Monday, February 17, 2014

In which I stay home, but Keebler and Jordan rock!

The snowpacolypse contines!  I booked three flights, one on Wednesday (SW - fully refundable), one on Thurday (the original plan, regular non-refundable) and one on Friday (using miles).  All three were cancelled, so I got refunds on two and moved the Thursday one (without charges because of the storm) to my final Aiken trip in March.

Eventers being the intrepid lot they are, Paradise Horse Trials went on, despite no power across most of Aiken.  Eventers kept the horses watered and fed (and sometimes themselves as well).  There are still spots of no power.  The house that I rent had no power or water, so maybe it is just as well the weekend was cancelled.  At home, we drank some good wine, ate some yummy food, saw Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (excellent) and exercised a fair bit.

Further south, Rocking Horse took place without drama (why I usually do the winter thing in Florida).  Peter and Henny won wire to wire in the advanced with helmet cam, of course.  And, I was incredibly proud, that Jordan and Keebler won wire to wire in the novice, with a dressage score of 30.5 (which I might have told you was impossible had you asked even 6 months ago).  We're hoping for a guest blog with details of their outing, but meanwhile, Go Jordan!  Go Eventing! and Go far, far away Winter!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

in which Keegan rocks as we tackle the training

Another weekend, another trip to Aiken.  This weekend for the Pine Top Winter event.  Thank goodness, it was much less wintery, with warm and sunny for both Saturday and Sunday. I won't say more about the weather as I feel badly for those trapped in the north, many in our area still without power since Wednesday (power at Chadds Ford went off Wednesday and came back sometime between noon Saturday and noon Sunday).

After an easy flight down to Columbia [sidebar - the tank of gas seemed a decent deal, but with tax it would have added $72 to the rental - filling the tank myself $44 and 2 minutes in the cold and dark Monday morning] and slightly less easy (due to a couple of road closures) drive to Aiken, I arrived at the farm to hear from Sally that their truck had broken down at Pine Top where Sally was running the Intermediate with Wes and Taz.  She didn't get back until after dark, so I prepared as best I could, mostly doing flat work, but adding in just 3 jumps working on the things she has been helping me with. Friday at Pine Top saw many top horses and riders getting their pipe openers. Eventing Nation provided some coverage  They didn't mention that Jan Bynny and Inmidair won a division or that Sarah Dunkerton came 1st and 4th in the intermediate rider division.  Becky Holder was 2nd in the division that Peter Barry won and Boyd was 2nd on Peter Barry's Sir Donovan in the division Jan won, so nice Friday for Peter.  Caitlin and Hoku finished 5th.  Unfortunately, Remi ended up with boots on in the dressage so they had a TE, but were able to jump and had a good day.  Sally and Wes ended up 5th.  Taz did the dressage and sj to see where he was, but Sally decided to save xc for the big event in two weeks. The Full set of scores are provided by xentry.

