Monday, January 28, 2013

5 years later, more bad birthday riding that is still big fun

Five years ago, this blog started with Rocking Horse I, on the weekend of my 45th birthday  The horses were much better than I was.  As we know, history oft repeats itself, and this weekend, for my 50th birthday, I headed off to Florida for another go at Rocking Horse I.  Last year, this was Keegan's first event at the BN. This year, we had a go at the training move-up.  The weekend got off to a great start with a very good dressage lesson on Friday. There was a brief flurry of texts to figure out where our Coggins was, but it was in Missy's truck and Missy was headed to Rocking Horse even earlier than I was the next morning.  Hilda and Ken, along with Lynn and Johhny headed up to Rocking horse in the lovely motor coaches on Friday evening.  I hung at the house listening to basketball.

Saturday, I headed up to Rocking Horse with Keegan fairly early in the morning.  I was a little worried that he might not want to load in the dark, but no worries, he marched right on.  He remained calm and easy when we arrived at Rocking Horse.  I picked up packet, chatted a bit and then hopped on for dressage.  The test felt really good except for the first canter transition, which was a bit fussy, but overally quite good.  Watching the video later (thanks, Ken!), I saw that I lost his hindquarters at the end of a couple turns (something Missy has been working with us on) and that my arms tended to be a bit too low and straight (an improving, but never-ending issue).  Overall, I was really pleased with him and despite his lengthenings still being a work in progress, there was no drop-off from his prior scores at Novice.  Still plenty of room for improvement.

After a little time off, I got back on and headed over to the stadium.  I got there a little earlier than necessary and so got to watch Grace Carpenter's very nice dressage test on her Isabella.  We jumped a few and headed into the stadium, which was really just an amazing experience.  It felt totally easy (although others said it was a challenging enough track, with just over half the horses having a double clear).  I got a clear round and a happy birthday from the announcer, both of which were fun to hear. Hilda and Cyndi also engineered a lovely happy birthday "advertisement" in the program, very cool.

After taking Keegan home, I came back up and Hilda and I walked the cross country course (more on that later), then returned to the coach, where a wonderful birthday party was underway.  While, I had guessed there might be something planned, I had not envisioned the scope which included Henry sending wine and Lynn following Henry's recipe to bake me my very favorite cardamom pound cake.  I got some lovely presents (including a great picture of Keebler with Jordan to start my collection of that great partnership).  In addition to Hilda, Ken, Lynn, and Johnny, Genny (another Ashmore rider),  Jordan, (her mom) Billie and (another Cyndi studnent) Emily came by as well as Cyndi, Sam Bueckananon (who rode Gaston in the clinic last week and also had a good day) and her mom, Jeff, Missy, Steph Cauffman representing the Blue Hill crowd, Maripeg Bruder (never one to miss a party),  Sandra McDonald and Laura Duhamel from adult riders and several others stopped in to say hello. It was a great crowd and great fun.  Missy had a great day on both her own Ike and on Super Nova (who is for sale - total jumping packer - Missy said she had a blast  Steph and Dylan also had a great day (other than Steph not having quite all the rust knocked off her distance finding) and Steph was in first place on Cindi Cauffman's Ben (Absolute Bearing) after dressage and SJ (and ended up winning their division with clean xc on Sunday).  Sandra rode both of hers at training and Laura Duhamel apparently came off the xc grinning ear to ear and finished on her dressage score.  Sam and Gaston were also doing well with the clinic paying off.  After enjoying all the yummy food and wonderful company, I headed back down

