainer read it, so I ordered it and hope to hash some of MYconfidence issues while giving it a read.  I also heard an excerpt from How Good Riders Get Good about confidence on the Eventing Radio Show so it's also on my reading list. 

Riding Mia, a VERY brave pony, has the potential to help me regain my XC mojo.  We are gearing up for her Novice debut at Kentucky Classique HT.
Amy and Co. aka, Stace and Lauren, have also suggested that I pursue a free lease on an experienced event horse for the same reason.  There are two horses in the works and I'm going to ride one tomorrow after my jump lesson on Mia.  The mare has a long training record and at 19 years old, she might be able to put in another season showing me the ropes :)  Eventually, I really would like a horse that is experienced and sound enough to take me through the big jump from Training to Prelim. 
The kings horses and men be damned, we WILL put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big Girl Decisions

I have decided to retire Flo from eventing.  I also gave Pom Pom away.  These were not easy decisions.  Both of them could have been made a long time ago, but I finally was ready to make them and feel 100% confident having done so.  Pom Pom went to a great home right here in Franklin with a girl who is comfortable with her lameness and behavioral issues.

Midsouth was the catalyst for my decision to retire Flo.  I was stressed on Saturday.  I felt like I had a LOT of balls I had to juggle between horses and people and I let it get to me.  My dressage warm ups on both Flo and River were unforgiving and tense. I went into XC warm up on Flo worried that I would overheat and be tired riding River XC later in the day.  I could feel Flo's nerves bubbling underneath the surface but she was jumping well so I didn't express any concern about it to Amy.  Flo and I know each other well enough that she could feel my worry and concern and related it to the task at hand.  I wasn't overly worried about the XC course, but she didn't know that.  I had a good ride to the first fence and I was surprised when she stopped.  She planted her feet in right in the middle of the fence.  As we turned away and I was getting my reins sorted out, I dropped my whip.  We came back at the fence and jumped it well.  After fence #2, Flo ran away from the fence like a scalded rabbit.  I know this mare.  I know when she runs like that she is not rational.  She jumped #3 scared and fast.  I tried to steady and calm her before fence #4, but I knew that I didn't have her back in time.  She stopped and on re-approach she stopped again.  Flo rarely stops at a fence twice.  I knew her mind wasn't in the game and the next fence was the biggest Training fence on the course. I held my hand up and retired.  Flo and I walked off the XC course as a team for the last time.  I was a wreck for the rest of the day.

That night at my birthday dinner, one of my guests asked how my weekend was going.  I told her about my disappointing XC with Flo.  I described to her how she was very inconsistent and took a very specific ride both physically and mentally to have a successful round.  She said that she had a student with a pony exactly like Flo, and expressed how frustrating it was that the student's parents wouldn't buy her a pony that was more forgiving.  "There are just too many good horses out there, as my mother always says." I knew then that it was time to call it quits for good.  It took someone totally outside of my realm of influence to hear it from.  The Monday after Midsouth I flew to CA to visit my family.  Some time away gave me the clarity to confirm my decision.  Coming home to TN, my mind was made up.

I told my farrier of my decisions with Pom Pom and Flo and he looked at me with kindness in his eyes and said, "You're making some big girl decisions, Megan.  I think you're doing the right thing."  I could have hugged him.  Could someone else have ridden Flo and gotten a clear round out of her consistently?  Maybe so.  The fact of the matter is she's MY horse.  I rode her to the best of my ability and wish I could have given her more.  Do I think it's best for someone else to try and force her into being an event horse when she has already shown she doesn't love it? No. It takes more than 'chemistry' between rider and horse to create a successful result.  It takes training and skill and experience and WANT TO.  She doesn't want to and that's OK with me.  Flo is wonderful just the way she is.  She has taught me so much about being a horse mom and eventing and life. After I came home from CA, I pulled her shoes and she is having some time off. 

Reflecting now on our eventing career coming to a close, I do so with tears and pain, and terrible, terrible sadness. I know she's still with me, but melodramatic as it is, I feel like part of me has died and I mourn the loss of it. I'm not sure what her future holds, but in the mean time she will be loved and cared for by her best friend.

She'll always be my favorite, the one who taught me the most.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mental Toughness at May Daze

Flo might have been chilled out but before my SJ round, I was NOT. I had to ask Lauren if it was cold out because I was shaking.

Let me back up and tell you why I was so nervous.  During my last XC schooling, Flo and I had a bit of a wreck.  It was a simple stop at this fence below (although it was attempting it from the other direction) that had a very dramatic consequence. I've jumped this trakehner (ditch with a log hanging over it) before, this picture was taken in '09, but it scares the hebee jeebees out of me every time.

Apparently, Amy told me later, I saw the "long spot" meaning that instead of focusing on the line, tempo and energy of the canter (the 3 things I'm responsible for) I was focusing on a distance that Flo should take off from (her job) which was too far away for her liking.  I KNOW that this mare loves to add a little skippy step before a fence to make her feel comfortable.  Being nervous, I jumped ahead and didn't allow her that extra step and she stopped while still carrying XC pace momentum toward the fence.  She skidded to a stop, turned left, and put her front feet into the ditch and fell on her side. I fell off, and she continued to flip all the way over to her other side.  

