Monday, February 25, 2008

Rocking Horse III - in which Keebler finishes on his dressage score and sees dressage boot camp ahead

Another lovely weekend in Florida, although you do have to discount the approximately hour and a half that it was a monsoon. Luckily, I didn’t have to ride during the monsoon. Hilda did ride Isabelle while it was raining very hard and found a couple of slippery spots. Going back to chronological order, Thursday involved a dressage lesson on Keebler in which we worked to keep him patient. He’s funny in that he does better if working very hard and doing moderately complicated stuff. In some ways, the training level tests are too easy and give him time to decide he is bored, which then means he improvises. This is undesirable. Friday morning, we headed out at the crack of dawn, no wait, it was actually still dark. Hilda had an 8:30ish dressage ride time. Keebler’s ride time was at 3:15, with others from our group in between, so there was plenty of time for course walking, hanging out, etc. I also rode Keebler in his jumping tack out in the dressage warm-up area (which is really big at Rocking Horse) over the lunch break. He was quite well behaved. When the time came for the test, he warmed up quite well and off we went. We felt the test was better. He was more mentally available, but he got nailed for periodic lack of attentiveness, for never trotting between the canter and the walk, and other bits that led to a score of 50.5. Not great, but the training feels on the right path, even if the scores aren’t concurring yet. Friday evening, we all hung out at the “coach”, Andre’s new Winnebago motor coach. It is nicer than some apartments I have lived in. There was beer and barbeque and a good time was had by all. Saturday, after getting soaked watching Hilda ride in the monsoon, I went out and walked the course to check for any changes in footing. The only concern was the 3rd to last fence, the “kind of a corner”. It had an option, so no worries. By the time I rode around 1 p.m., it was dry and sunny, really a beautiful day and Keebler’s xc round matched. We did have a Keebler moment as he ran
5ab (bank)
Solid line = planned route

Dotted line= actual routepast fence 5 heading from fence 4 toward stabling. It was patently obvious that I hadn’t presented him to the fence, so no real worries. I got him turned in the right direction and the jump was no issue. Everything else was great. He did jump the 4 stride ramp to ramp bending line question in a straight 3, but it was tidy. As I approached fence 18 (the kinda corner), I noticed stone down in front of it, so we went straight without incident and finished clean. I had Kate and Zoe hold Keebler for me for a minute back at warm-up and checked in with Cindy (control) to make sure that it was patently obvious to the fence judges that I hadn’t presented to 5, but everything was recorded as jumped with no penalties. I put Keebler away, he had a very nice roll after his bath and walk, and then headed down to hang at control for a couple of hours. Very fun and educational. If you event and have never done this, you should consider it if you ever get a chance. Cross country wrapped up and we all headed to the competitors’ party. Really excellent food at this one. Kudos to the Rocking Horse organization. Another barbeque opportunity at the coach, but I’d eaten so much at the competitors’ party that I passed on the food and just enjoyed the company. Maxine Tabas, Zoe’s mom and Squire’s owner, was there and it was nice to see her to thank her in person for allowing me the ride on Squire. We also talked saddles, as Zoe tried my Devoucoux and really liked it, so is now in search of a used one for herself. We all know this is not an easy thing to find, so if anyone might be selling one, keep Zoe in mind. Sunday morning, Keebler’s stadium round was due at 11:00. The stadium course seemed easier than either Rocking Horse II or Ocala, but I walked him up to graze and watched several rounds just to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Apparently not, most horses seemed to be doing quite well. Kate was doing her first training with her young horse Bosco (he is for sale – very cute grey dutch/TB cross) and they had a bit of a muddle down the line, but recovered well, completing the first training for both Bosco and Kate, pretty cool. I headed up, cantered around, jumped a few fences, missed a few spots, fixed it to some degree and headed into the stadium for our round. I buried him going into the line, but he dug himself out and finished with another double clear stadium, finishing on his dressage score, which unfortunately sucked. After Rocking Horse Spring in 2 weeks (unless we have a jumping disaster there), no eventing for Keebler until May. He’s going to dressage boot camp (lots of flat work, lessons, and hopefully several dressage shows). T says she hopes to join me for the latter as she is also fighting WDSS (weak dressage score syndrome). I spent a couple more hours in control, watching preliminary. Did see one rider receive the 25 point Dangerous Riding penalty, and let me tell you, it was scary watching! Then headed back to Ashmore and home to Philly, where it was 50 degrees colder, but still nice to be. Riding at Ashmore and the Aiken party next week.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ocala II - in which I decide 4 out of 6 still makes for a great weekend

