Keegan is having a day off today after jumping 3 days in a row. We had a couple weeks off in the middle of June when he came up with another abscess, but it healed quite quickly and cleanly with thanks to Stacey Kent (wonderful vet), Todd Meister (miracle farrier) and the care at Blue Hill. He came back into work without missing a step (just as he did after 16 days off down in Florida, love his brain). I managed to schedule one jumping lesson with Missy, but also did a bunch of flat work and some hacking over the past couple of weeks and then the schedule for this week ended up including xc schooling at Radnor on Sunday, clinic with Patrick Dwyer on Monday and benefit Derby at Plantation on Tuesday. We all figured Keegan would be fine with this as he is quite fit and doesn't find jumping difficult, even when he has to work extra hard to bail us out after I screw up. He has the best attitude about my screwing up, which is something like, "no worries, happy to do more than my half here. Aren't I a good boy?"
So off Cindi and I went to Radnor. It was in the morning, so not too hot. The parking field was chockablock full of poison ivy, hmmmm. Luckily neither Cindi nor I are too reactive, but we did tack up the horses on the trailer, pretty impressive, given that it is a straight load 2 horse. Both horses were good, although it was interesting to hear how many ways/times Cindi managed to express her deep animus toward studs. Luckily Keegan doesn't need studs, in large part because I've avoided putting hind shoes on him to date, but he does get credit for excellent balance. We headed over to the schooling field and met Missy, who had the good sense to stay out of the parking field. Both horses were great. Keegan had a brief (and perfectly understandable) moment, when some kid was jumping, galloping very fast, hitting her horse a lot with her trainer yelling at her and at the horse. Keegan prefers everything to be more controlled and without yelling or other horses being punished. He is interestingly more reactive to another horse being hit than to being hit himself, which he is pretty much fine with. That aside, he jumped great. He did surprise us by launching himself mightily off the tiny bank into the water. He was straight enough that it wasn't a problem. The second time, he launched, but less up and more just out. Other than that, he easily and enthusiastically jumped everything he was pointed at. Missy is having me work on galloping more to the fences to make it easier on him (and to make time as we think about the next level). Ben was also very good, having no trouble with water, banks or ditch and just one stop at a bigger coop when Cindi didn't have quite enough leg on, but easily solved on the second go. We were back at Blue Hill by noon just as it was getting quite hot.
Monday was even hotter and I rode with Patrick from 12:30-2:30. Hilary was also there riding a lovely young mare, Josie belonging to one of her clients. Hilary had to be patient with me as she was riding much better than I was. Patrick was really helpful in getting me to keep my body more up and still, giving me some tricks to physically help me do it, rather than depending on just trying (which succeeds only so well). Keegan was really good and jumped everything (hitting rails a few times when I totally screwed up, but never holding a grudge or having any evident concerns about it). Patrick also commented on how cleverly he patted the ground when getting in deep. I also watched Justine ride (not so) baby Nedly with Emily and Khoi and watched Missy and Patrick school Ike (who is so big, he seems a bit unsure of how to get all of his body parts working in concert). Patrick's philosophy seems to be to let riders jump in the style that they jump, but work with them on keeping still, keeping their balance in the middle of the horse and quite, and keeping the horse balanced so that it is easy for them to rock back and jump and still use their backs and shoulders over the jump. Some horses would get more locked and inverted when they did rock back, so Patrick worked on that and used V-poles and wide oxers with a couple of the horses to help them figure it out. Keegan didn't need those aids, just for me to be more still so he could have his balance and forward enough. Patrick said that his canter opened up beautifully when I did sit more still, so that was great incentive for me, but it is very much a work in progress.
Yesterday, hotter still as we headed off to the Derby around 5pm. I had planned to jump a novice round and then a training, but we were running late and unsure of how things were going, so we missed the novice opportunity. It says something (hopefully that I trust my horse, not that I am insane) that just going straight to the training seemed like a reasonable idea. So we warmed up a bit. Keegan took a few minutes to settle (Caitlin Silliman said she didn't want to distract me while he was bucking in the warm-up, but it didn't seem like much), but once we cantered and jumped a bit was fine. The warm-up was quite crowded and lots of horses galloping around, so a bit unsettling, but he figured it out. Talked with Denis a bit as Denis is a Partner's Hero fan and was interested to see Keegan. We jumped a few warm-up fences and headed out onto the Derby course. In the first round, we had a stop at the house before the water (pretty big), I jumped down the novice bank before the training to be fair to him and then I got lost and missed a couple of fences, gave him a totally crappy ride to the skinny roll top house, leading to a run out (and some helpful coaching from Kate Hicks) and then into the finish. Back in warm-up, Missy told me to gallop more (this is becoming a theme), and keep my shoulders up (this has been a theme for years) and off we went again. This time, he was a total rockstar! He jumped everything perfectly on the first attempt (including the corner and the reasonably scary steeplechase fence I had missed on round one). A little hesitant to the house before the water, but over, perfect down the bank, spot on to the corner, steeplechase and skinny and fantastic to all the stadium jumps. We ended up with a few time faults, but no jumping faults and me totally thrilled with my horse. This was the first time he had really jumped training level xc fences, having barely schooled two or three down in Florida after lots of warm-up and easing into them. He also is in great condition, feeling ready to run again despite the quite oppressive heat and humidity. Rachel took Cole. He also did 2 training runs, but was a bit more affected by the heat, needing some pushing on the second round. Lisa Thomas did a round of training on Rhythm and Emily rode Khoi, but I didn't see much of their go. Jason Racey rode his youngster before we got there and rode Dodger in the Preliminary, having a bit of steering confusion in the coffin, but otherwise good rounds. Hilary was there and said she had good rounds. Morgan McCue rode Annie over their first Preliminary course and had a great round. Justine said Nedly was very good. I got to chat a bit with Caitlin, who is keeping very busy with Boyd in London. David Ziegler was kind enough to come out and help us on his day off and hopefully, the afternoon raised a bunch of funds for Erin, Kate and the Plantation CIC. It was certainly great fun and hopefully, something that will happen again in the future.
So, today Keegan is having a day off and I'm supposed to be working, which I will get back to now that I've delivered the first blog in over a month.