When she stood up, she was covered in gravel dust and hanging her right hind in the air.  When I scampered to my feet and saw her like this, I freaked out thinking she had broken her leg.  She was fine.  She had just scraped up her stifle a bit and was totally sound.  I got back on and jumped the ditch a couple times and a few other jumps.  She didn't think twice about anything and seemed fine mentally and physically.  I, on the other hand, had a cry while Lauren, Amy and Stace sat on their horses in a semi circle in front of me and gave me a much needed pep talk.  I was embarrassed and frustrated.   

Life went on.  I went to Walnut Trace and did a CT and jumped a clean SJ round.  I took River to Chatt and Poplar.  I had a dressage lesson with Amy and it was very obvious that Flo was due to have her hocks injected. I had her hocks injected and two weeks later had a jump lesson with Amy. Flo's jumping confidence was in the pooper.  She stopped several times and then totally shut down when pointed at the liverpool.  Flo is a stopper, but it has been a long while since she has stopped several strides out and repeatedly refused to go over something. You know what is even more surprising?  I didn't even remember the ditch debacle.  I didn't put two and two together!  I chalked it up to her having time off after having her hocks done, being in heat, and not having jumped in a couple weeks.  This is a mare that gets a little loco if she's not jumped at least once or twice a week.  The next day, the day before leaving for May Daze, I planned to jump her over a few things thinking about what Amy and I had discussed during my lesson: keep her round, keep a dressage quality canter plus a little pace, get her quiet and straight before each fence.  These were great intentions! Instead, she stopped at several fences and I had to take several "breathers" so I didn't completely loose my mind the day before driving to Lexington to show her.

On Thursday, I picked up a horse in Clarksville that needed a ride to a surgery center in Lexington and then headed to the KHPark and settled Flo into her stall.  She was instantly happy.  Flo is a show horse.  She LOVES napping in her stall, watching strange horses walk by, and being hand grazed next to warm up arenas.  She travels well, eats and drinks and sleeps well...she's happiest at a horse trial :)  I love this about her! 

My dressage warm up was focused on getting Flo relaxed and supple.  She was tight and slightly distracted due to being in heat.  We had some good lengthenings and she came in front of my leg and more in focus as the warm up went on.  After a mix up with the warm up steward and lots of walking around and waiting, I eventually went into the arena all smiles and reminded myself to stay in the moment. This has been a mental toughness strategy that works for me in dressage.  To keep myself relaxed, I smile and think of how amazingly LUCKY I am to be doing what I love...which actually does include dressage.  We had a very decent test.  I had recently watched a Conrad Schumacher dressage clinic where he told his students to practice "uberstreichen" to test the horse's self carriage.  This image of temporary release reminded me not to hang on Flo in nervous micro-management.  Jim Graham first pointed out my tendency to anxiously hang on her mouth during tests and taught me to make many small adjustments instead of restricting and then over-correcting. 

My friend Tracy Kujawa runs Angel Heart Farm, a place where terminally ill kids and their families can find refuge with horses, came to cheer me on along with her friend Andrea AND gave me a comfy bed to sleep in. They helped me get tacked up for stadium and watched my warm up.  Tracy owns and shows some very beautiful Arabians so skinny TB's are not exactly works of art to her.  After my warm up she says to me, "You and Flo are the prettiest ones out there!"  Amy quipped, "Pretty is as pretty does."  That, my friends, is trainer talk for "I care more about how well you ride than how pretty you look." 

Flo was wonderful in warm up.  To be honest, I wanted to look pretty.  I wanted to feel and look like we were a team: controlled, rhythmical, and harmonious. Amy encouraged me to ride her forward to the base of the jump.  I'm still struggling with finding a balance between not chasing her and making her strides longer and not picking at her and sapping her forward-mindedness.  In other words, I am still learning to create a quality canter to each fence.    We did most of our warm up, took a break to see where I was in line, and decided to jump a couple more before I went up to the show arena.  I jumped a vertical and came to an oxer.  She stopped.  All I remember is Amy saying, "See?"  The nerves had kicked in.  What did I do? What happened?  It was a wake up call to STAY PRESENT and mentally tough. When I don't stay in the moment, my body reverts to old habits and doesn't react to what I feel. 

Flo put in a very ridable round. We had a rail at the first fence in the in and out.  It came on a long left handed approach.  She hesitated and left the ground past her distance.  Combinations REALLY back her off and, in this instance, I didn't give her enough leg support to maintain the canter.  The same thing happened at the next combination and I had to go to my bat between fences to keep her going forward to the last fence.  On the other hand, I was very happy I was able to keep her quiet instead of allowing her to speed quicker and quicker into a franticly weaving bay mare fireball.  I forced her to slow down and come into a rounder shape between fences.  Combinations will be our next opponent!

Lauren and Brandy also only had one rail down.  Look at this drafty mare jump!

Lauren and I walked cross country.  She took this picture of a ramp on our course.