This weekend was Ocala II at the Florida Horse Park. Always having enjoyed the Kentucky and Virginia Horse Parks, I headed down looking forward to the weekend. Thursday was more dressage lessons on Keebler and Squire. They seemed to go fairly well, especially on Squire. I enjoyed heading back to places I’ve come to know in Winter Park on Thursday evening, yoga at Full Circle –; the FedEx Kinko’s to check my email and then the bar at Urban Flats for dinner and a little basketball viewing. Our Friday ride times were late in the day, so we headed down at noon Friday. While I was getting to ride, Hilda was talking to someone who had a previous Penn connection, then when she introduced her friend, it was Chris Machin (no introduction needed for the Michigan gang – for the rest of you, Chris and her daughter Maggie rode at Cathy’s barn in Michigan with me until they moved to Utah – where we stayed at their home for the USEA annual meeting when it was in Salt Lake City. Chris and Bernie (president of UF) are now based in Gainesville and Maggie is in her 3rd year of vet school). Very cool to see her and another excellent small world story. Warming up for dressage on Squire, the rider before me was Holly Johnson. She is down from Michigan with a few of her horses and we had several chances to chat through the weekend. Jeff Kibbie was also there competing and had a good weekend on his horse, Loki. Dressage on Squire went fairly well, though it appears that spurs may be called for to get full throughness. Dressage on Keebler was disaster city. He really had no interest whatsoever in playing (although he did get an 8 on his free walk – especially impressive as the score was a 52). The judge commented “interesting that horse stops fussing when you drop the reins. Check bit, bridle etc.” Hilda and I pretty much fell about laughing. When you drop the reins, he no longer has to work, so there is nothing to fuss about, pretty sure all the tack is in good order. The current plan is very little eventing and lots of dressage shows for Keebler this summer, along with extra lessons for both of us. Saturday, Keebler redeemed himself cross country, jumping clean over a fairly challenging course (though the water was easier than last event). There was a full coffin, a log on a lump (off a 90 degree turn immediately following the full coffin), and several big tables and a scary in to a down bank. He was great with only the starting problem getting in the way of a double clear. Time faults were incurred as he left the start box and immediately whipped around and headed back to the warmup. We made quite a large circle before I got him pointed at the first fence. Once he saw there were jumps, all was good. Disaster number 2 occurred in Squire’s stadium round. I came off Keebler’s xc, quickly got on Squire and headed to warm up (only about 35 minutes between rides). In warm-up, Hilda reminded me it wasn’t xc. I unfortunately took this way too far to the extreme and came to the one stride off a tight turn with no canter at all, then leaned forward as Squire slowed in confusion. When he stopped (appropriately and safely), I popped off, so that was the end of SJ (elimination, for those of you who don’t event). I received permission to go XC (with the requirement of an EMT check). Since I had landed on my feet and was out running when I asked for permission, it seemed a bit overkill, but definitely better safe than sorry. EMT check ended up being conducted on the dance floor at the competitors’ party. I was able to keep up with the line dance, therefore ready to head out on cross country the next day. The competitor’s party was a lot of fun, good food (though they ran out and had to make an emergency barbeque run), karaoke (some of the best was by little kids), and a chance to talk with several of the competitors, staff and volunteers. I got to meet Jennie Jarnstrom who had Keebler for a short time. She competed on Keebler’s half sister Yoshi and on another horse of hers. Sunday, Keebler had SJ in the late morning and was an absolute star. In this case, double clear jumping was not enough to move up with the horrible dressage and the XC time faults, but it was a lot of fun. Here is a link to an Xpress Foto picture: Last of the weekend was Squire’s XC. We headed out to warm-up and Hilda came over with Duke (wearing his 4th place ribbon) to warm us up. There was a table in the warm-up which was nice. Warm up was good and we headed over to the start box. There was about a 5 minute hold and Squire kept asking “is it time yet??” but he was very polite and quiet about continuing to walk until it really was time. The starters asked Hilda if she was setting a new fashion standard for cross country as she hung out with us by the start box in her stadium gear. Duke was even braided. Once the course was ready, we headed out and everything was golden. It felt to be a virtually perfect cross-country round. Everything felt smooth and easy and this was not a small course, though nothing felt very big as Squire jumped it. Despite no ribbons and some pretty big problems, I think the weekend was once again a success. Next weekend, Keebler does training with me again and Squire’s owner, Zoe, rides him at Rocking Horse III.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend 3 - in which there is no event and I work on dressage

I traveled to Florida on Friday afternoon, after spending Thursday and Friday at an NIH study section. It is so annoying when work gets in the way of the riding scheduling, but given how flexible my job is, I really can’t complain. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for mechanical reasons and I didn’t get down to Orlando until late in the evening. Saturday, I spent much of the day doing other things, including a yoga class and an oil change for my car. I did ride 3 horses, working on the flat. I was lucky enough to ride Private Treaty (Calvin), a very cool upper level horse. He is super trained, but really long. Well, maybe in normal horse world, not so much, but since all my horses barely have any back left behind the saddle, he felt really long. It was good for me to think about riding his hind end forward and he was very nice in the bridle and comfy to ride. Later in the day, I had a dressage lesson on Squire. I rode with Bev, a former student of Hilda’s who now lives in California, and in the continuing small world saga, not just anywhere in California, which is a big state, but in Ventura about 25 minutes form Ojai where my brother and mom moved this year, so I have a standing invitation to get a horse fix (at the barn where she rides) anytime I’m out there. Aren’t eventers the best? Squire was great. We worked on shoulder in, since we will be doing Preliminary Test B next weekend (thank goodness the training is still Test A, so I only have to learn one new test) and on the medium trot. Hilda had schooled it with him on Wednesday and it really showed. I then did a flat lesson on Keebler. We are trying a new approach to get him to pay attention, lots of transitions in straight lines, with fewer small circles. This met with moderate success, although toward the end, we got a pretty amazing walk to canter transition and some decent canter to walks when Hilda (taking her life in her hands) stepped out onto the track in front of us as I asked for the downward. Keebler isn’t that interested in downward transitions, but we’ll keep working on it. As Hilda says, he is so cute, it is hard to get really mad at him. Sunday morning, I did a quick ride on Keebler, without any canter work, just walk, trot and halt. Not too bad. I did a jumping lesson on Squire at 8:00. The weather was really perfect (sorry to all of you living where it is snowing and below zero) and so was the lesson (well, except for the one time I made a bid at a long spot and Squire smartly took the extra step, but also the rail). I do feel ready for next week and look forward to telling you about Ocala II. Meanwhile, I did miss being at Sporting Days, which was happening in Aiken over the weekend. I read the general weekend update on Chronicle of the Horse, but haven’t heard the Cairn O’Mount Stables results yet (results not posted on the website yet either). Susie was riding 2 in the horse trials and Choo and Isabella in the combined test. Lesley, Gillian, V, Caitlin and T were also riding and I thought of them all several times over the weekend. Unfortunately, it is still impossible to be in 2 places at once. Hope everyone else had good weekends despite less than ideal weather in some quarters.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rocking Horse II - in which I ride at the preliminary level for the first time since 2004

The theme of the weekend was moving up. Following last weekend’s brain dead, but enjoyable outing, this weekend I rode Keebler in Training Horse and Squire in Preliminary Rider at Rocking Horse II. The last time I did a Preliminary event was on Gizmo in August of 2004. I may have been more nervous this time than the very first time I went preliminary on Gizmo in 2000. Saturday, I did dressage on both horses and that just didn’t go well. In Keebler’s case, it was his fault. Hilda described him as being “exceptionally disagreeable” in the test and he got no extra points for a very lovely entrance canter down center line. In Squire’s case, it was my fault. I’m clearly at a loss for how to ride a really trained horse in the dressage and confused the poor guy on pretty much all the canter transitions, leading to wrong leads, swapping, etc. So, after dressage, DFL on both horses (17/17 on Squire; 15/15 on Keebler with scores of 47.5 and 49 respectively). Saturday afternoon, Keebler went cross country and while he almost bucked me off a couple of times in the warm-up, he was great out on course. A little on the speedy side. We ended up with time faults (6 seconds slow) as I made him do a collected canter in a few places where I was actually able to get him back and also had to spend about 20 strides setting up for every fence. Trying to be in charge and zoom about like a maniac aside, he jumped like a champ. It was a much tougher training than last week, including a half coffin (roll top, 2 strides to ditch), a jump over a small roll top with a drop into water (I thought this was a fairly tough question for his second training level event, but he didn’t even hesitate), a bounce bank up and a couple of pretty substantial tables, but nothing phased him at all. I walked the preliminary again after that and watched a few preliminary stadium rounds.
Sunday morning started with stadium jumping for Squire. The course was substantial, but fair with some turning questions that required paying attention. Hilda warmed me up and helped me find the right canter and then all I had to do was go in the ring and steer. Squire jumped double clean and made it feel completely easy. I then went out and walked the preliminary course country again (would hate to have a repeat of last week). Keebler stadium jumped a couple of hours after Squire. Luckily, I had wandered back and walked the training stadium as it was completely different than the preliminary (unlike last week when training and novice followed the same track with just a couple fences removed for novice). Though the training fences were, lower, I thought the track was actually more difficult, with harder turns and some odd angles from fence to fence. A little more settled than on Saturday (Keebler clearly needs to be on the work the spots off bootcamp program), Keebler went in and clocked around clean. Last of the weekend was Squire’s XC. I knew the course and after the stadium knew that the fences wouldn’t really feel big. So off we went. I had determined that I wouldn’t ride for time (and, in fact failed to press the right buttons on my watch, so had no idea what was going on timewise) and set off with the intention of a smooth balanced ride in which I kept my shoulders back and my heels and hands down and stayed out of Squire’s way. Evidently, I succeeded well enough (or, more likely, he’s such a champ, he just ignored all my screw ups) as we finished clean. I assumed we were quite slow as I never really kicked him and everything felt easy and controlled. When I checked the scoreboard later, it turned out that we had been only one second slow. The super jumping moved both horses up to 8th place, so I brought home two lovely brown ribbons and the chocolate caramels that Hilda bought me as a congratulations prize. It was actually hot in Florida (coats were waived on both days, unfortunately after my rides). After cross country, while walking Squire, I was feeling a little out of it, improved by glugging down a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade, so will have to keep that in mind for the future. Looking forward to Ocala II in two weeks. Next weeks update will be about my dressage lessons!