Saturday morning, Nat Cousins was kind enough to meet me at the farm at 4:30 to take Keegan to Kate Chadderton's place.  Because Sally was not competing over the weekend, Kate was kind enough to offer us a ride.  It was still a bit chilly in the morning at Pine Top when I headed out to check out the cross country course.  It seemed tough enough, but doable to me, although at a speed of 470 m/m, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make time.  The course was open and galloping with some biggish and a few fairly technical questions.  1. very inviting log 2. odd choice I thought as it was a bright yellow and green hay wagon with a big round bale on the left side 3. nice table 4. a. up bank, across to slight down hill to b. big rolltop then a long gallop to  5. another hay wagon, this one with round bales on both sides - straight away to 6. an ascending timber jump in the fence line followed by a 90 degree left turn to 7. the trakehner (in between two water jumps) and then through another gate to 8. the yellow and green corner (a bit more cornerish than some at training, but still a table in reality) then 9. a. filled in box and a 3 stride bending line to b. a rolltop another bit of a gallop to 10. a biggish table (no tables look big after Rocking Horse) and the combination at 11 a. bank up one stride to b. hanging log and 4 strides to c. coop then slight downhill on right turn to the 12. log drop and across the bridge to 13. a. cabin 1 and 4 strides to b. cabin 2 then a gallop through the woods to 14. the bench and 15 a. over a log into the water b. bank out of the water with one stride to c. table with the alligator on it and finishing up over 16. a "hanging log" oxer.  Important to turn 90 degrees right to finish, but everyone got that.  But I'm getting ahead of myself as cross country was not until Sunday.  I took a look at the SJ and then did this and that until it was time to get ready for dressage.  Meanwhile the preliminary was going on.  Check those scores above, but I especially noticed Erin Sylvester's ridiculously cute Paddy the Caddy (who ended up 2nd) and Boyd riding VS McCuan Civil Liberty as Kate was spending her last 72 hours with her jaw wired shut.  I chatted a bit with Lindsey Taylor about the talk she is preparing for an area IV meeting and let Benita Strini know I had bought June from Andria Pooley as they know each other from when Benita bought Cody from Andria.  Got on and headed for warm-up in good time.  Gone was all silliness from last week.  Keegan stood on the trailer quietly (other Bucky and his finding it necessary to grump at each other about sharing a hay net) and was quiet and focused as we headed to warm-up.  I was very pleased with our test, it felt a huge performance improvement over last weekend.  In the way of dressage, my subjective opinion and the judge's did not match and I got the same score as last weekend.  Her overall comment "Talented horse and determined rider...have the potential to be competitive with more understanding of dressage basics."  Well then, dressage boot camp will wait until April, but it will be happening.  Unaware of this, I got ready for SJ and headed over.  Thanks to Molly Rosin for watching my warm-up and making sure I didn't ride backwards.  SJ was great.  There was the moment when I made the turn from fence 2 to fence 3 completely wrong.  Keegan would have been well within his rights to stop and possibly dump me in protest, but being Keegan, he just did his best, barely taking a rail.  The rest of the course, I did a better job of staying out of his way and he was great.  Saturday evening Curran Simpson hosted a barbeque.  I didn't stay long, but enjoyed meeting some more eventers and having a yummy dinner.

Sunday morning was a couple of hours later.  Kate picked us up at 6:30 and we headed back to Pine Top.  I walked the course again with Rhiannon Bosma, Kate's working student who rode Buckhard (owned by Beth Sokhol).  Then a bit later, Kate walked the course with both of us.  It all seemed doable, but I was very nervous about it.  I kept reminding myself that we had several successful training outings under our belt girth  whatever and this one shouldn't be any different.  My goals were to ride forward and stay balanced.  Mostly this worked out well.  Keegan didn't look at anything, except in a "I've got this, let me at it way"  The "scary" green and yellow #2 was completely ho - hummm.  He did go more slowly than might have been optimal to the big rolltop following the bank (I'm pretty sure there were a couple of trot steps in there), but the scope button made it a non-issue.  Then super to 5, 6, 7, 8.  9 was surprisingly easy as several people (Kate included) said it was the toughest thing on course.  10 and 11 (picture) super, 12 excellent jump, but enough of a drop that I was a bit unseated on landing - luckily the balance kicked in.  Keegan was suspicious of the bridge, so there were more trotting steps, then on to easily tackle 13, 14, the water and the finish.  I had been a bit concerned about having enough power through and out of the water, but Keegan was a champ, totally on his game.  I'm hoping there will be pictures of those.  Pictures aren't fully posted yet, but should end up here.  And amazingly, while we had time faults, we only had 5.6 or 14 seconds slow.  My prior time faults at training were 43, 34, 19.6 and 16 so while I had been getting faster, this was a big jump in speed, especially realizing that this course was running a 470 while all the others were at 450.  In fact, doing a bit of math said our average speed was right on 450 m/m, so I was really pleased.  Thanks to Sally for her help in getting us to this point halfway through our winter training. Sunday evening was pizza at the Juvonen's lovely place in Aiken.  Densey and Ron throw a great party and it was great to hear other stories of the weekend at Pine Top and of other horses, plans and adventures. Eventers rock and event horses even more so.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

