Monday, January 26, 2015

in which Rocking Horse I induces brain freeze again!!

In many ways, it wasn't the weekend we planned.  Nonetheless, it was a wonderful weekend at Rocking Horse Winter I.  The fulls scores (for a huge number of horses) are here. The weekend started with the flight down - actually the weekend started with the drive to Baltimore to catch the flight down. Because it was a 6 am flight, I left the house at 3:30 - definitely too early. I put my car in the garage based on forecasts for possibilities of real amounts of snow and the rest of the trip was uneventful.  I arrived and worked for the rest of the morning and afternoon before heading to the barn for late afternoon/evening lessons on Keegan and Dublin.  Keegan did a bit of flat work and then a small amount of jumping, most specifically jumping a triple so that I could be sure to get it right, but it felt perfect.  Dublin worked through poles perfecting his footing and was a very good boy.  We then headed home for a late, but yummy as always dinner.

Because of the large number of horses, the Rocking Horse schedule was a little unusual, with Intermediate running as a one day Friday, Preliminary, P/T and OT running Friday and Saturday and the rest running Saturday and Sunday.  I had a 2 p.m. dressage time and 5:10 p.m. SJ time on Friday, very close to Jordan's times as Hilda would be coaching Jordan on Friday. I did a little work in the morning, then headed out to the barn to get everything packed up. As I was heading to the show grounds, I got a call from Cyndi that the only preliminary course walk would be from 12:25 until 12:45.  Since I was on schedule to arrive around 12:50, this wasn't going to work well for me, but I figured I could just watch a few jump. That left finding someone to walk with Jordan as Hilda also wasn't planning to arrive until around 1:00 pm.  Luckily eventers being eventers, it wasn't too hard to get someone to pitch in and help out - in this case Justine Dutton who walked the course with Jordan.

I got there and got Keegan off the trailer, got dressed, got him tacked up and realized I had forgotten to braid him - really I just forgot.  I decided it was more important I get on to warm him up, so just braided his forelock and then got on.  Both Keebler and Keegan were excellent in warm-up, very focused and giving us good work.  I was in the ring first.  Other than posting up center line (sitting trot is required for preliminary) to start the test and badly blowing the second 10m circle, I did ok and other than objecting in upward transition from walk to trot before the canter transition, Keegan did very well indeed, getting us our best dressage score to date of 34.1 and putting us in second place.  The judging seemed pretty generous all weekend, including one very nice Novice ride getting a score of 11.7!

Jordan then went in and started out very nicely, but all of a sudden, when she went into her second 10m circle, Keebler was head-bobbing lame. He had a hot nail on Wednesday, due to farrier truck issues leading to shoeing rescheduling and ultimately ended up with an abscess, ending Jordan's weekend. She was a great sport about it, spending time volunteering and cheering on others and learned some new stuff, having never seen/treated an abscess before. Emily also helped with that and with the volunteering.

Dublin came along for a field trip and was absolutely super.  Hilda rode him and reported that she couldn't find anything that upset him.  He stood in the trailer like a champ, munching hay, drank lots of water and acted as if he's been doing this his whole life.

I spent some time wandering around, then walked my xc course, which looked great, but appropriately soft for a beginning of winter season course.  I then got back on and headed over to stadium.  I watched a few go and made sure I could tell how the lines were riding.  The 3 horses before me all dropped the rail at the final fence, 10B, so I was especially interested in getting that right. Keegan was absolutely super.  I think it was the best stadium round we've ever had together. The footing at Rocking Horse is great, so that helped, but we were very in sync.  I finished, with 10B and was over the moon, until I heard that I missed fence 9.  Honestly I was so focused on the in and out at 10 that I just blanked out 9.  Mmmm.  Remember this Rocking Horse I report from 2008?  Maybe it is just something about the event.  Overall, I was more thrilled than disappointed, although a clean round would have left us in position for our best ribbon ever.  I trailered home and unloaded Keegan and Dublin, heading home for a quick dinner after making sure they had plenty of hay and water as it was still quite warm and humid - though we had missed the forecast rain.  That changed overnight, with Saturday coming around with night time rainstorms and a cooler overcast morning.

I had an 8:30 xc time and Hilda was doing dressage on Ollie (High Profile - a really nice horse for sale) at 8:15, so it was an early morning on Saturday.  We arrived and I tacked up, went over the course with the map a couple of times (a double TE would be too embarrassing even for me) and then headed out. Keegan was an absolute rockstar xc!  It really couldn't have been better and we actually made time xc for the first time at training level (I checked with Rick Dunkerton later).  So that was perfect despite the TE costing us that ribbon.  I hung out for a few hours, visiting my buddy Jamie, and chatting with a few folks as well as popping in the xc control to check in with Cyndi and Jordan (who with Emily was volunteering). I than chatted with Morgan (the course designer a bit). I was curious about why the roll top after the double bank up with the sign saying it would be moved for training was still there and Morgan confessed forgetting about it as preliminary xc was scheduled to run after training. He also took the rap for some map transposition errors, all part of knocking the rust off - apparently, I'm not the only one that needs to do this.  I then drove Keegan and Ollie home with Gracie (a working student of Hilda's) and got them settled, then rode Dublin and watched a young rider from Alabama check out a bunch of horses at Oakmore.
The ever fabulous Jamie
Then it was back to the townhouse for Birthday dinner.  Yummy Shepherd's pie along with all kinds of other goodies made for a very excellent dinner.  Hilda as always gave me some lovely gifts, including an excellent warm hat and some very dark chocolate.