The first event of the season - in which the horses are great and I exhibit signs of early memory loss

Rocking Horse I took place this weekend. A great way to spend a birthday. Saturday was a bit drizzly, but quite nice all in all. Squire and I had a “pleasant” test scoring 40, but given that it was the 5th time I had ever sat on him, I was pleased (the best dressage score in the division was 31). Keebler was in “I don’t wanna” mode for dressage, but had some respectable moments here and there and scored 42.5, putting us in last place and taking off the pressure J. Both horses jumped clear in stadium, making it feel totally easy and the stadium steward very nicely commented that Keebler did the best job she had seen all day (and there were only about 10 rides after us) between fences two and three (a 5 stride bending line around a corner past the in gate – as long as there are jumps, Keebler is totally over his going past the gate issues).

Sunday (I turned 45 and it obviously affected my brain – and no I hadn’t started drinking yet), Squire had a fairly early xc time, so off we went to warm up. The warm up went great, Hilda was a great help in reminding me to keep eyes and shoulders up (the never-ending Seema bad habit) and we headed off to the start box. Squire came out of the start box ready to rock, but not at all keyed up. Fence 1 was excellent, and then I didn’t go far enough right and didn’t see fence 2 (not surprising it was in a different field). Apparently the announcer was announcing that I was out wandering around. I finally went back toward fence 1, saw fence two and everything else was perfect. It was a pretty soft training course. 2 waters that you just went through, no ditch (though last fence was a trakehner), no banks, a couple of accuracy questions, but nothing tough. Squire was perfect, so easy to ride and totally fun. It seemed like he was having a good time too. So other that about a million time penalties, we were golden, as was the weather with the sun out and balmy temperatures.

After finishing on Squire, I headed out to walk the novice XC. Everything looked pretty small and I figured Keebler would have no problem. The start and finish were in line with training, and I now was very clear on where the pesky fence number 2 was located. Keebler’s Florida fan club came out for the second day in a row to cheer him on and enjoy how much he likes jumping. It was fun having people there who knew him before he was an event pony. Off we went, with him acting as if he were as experienced as Squire (yeah, right – but those of you who know him know that he’s that kind of horse – I’ve got it, I’m in charge, just get out of my way!). The novice course was also quite straight forward and seemed small, so we bombed around. Optimum time (at 450 m/m) was 4:45. After fence 16 (of 19), I looked at my watch and we were at 3:46 (well no worries that he can make training time next week). Unfortunately, I neglected to jump fence 18. I had neglected to walk fence 18. I had no idea that fence 18 existed (didn’t take the map when I went out to walk). Altogether an Alzheimer’s moment, but had way too much fun to really care. Hilda was great throughout the weekend, helping me trying to get my act together. Godsend (her ** horse) had a nice, restful outing at training level and Mary Balduff’s young mare Isabelle (with Hilda aboard) finished her first training level event in 6th place. Carol McCarty helps out teaching and working with horses at Ashmore and her young TB did his first or second event at BN and had a very good outing (although Carol also had a moment when she realized she’d learned the wrong dressage test). Hopefully, we’ve all kicked the rust off and will be more with the program next weekend – Rocking Horse II.

That concluded the riding part of the weekend, but there was added birthday fun as Cathy (my trainer when I was in Michigan) and Sherry (who also rides with Cathy) came into Florida for the symposium at Longwood and we were able to have my birthday dinner at the Bonefish grill in Ocala (very good). It was fun to see them and I’m looking forward to hearing about the symposium from their viewpoint as audience and Hilda’s as demo rider. More next week.