Sunday morning, same routine.  Pop Keegan on the trailer and head up to Rocking Horse, hang out a bit, then tack up for cross country.  Keegan was adjustable and listening in the warm-up and I felt we were quite good to go.  On the other hand, the cross-country was quite substantial. I heard later from one of the officials that they felt the training level course was the one course that wasn't really a move-up course.  5-4-3-2-1 have fun! and off we went.  Keegan jumped brilliantly through the first half of the course, handling the big enough bench, the accuracy question at 3, the turning question at 5 all well.  Then we had a stutter at 8, when he got distracted going into the woods, paid no attention to my leg (admittedly weak as I've been battling a pretty grim upper respiratory tract malady) and had a stop to take a look at the in to the half coffin.  We regrouped and finished.  He was then brillian over another table, through the major terrain question and over the big picnic table, but then just found too much too look at a the water, and I just wasn't riding him well, so our day ended there.  It was vaguely disappointing, but mostly I was impressed at how easy the bigger fences felt.  He clearly needs a little more trust in me (and to pay attention when stuff gets tougher), but I also thought back and realized that this is his 5th cross country run total (BN at RH 1 last January, N at Ocala last February, N at Fair Hill in May and N at Radnor in October), that other than the clinic last week, he hadn't been on a cross country course since October and that in general, he had never schooled anything as tough as the questions he was being asked on this course.  So, back to the drawing board with some more schooling and another novice run at Ocala in a couple weeks, but overall, this horse is a total rockstar.  Once I manange to get my act together, we are going to be having even more fun (I think that is possible).  The birthday fun continues with dinner with Henry tonight and the city party tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, the training sessions are under way in Ocala.  Caitlin is there, so I'm hoping for a report.  Jenna posted a lovely facebook picture of Caitlin jumping Hoku earlier today.  And further north, Full Gallop took place.  Sally had some great finishes on Joule, Oliver and Charm; Erin Sylvester won the training; Kate Chadderton rode her whole string; Ryan Wood had several  Courtney Cooper was back in action, and Chris Talley and Super Pony put in an appearance.  Up north, basketball was the big news as Villanova beat #3 Syracuse and the Celtics lost Rondo for the season.  I returned to an icy mix coating my car this morning, but it has turned to rain since and I hear it is warm in the midwest which means it should be warm here soon. Of course, I am so lucky, I get to head back to the warmlands next weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Leslie Law Clinic Report

I was waiting for pictures, but have become too impatient and feel the need to document the weekend clinic while the euphoria is still stronger than the ridiculously cold weather to which I have returned.  Hopefully, some pictures will follow.

For the second year in a row, Keegan and I set off to get a jump on our winter season by participating in the Area III Adult Riders hosted Leslie Law clinic at wonderful Rocking Horse Farm in Altoona, Florida. Saturday was stadium jumping day.  I arrived at Ashmore, put Keegan in the trailer and headed up.  I arrived in time to watch a bit of the preliminary group prior to my ride.  Last year, the theme was to develop the proper canter while in your jump position and then to not change to the fence.  This year, the theme was supporting the horse (with a slightly raised hand toward your belt buckle) to a forward distance to the base.  Leslie emphasized not going for the big distance you see and not softening too soon (and especially not leaning forward) as this leads to the horse chipping in and not being strong to the deep distance, making it much harder. I watched a bit of this and then tacked Keegan up and walked up to the ring (no walking about or preparing him at all this year, and he was totally quiet and focused on his work).  Prior to jumping, Leslie had us do some trotting and cantering.  The cantering exercise was to canter 12 strides and then walk, then back to canter 12 strides, etc.  He ended up getting on Keegan to demonstrate the effectiveness of keeping the hands in line with the horse's mouth, even when the horses head was high, and to resist with the hand while continuing to move the elbow toward the horse's mouth, creating what he described as an "elastic towline effect."  Keegan looked quite good after a few minutes of this.  Leslie also said to use the spur more to create reaction to the aid rather than kicking.  I wear a spur, but have a bad habit of kicking rather than using it.  All of this with the supporting hand.  We then moved on to jumping with the theme of the raised supporting hand. To practice this technique, there were turning questions.  We started with a vertical, serpentine turn to an oxer, serpentine turn to repeat the two fences in the opposite direction.  That went fairly well.  Then we did vertical, serpentine turn to oxer, serpentine turn to a box under a rail and roll-back turn to a triple-bar.  Keegan launched over the triple-bar (though from a good canter and distance - he was just a bit impressed, having never jumped a triple bar before).  I was jumped out of the tack a bit, but managed to recover to the final vertical.  There were 4 other riders in my group.  First was Allison and her lovely mare, making a guest appearance from the jumper world.  Allison had the technique down very well and it showed as her mare reached good distances from a powerful stride to virtually every jump.  She did have her head high enough that Leslie said he would definitely try a losely adjusted running martingale, though wasn't sure how it would work.  Then there was Lauren on her DWB cross.  This was a very honest jumping horse that simply lacked some motivation (Leslie's term).  Leslie rode it over the fences a bit, adding a bit of stick behind the leg at take-off.  He pointed out that it was important that the use of the stick involved minimal movement away from the rein, and did it very smoothly producing more enthusiastic impulsion to the jumps.  Sandra was riding an Irish mare that whe only acquired in the spring.  She had a bit of a temper, but was a very good jumper and Sandra rode her very well.  Last was Barbie on her great jumping Connemara pony.  They were very good at these exercises.  The second exercise was to jump a vertical (the one finishing the prior exercise), turn 90 degrees to a bridge cut out jump and then do either the 5 (straight) or the 6 (bending)   stride line to the triple (vertical, oxer, oxer - 2 stride to one stride) and then a 90 degree turn to the box fence.  The first time I did it, I missed the distance badly, although Keegan saved me and got himself through with no hesitation, despite the poor distance and lack of power.  Leslie talked to me about the position of my hands and how to ride the line and I went back to a vaguely better attempt and then on the third attempt a very successful line, including a very tidy effort to the box, which hadn't occurred the first two times.  Everyone else had a better go, although Sandra did it twice to work out the best line for the six strides for her mare.  We ended there and I headed straight back to Ashmore, not staying to watch the novice groups, but hearing reports that they also went well.