Sunday morning was even colder so I bundled up, remembering almost freezing at a prior Rocking Horse where I was volunteering with Cyndi on a Sunday after a warm Saturday. Lucky thing as it was quite chilly, although the wonderful folks at Rocking Horse have built Cyndi a hut to keep the worst of the wind off.  Once we got some sun, it was a great day.  A few highlights to supplement the Eventing Nation coverage.  I loved seeing Jennie Brannigan out on several of Nina Gardner's young TBs.  My favorite, no surprise, is Mixed Blessing a 2009 Partner's Hero who raced 12 times, winning a couple at Penn National, but looking super suited to be an eventer (and my favorite type at that). They finished 3rd in one of the training horse divisions. The funny and interesting moment was John Crowell falling off (apparently sliding backward over the rump of his horse and landing on his feet already chasing his horse.  With the new rule in place, at novice level, he was allowed to remount and finish his run. It did seem that the falls happened in clusters, but I didn't hear of any significant injuries, which always makes the day even better.  Ashley Bruder won her training division on Maripeg's Moose, Missy and Peter Berk's lovely Prince had a great outing and a 3rd place ribbon, there were many trainer's riding for owner's who couldn't make it down.  I especially enjoyed seeing Justine Dutton on both Chequer (formerly Steph Cauffman's) and Merrylegs (adorable pony, about 13.1). Brigitte Aickelin and Harper looked amazing on the xc.  Due to very closely clustered dressage scores, they missed out on a ribbon, but it was a great first run of the season for them.  My only complaint is that there were many horses with Golden in their name, but none were Palominos.  However, there were enough very attractive pintos to make up for it.

I also followed the live scoring from Full Gallop.  Buck and I had a nice conversation about Brevan (the horse he sold to Sally Cousins to help finance the horse Andrea got as a wedding present). He ended up 3rd at Full Gallop.  Sally won the Intermediate on Gus and had a couple others running as well.  Caitlin got 3rd as well on both of the horses she rode.  Full Gallop was a fair bit smaller (and no doubt a large bit colder - thus the smaller) than Rocking Horse.

I ended the day with the drive back and some Pro bowl at the sports bar.  I was a little worried about my flight this morning, given the forecast, but all was good - no travel delays this trip.  We're getting ready to hunker down for the snow that is supposed to come tonight.

Monday, January 19, 2015

In which we return to Florida once more

I kicked off my Florida season last weekend with some great lessons on Keegan and Dublin with Hilda.  This weekend was the Leslie Law clinic and Keegan, Keebler and Dublin were all there.  It was also great to see Cyndi Kurth actually riding Bitsy (who was a star). Extra bonus that Cathy Henderson was out from Michigan to spend the weekend enjoying some warm weather and then auditing the Chris Bartles ICP clinic today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday).

Saturday was SJ day.  Cathy and I got up in the dark and headed to Oakmore/Ashmore where we loaded Keegan and Dublin, who were both very good. We arrived at Rocking Horse in good time and put them in stalls that Rocking Horse Stables was kind enough to provide for the clinic.  Lauren DeNeve is preparing for an intermediate move-up so she got to have the early morning cold lesson, while Cathy helped me get Keegan tacked (amazing how nice it is having such good help). Jordan was also getting on Keebler as we were both in the P/T group.

The theme of the SJ was control within a stable position.  The idea was to get your horse at the right pace and balance while in a half seat position, avoiding the urge to sit heavy/behind (except in the rare case you thought your horse would stop). We started with exercises that included halting after the fence - first after a single fence going straight and halting, right and halting and left and halting and then after two fences in a straight line, a bending line to the right and a bending line to the left.  The idea was to get the horses listening and to give us practice in making those transitions from a light/half seat position effectively. There was also discussion of the appropriate release, most often a short release in the stadium jumping and for me, softening and dropping my hands in the last strides before the fence. In addition to Keegan and Keebler, Dr. Kimberly Keeton was riding a lovely young mare, an adult rider Tawn Edwards had a very forward thinking mare, and a young rider Ashley was on her TB gelding. There was improvement for all the horses and riders. Leslie got on Ashley's horse and rode him in the position, getting him increasingly balanced and listening.  It is great clinicing with Leslie as there is a great mix of theory and riding practice. He gives the whys of the things he is asking and points out that what he is proposing may or may not work for everyone, but he knows it works for him and tells you how and why.

Seema and Jordan listening to Leslie explain the exercise

Being able to make forward or balancing changes from the half seat means the horse always knows where your body is and doesn't have to think about that allowing more focus on the fence.  The best metaphor of the day - "if you're carrying a monkey in a rucksack on your back, it is much easier to climb a mountain if the monkey is asleep than if it is awake and jumping around."  Or as Missy says to Keegan, "we need to get your mom to quit doing the crazy monkey dance up there."

Cathy headed back to the farm after our group and had a lesson on Ashmore's Amen, a very nice upper level horse that Hilda has for the season. I watched parts of the training level and novice group, which were very similar in their goals and in the exercises.  With the training group, he had them work on awareness of how many strides they were getting in the line and then being able to adjust that - again while remaining in a half seat position. Scott Campbell also fed us lunch. Cyndi was saying how great it is to have Scott (Emily's dad) and Billie (Jordan's mom) at the clinics and events keeping everyone fed and organized. I felt lukcy to be "adopted" for the weekend.

I then got Dublin tacked up, again with Cathy's help as she drove back up following her lesson on Amen. Dublin remained his amazingly quiet self. He hacked over from the barn to the ring, warmed up a little and then stood calmly waiting for the novice group to finish, and then went into the ring and did everything he was asked.  Our lesson was very much the same, but not asking for the level of nuance. For example, we were asked to count our strides, but not to make any goal of a specific number of strides in the lines. Dublin executed 20 meter canter circles going around one fence and between another close together without minding it, he jumped and quietly halted, he jumped bending lines, he jumped the two-stride.  He doesn't always jump clean at this point, as some of his super laid back attitude, includes not being too worried about hitting stuff, but he never says no and he stays completely calm and unflappable.  The other green horses also were good and Bitsy showed them all how it was meant to be done.

After jumping everything, Dublin was much more accepting of glove antlers than Bitsy
Cathy and I loaded the boys up (both were super about drinking water, eating hay and standing quietly in their stalls all day) and headed back to the farm where we turned them out and gave them dinner. We then got dinner for ourselves at the Carmel Kitchen, a new to me and very good retaurant close to Hilda's townhouse and the new Trader Joe's. I also noticed a new sports bar - where I may go for the pro bowl next weekend.

Sunday morning repeated the up early and head to the farm, although we only loaded Keegan this time. My flight home was before the BN novice group would be jumping xc. We arrived and got tacked up and then headed out to cross country.  It was warmer than it had been on Saturday (early at least, it got warmer later). We warmed up over some smaller fences and then moved to a table to table bending line, working on the right line, lots of use of the eye (which was part of Saturday as well) and for me, keeping the hand down and keeping Keegan moving forward so he wouldn't chip to the fences. After that we moved on to the banks.  Keegan stalled (but then went) on the first try and was perfect on the second.  He was also really good going up.  Some of the other horses had some work to do with the up or the down and Lauren joined our group and also schooled the sunken road. We did the training corner (while Lauren did the intermediate), which Leslie deemed as very well done by everyone and then headed to the water. Leslie did say that the two jumps everyone should have in their jump field at home are a corner and a triple brush skinny. He also pointed out that the corner should always be flagged, and put a branch in the bracket to simulate a flag for us. Once at the wather, we walked them through then started jumpming. Lauren's mare has some concerns about jumping up out of the water, so we got to watch and learn as she worked through that.  Leslie pointed out that this is one of those things you can't do much about as a rider.  You need to stay straight and confident, but she probably also needs to try the question broken down in different ways, for example a cross-rail in the water to jump over and understand how to do the footwork in the water. Keegan stalled again at the first drop, but then remembered his job (neither of us had seen a xc fence since Radnor on October 11th). He was super jumping down the preliminary drop (thanks to Billie and Koi Duffet for the video - hopefully, I've loaded it properly). If you can't see the video, he was a star and Leslie even proclaimed it "very good"

We finished up doing the one stride skinny in and out to the corner.  I missed my line the first time, resulting in a drive-by (Keegan had no idea he was supposed to jump something) but then he was very good when I came around the second time and actually pointed him at the fence. Keebler looked fabulous throughout the morning and completely ready for the preliminary move-up later this season. In fact, Cathy said watching him that she assumed he already had preliminary experience, he looked so strong and Jordan had a big smile through the whole thing.

Hopefully, the other groups had a good cross country day. It was a great opportunity for me to knock off the rust and feel ready for the start of our show season next week. Cathy and I loaded Keegan and headed back to the farm, where she got on Maxx (a lovely young horse Hilda has), while I packed up and headed for the airport.  An easy flight and then the slightly long drive home from BWI, but in time for yummy pasta dinner with Henry.  Unfortunately both the Packers and the Colts lost their championship games so the Superbowl will be Seahawks vs Patriots.