in which my eventing season gets underway

Back to Aiken.  As I arrive I get a text from Sally. "The footing seems to be thawing here, can you jump around 5:30?"  Sure, no problem on the scheduling, but waiting for the footing to thaw - in Aiken?!  There is something wrong with this picture.  Still, I got there, lunged a bit, but Keegan was very quiet.  Sally said there had been much silly behavior, but the two OTTBs, Finn (Folk Hero) and Keegan got the good behavior stars for the day. We had a great jumping lesson, continuing to focus on quicker reactions times on landing, keeping control of the shoulder (especially when turning to the left) and finding the right pace.  Keegan was jumping fantastically, and I was starting to feel more in sync.  Friday, I did flat work on my own, which went well and then jumped a little more with Sally.  We didn't want to overdo, although to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever seen Keegan tired. Saturday was Sporting Days.  An early start as Sally's first ride was around 8:00.  The weather was not terribly cooperative.  Forecasts had suggested clouds, with relatively warm weather and then rain late in the afternoon.  Instead, the rain started almost immediately.  I went off to walk the last fence of my course.  I had walked on Friday afternoon, but peeled off after fence 16 (of 17) to take a look at the training course and never walked to the final fence, so I did that and checked a couple of other lines (don't want a repeat of Radnor).  There was still snow on the shady side of a couple of the ramps and houses, rather surprising. A little soggy, I headed back.  Keegan decided that Wizard was his very bestest friend and that he couldn't possibly stand on the trailer without Wizard.  Never mind that Stash was standing on the trailer with him perfectly well behaved.  So, I took him off, walked him a while, lunged him a while and then when Wizard got back from dressage, put him back on.  Then when Wizard went to jump we repeated, but this time, I went ahead and got on after a brief lunge and started warming up for dressage.  Keegan wasn't hot, but he seemed pretty distracted the whole time.  He was responsive, but tight.  This showed up in our test even after an hour (and he wasn't tired at all, in fact kept getting better).  The judge said that we had lovely moments (and we did), but they were marred by moments of screaming and staring back at the trailer during the downward transition to walk and other moments of distraction.  We ended up with our worst score to date, but were not in last place as the scoring was fairly tough in the division.   Mary Coldren was kind enough to move my jumping time up so that I could be available to volunteer late in the day in case anyone was getting too cold or just had to leave.  Jumping was perfect!  My position, especially in the SJ stills leaves a fair bit to be desired, but Keegan jumped everything easily and happily (several people commented on how happy he looked).  Ditto on the xc.  The fences all seemed pretty trivial and I was able to concentrate on trying to go on the faster side and steer.  I got a little tired around fence 13 and backed off a little, but we still finished 35 seconds under the optimum time, so I was pleased.  The clear jumping moved us up from 10th to 6th, so I even got to bring home a ribbon.  Keegan was neither blowing nor particularly sweating when I got him back to the trailer.  I'm pretty sure he was ready to go another three or four times.  I'm still deciding about pictures, but you can see them here at the GRC Photo site.   Thanks Gary and team for being out in that undesirable weather all day.  Once Keegan was back on the trailer, I headed over to see if they needed me to volunteer and finished up the day as the stadium steward for the beginner novice.  I had the fun of watching Amanda complete a picture perfect round on a very cute pony along with several other nice rounds and lots of smiles across the board.  The Cairn O'Mount team had a great day and it was fun to see them.  Sally finished up with Hannah's Stash in the BN (since poor Hannah is out of the saddle for a bit after a fluke accident). We headed back to the farm and I headed for a hot shower and dinner, very pleased with our first outing of the year.