Sunday, my group was all back (even Allison, who had claimed that she wasn't going to do the cross country).  We started over some logs, which was easy-peasy and then moved on the the log on the lump, which went very well for everyone.  I seemed to be riding better cross country than I had in the stadium and the raised, supporting hand was really working well for Keegan.  We continued on to the ditches.  After a bit of hesitation at the small one, he was great over the bigger ditch as were the rest of the group.  We then did the bounce bank up, which was excelent.  Barbie was a bit nervous about this one, but Leslie explained that she needed to trust and support as her pony needed to take a longer reaching stride to make the distance, and they looked really good the second time up.  Keegan was careful as was Sandra's mare on the first go, but they both attacked the banks enthusiastically on the second go.  Then off to the water.  Small drop and log drop great.  Drop with funny footing a little shuffling, but off he went.  Of course, I slipped my reins too much and really missed the line to the (quite big) chevron out, leading to Keegan trotting over it from two strides away (good super-Keegan).  The second time, I managed my knitting better and it was super fun.  Leslie got back on to school Lauren's horse down the bigger drop as he was having a bit of an issue with it (none of the rest of us did that bigger drop).  It got well sorted and Lauren was also able to take him down the drop.  We finished up with a bending line question that all the horses were very good to.  It is always surprising how well they jump those questions (if they don't have run out issues).  I think we get more nervous about them as riders than we need to.

For xc, after getting Keegan put away, I headed out to watch the novice groups jump cross country.  Leyna was there with Mr. Binx, looking very grown up and jumping well.  Johnna and her guy were there from last year.  He also seemed more settled and not rushing the fences.  Sam was there on a big guy who wanted to run to the fences a bit.  The raised hand seemed to help with him as well.  I don't remember as much about the other two riders, Patricia and Maureen, but both had good sessions as well.

I then watched the final group which included Jordan riding Keebler.  After only 10 days together, they were ready to tackle the clinic.  Leyna was also back with Riley, her new young TB/Clyde cross.  Lauren was there on her lovely Chase (they were in our group last year) and Dena was there on her (relatively) new guy.  Very impressively, this group went off and tackled almost all of the questions that we did.  They did the lump on the log in both directions.  They did the little ditch and the big ditch.  They did the bounce bank up.  They did the log drop into the water (although they didn't do the drop to the chevron).  They also did some additional galloping fences and a slightly different bending line as well as some other turning exercises.  I was amazed at how good Keebler was. Leslie described him as "totally genuine." He and Jordan looked like seasoned partners and everything looked quite effortless.  Leyna had to work a bit harder as her guy is very green, but he is quite a good jumper and was very brave to ditches and water.  The turning was the bigger issue than the jumping as is so often the case early in the training process of a young horse, but Leyna handled him very well and they ended up jumping everything.  Lauren and Dena also had excellent rides, both of their horses having the occassional "cheeky" moment, which they quietly sat through and proceeded from. Cyndi was there taking video and photos, so I hope to be able to add some soon.  Jordan's mom was there a bit nervous - but absolutely no need.  It was altogether a wonderful day, with perfect weather, a super clinician and great horses.  Thanks to the organizers, Rocking Horse and especially Leslie.

There were two loose horse episodes on Sunday, but neither invovled a clinic horse.  No falls at all for anyone participating.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A guest blogs about Keebler's new adventure

Thanks to Jordan's super trainer and my friend Cyndi for sending the following update on Keebler and Jordan. I think I speak for myself and for Lynn (who deserves much of the credit for Keebler's development)in saying that we are thrilled with his new situation. What Cyndi has to say about their first jump school (the stuff in pink is my commentary)


What an amazing, wonderful guy. What an amazing feeling to have someone say this about my horse.

Jordan hacked him up to the barn where I teach (Mom following in the Suburban) ; it is a 1.25 mile ride on a dirt road, with dogs and pot bellied pigs, etc.
He was wonderful through it all, until they came to the BLACK BUILDING OF DOOM.

The BLACK BUILDING OF DOOM masquerades as a fernery. You know, mesh-type walls and roof. Sometimes we get a surprise when they turn the sprinklers on - the water hitting the mesh makes an interesting sound.

But that didn't happen on Sunday.
No, on Sunday the HORSE EATIING ZOMBIES FROM HELL had taken over the fernery. Disguised as fern workers, they whispered their evil plans amongst each other. They were nearly invisible through the fernery walls.

Keebler the Wonder Horse heard them...and stopped in his tracks. He knew if he entered the same dimension as the BBOD with the HEZFH, bad things would happen. Very Bad Things. He must protect his young rider. He turned in circles, trying to let Jordan know that Evil Things were ahead. But Jordan didn't understand Keebler-speak yet, so she kicked and begged and pleaded with him to GoForward. Really, Keebler - you managed to convince her you were trying to save her.  How lucky are you that you didn't get seriously walloped!  You go Jordan!

The HorseEatingZombiesFromHell were delighted. They yelled and screamed at Jordan and Keebler the Wonder Horse, and laughed among themselves, saying evil things in their own language. All seemed lost.

But then, the mom had an idea. She called forth her Billie the Brave personality, and placed her Suburban between the Black Building of Doom and Keebler the Wonder Horse. This blocked the Horse Eating Zombies From Hell from sending their Evil Thoughts towards Keebler the Wonder Horse, and he and Jordan continued on their journey, safely arriving at the New Place With Interesting Fences To Jump. Every teen out there has a million things (and double for those involved in expensive, time consuming sports) to thank their parents for.  Add this one to Jordan's list.  

Now, for the Rest of the Story.

Keebler is AWESOME. We started out slowly, checking that he was good in company, checking brakes, etc. He walked calmly over the ditch-simulating-a-tarp. They warmed up over the Tadpole jump course that Emily and her pony are practicing. Gradually we added the larger fences. Keebler was eager but adjustable, jumping scary flying balloon fence, the NowADitchAndWall tarp fence, and normal oxers and verticals.

And this is why we put up with his appytude.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the dynamic duo in person next weekend and hearing about their adventures in the days to come. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Keebler gets a teenager of his own

So, as you may remember, I am working hard to divest myself of horses and saddles. Cyndi Kurth comes through again! Two years ago, Gizmo went off to teach one of her students the ropes of recognized eventing. Having successfully accomplished that, Gizmo came back to me for a year and last month headed to Virginia for his new adventures with Debbie Weeks. Debbie was the barn manager in Michigan when I bought Gizmo in 1999 and Elena Weeks Sakaly (at whose home Gizmo now lives) took him to a clinic with Stuart Black when he had been jumping for a grand total of 6 weeks. They jumped a bunch of the preliminary fences then. So, Gizmo is well-settled with people who know him, love him and appreciate him.

Then, when I saw Cyndi at the USEA convention this year, she mentioned another student who had a lovely horse that she had made it to the AECs on, but who had some limitations in terms of moving on the the next level, but perhaps Keebler would suit. Lynn, who has been such a terrific keeper of Keebler for the past 3 years provided lots of information (including when the deal was made, the best horse owner's user's guide ever) and Jordan and her parents decided Keebler could well be a good fit. So, Lynn arranged for shipping in record time and earlier this week, Keebler headed down to Florida. He and Summit are already going out together, drama free and Jordan will start riding him in the next couple of days. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he and Jordan do together and am sure that he will love having his own teenager and an opportunity to expand his fan base.

Keegan is also in Florida and I head down this weekend to start our winter adventures. Rachel will also be bringing Solo down. Watch this space for more on all of the adventures.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The New Year Post

Here is the goal associated with my goals (running ones) for the year. Consider starting your year with a donation to something that touches your heart, your mind, your soul, or your life: