Maryland 5* Recap: Part 2

Saturday was The Day, also known as Cross Country Day. I hooked up with Amanda and Michelle to venture up to Bartville for the morning where I bought… exactly nothing. Yeah, I don’t know who I am either. I think because I’m pretty well happy with all my tack (except bits, omg, don’t get me started….) so while it was fun to touch all the things, my wallet thought it was equally fun to walk out empty handed. We ventured into Oxford in search of rain jackets only to find the Durbarry outlet closed up despite my best tries to just… will myself through the glass front door. They might still have the imprint of my face.

Amanda’s friends took us through a back way on our way back to the stall area so we got to pass all the race barns and their really cool setups. Take horse girls anywhere, watch us plaster our faces to windows. We dropped off a few things at the stalls, said hi to La Russe and Mocha and headed out to the XC course by way of the vendors. I ended up with a single greeting card (SERIOUSLY WHO AM I) because it has a PARTY PONY on it, giggled over tiny baby pony-themed items and then we were off to the cross country course.

Our timing was spot on to see the last two 3* horses leave the startbox and we headed for the first water where there were some bleachers. Amanda attracted some more Presto/WTW fans and handed out swag (did I cut like 70 WTW decals on the Cricut the week before? Yes, yes I did. Glad they went to good use) and I stuffed myself with chocolate from Michelle’s bag o’ snacks. I also somehow talked the camera guy into letting Michelle use his little, uh, cord hut? to change her shirt because it was pretty warm at this point. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of us, but was nice enough more or less.

We watched the first few come through the first water, which rode much more backwards than I thought it was going to (my videos have some definite gasps) and then headed through the rest of the course – watched some at the owls, the coffin, the down bank, the rollercoaster, the vee and eventually up to the crab water. We found a good spot and pretty much parked it there for the second half of the starters. At this point, Amanda was getting antsy for MAAAAASON to start, but we had a lot of fun watching some really great rides. I know the online hullabaloo was over the crab, but honestly it rode lovely and the entire complex saw maybe a few stumbles total in the time we were there.

Also watched Ollie literally pick up his horse and put him between the flags

Near the last few horses the sky started to get ominously dark, but we weren’t about to go anywhere until Mason came through. Once he headed out onto course, I pulled up the livestream on my phone so we could watch him until he got to us. I’ll tell you what – the adoration for that horse is infectious. Sure, I thought he was cute before Amanda pulled me in deep, but I didn’t have the full fan club membership. Spend a weekend with Amanda and suddenly you’re as nervous watching him go around as she is. He’s really such a COOL COOL horse that you can’t help but kind of fall in love with him. One of Amanda’s friends took the hilarious time lapse of us watching him on the livestream and the neuroses are out in full bloom.

We watched him come through the water and then Lauren behind him and just like that, the sky opened up torrentially. We were about as far out on the course as you could be, so despite having rain jackets on and taking a sortof tree-covered path back, by the time we got to the barns, I was SOAKING wet. Like, rivulets of water running down my legs inside my jeans. Luckily Claire was ready to go too, so we headed back to our hotel where I took the longest, hottest shower before we headed to dinner. We were headed back, stuffed full and happy when I spotted an Insomnia Cookies… did we need a dozen warm cookies to take back to the hotel? UH YES.

Huckle was also sleepy

Sunday we knew was supposed to be a little colder, but none of us really anticipated like… how much colder we were talking. Thank God I’d brought my good Patagonia jacket because I definitely needed it. I walked out to watch the jogs (and Mason stalk) and was surprised at how few horse kites were flying.

Will was easy to spot all weekend because he wore NEON everywhere

Claire and I acquired waffles and coffee and sat to watch the 3* stadium in one of the Tier 1 tents and tried to stay warm. At the conclusion of that, we wanted to wander back through some vendors, where I tried on a helmet and some boots and still… purchased nothing. I knew I wanted to head to Fair Hill Saddlery’s main store which is just a few miles down the road and Claire needed to go walk La Russe, so I took her truck and popped over to look at bits. They had a whole wall, but alas nothing that was promising for His Highness. They did, however, have an entire area of Breyer horses. Little known fact, my mother is a HUGE Breyer collector. Like, has an entire room for them. She really loves the old vintage and super limited edition runs, but anytime one of us runs across an estate sale/antique store/Breyer section, she has us very well trained to FaceTime her. We ended up looking via FT at every single Breyer in that store before she made her selections. Since she was buying, I decided as the seller’s commission I needed unicorn stickers and a finger unicorn puppet. Am I 5? Maybe.

Literally. It looks like this on both sides.

Once back at the show grounds, I happened to run into Sally Spickard with EN and, potentially more importantly (sorry Sally!), Chinch! I’d been dying for a Chinch photo all week and FINALLY had my chance. We chatted for a moment until she put two and two together that I’m the one who is obsessed with jog outfit commentary and I may or may not have talked myself into a guest jog commentator role at Kentucky. DREAM JOB ACHIEVED.

Claire and I ended up in one of the VIP Chalets at the end of the ring (don’t ask, I don’t know how I did what I did all weekend, ok?) complete with full catered lunch and open bar. Uh, don’t mind if I do. I gorged on crab cakes and mimosas while we watched all the 5* stadium right in front of us. It was seriously incredible and really fun to see Boyd win (really an American win a 5*). There were some seriously cool and fun horses to watch and I loved seeing how everyone rode to the combinations, how they used their voice on course, who rode with a driving rein, the tack selections, etc.

Photos made it appear you were in jail if you were short

At the conclusion, we hung in the box for a little longer, at which point I made friends with the bartender and acquired (another) bottle of prosecco. My talents may not lie in riding, but I do have some guys. We walked out of the box and… immediately ran into Boyd, Oliver and Tim walking back from some kind of press conference. In a split second of prosecco-fueled bravery I squealed asking if we could take a photo. The USEA official with them protested and tried to say no, but the guys were game and ignored her and pulled us in. (USEA lady did, however, remove my drink from the pic, whoops). We look like crazed people, but seriously ZERO REGRETS and that photo was pretty much the pinnacle of our weekend.

We hustled back to the barns where we packed up Claire and La Russe to get them on the road. I was originally supposed to fly back Monday afternoon, but ended up changing my flight to a late nonstop out of Baltimore which made it so she could drop me off at the airport on her way to Middleburg for the night. It broke her drive up and I ended up stuffing myself with nachos at an airport bar and got home late Sunday night.

We also got to go in the ring and take pics

I’m still pretty much squealing over the whole week since it was seriously a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, the way we had access and the things we got to do. I’d love to go again, but definitely needed some sleep to recover after that one. My suitcase uh, may or may not be still sitting half-unpacked in my room. Next adventure, I’m voting somewhere warm this winter… is that Ocala calling my name?

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Maryland 5* Recap: Part 1

I’m finally home and have my life (mostly) back together (hah, there’s a joke, my life is never together). Still coming down from my horse show high after the Maryland 5* though.

Airport selfie trying not to end up repeating the 8th grade

I didn’t have any plans to even go to Maryland until about 6 weeks ago when one of my good friends from college (actually my sorority little sister of all things) texted me that she was going to take her 4 year old to do the YEH and would I want to come along since she had passes all week? Um, YES. Things kept falling into place and pretty soon I had a full week off on the calendar and flights booked. I was originally supposed to leave early Tuesday morning and get to Fair Hill around lunch, in time to meet my friend Claire and help her unload/get settled before she showed on Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately my flights were on Southwest and late Monday night I became one of the victims to their total meltdown. All hope was not lost and I ended up rebooked and getting in early Thursday morning. My trip also happened to coincide with most of the schools’ fall breaks here… meaning at 5’1″ I may or may not have gotten accidentally included in the headcount of an 8th grade trip headed to Washington DC. I (obviously) did not end up at a tour of the Washington Monument, but it was slightly touchy for a moment or two there as I wondered how I’d convince this chaperone I was, in fact, almost 30, not 13.

Felt very fancy

For anyone’s future planning, I flew directly into BWI, took their easy shuttle to the BWI MARC/Amtrak station and took the train (just over an hour) right into Newark, DE. Originally my friend would have picked me up, but since she was now preparing to show, I grabbed an Uber (super easy, college town) and was right at FHI within 15 minutes.

Claire and La Russe and her JRT Huckle

I got there just in time to help my friend tack up for her jumping round and grabbed all the assorted groom things (water bottles, rag, Jack Russell Terrier) and met her down at Saw Mill, where the Young Event Horse stuff was happening. Saw Mill was really nice, but… really far away from everything else. I hate that it was kind of secluded because it didn’t get a lot of spectators, despite there being some really lovely horses.

Looking like pros (Photo from Shannon Brinkman)

Claire and her sweet little mare La Russe jumped around lovely – per her words, it was a great course, that rode a little harder than she’d walked due to the terrain, but everything felt level appropriate. Once she finished up, we headed back up to the main area and caught the last group of dressage tests in the 5* that day – a great decision since we ended up getting to see Leslie Law on Voltaire de Tre and Oliver Townend on Cooley Master Class, two I could watch do dressage for basically ever.

Splash!

One of Claire’s sponsors was there as both a sponsor of the YEH and a vendor and things got a little hectic and we ended up enlisted to go pick a few people up from the airport in Philly. Which would have been no big deal at all… except there was an Eagles game going on. Which happens to be basically next to the football stadium. By the time we made it back to where our hotel was, it was Five Guys and milkshakes for dinner and bedtime.

I found one of the YEH horse’s emotional support pony and wanted to steal him, like, A LOT

Friday, I headed down to Saw Mill to hang out with Amanda and Michelle to watch the YEH 5 year olds jump while Claire hacked La Russe and helped her sponsors out. This proved to be a great decision since due to aforementioned secluded location, the spread of mimosas and food for the owners and volunteers became also open to… me (I had groom credentials for the whole week because of Claire and nobody looked very close to see what credentials you were actually wearing). A day spent looking at really lovely horses, consuming an entire bottle of prosecco (at some point I ditched the orange juice) and hanging out with Amanda, Michelle and Sarah (who is just as sweet and lovely in person!) is pretty damn good to me.

Amanda at her Mason-creeping-best

At some point they hauled my tipsy ass back up to the main area so we could watch Mason (or as I refer to him MAAAAAAYYYson) warm up and do his dressage test. We caught a handful of others and then walked over to the XC course to walk with Jimmy Wofford. We stayed with that group for the start before peeling off to do our own thing and eventually heading back to the barn to take care of La Russe and go to dinner. Walking that course, you KNEW those hills were going to be brutal the next day. My legs were screaming at me that I should try some workouts and fewer tacos before the next time I go on a 5* coursewalk, but whatever.

Don’t know if anyone caught this on the live stream but some course decorator had JOKES and I cackled about this wayyyy too long

We ended up going to dinner with some of the girls Claire knows from back home to celebrate one’s 21st birthday (she was showing in the 5 year olds on her really cute gelding Mocha).

Mocha! (Photo from Hannah Fitch)

We ended up back at our hotel and passed out hard – because Saturday was XC day!

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Jump Start HT, Oct 2021: Cross Country

It’s no secret that turning Archie into a XC horse has been the biggest challenge for me. It’s not really him, it’s just us together. Even when I don’t think I’m nervous, surprise, I’m really good at getting nervous. Archie feels that and goes, “Well shit. If she’s nervous, I think I should go very very slow and not jump things so she stays on.” Kind, but not really… what we want.

Heading off!

Our last three fences at Cobblestone, I finally felt “it” – where it clicked for him and he really took me to the jumps and I rode forward and it was all just wonderful, so I knew coming into XC here I needed to get that feeling right off the bat. He’d been schooling amazing at home (and much bigger) so if we got it, we shouldn’t have any issues with the course.

Xpress Foto

Of course I decided to start the morning off absolutely nauseous with nerves because.. I don’t know. My friend at one point looked at me and asked if I’d eaten anything and apparently the response, “caffeine and prescription pharmaceuticals” was not an appropriate one, so I was drug off to the concession stand and forced to consume a smoothie and half a grilled cheese. It’s funny – I never got nervous to show growing up, but it’s like I become an adult and suddenly a 2’3″ XC course makes me want to barf. We were also trying my new XC prep routine here – headphones in when I start tacking up, put myself in a corner at some point and visualize my ride a few times, get into a ‘zone’. I’m sure I looked crazy sitting in a chair, fully dressed, facing a corner, but whatever works right?

Finally, it was go time. Archie, normally lazy and chill, tried to jig his way the whole way up the horse path to XC warmup, so I finally told him to just GO and thought we’d just use it as a warm up. He cantered off about 10 strides and then thought better of it and came back to his normal, easygoing walk. At least he’s not particularly dedicated to being spicy? We also discovered at Cobblestone that some solid pump-up music on the walk over helps keep me in that ‘go, focus, ride your ass off’ zone, so I was also jamming the whole way over. (Side note, is this a playlist anyone else wants lol? I have spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting it)

The expressions here crack me up

My coach met us in warmup and Archie was immediately awake and ready to go – we ended up just jumping our vertical, oxer and coop twice and being so happy with it, just going on that. Big difference than our warmups earlier this year where I had to jump over and over because I wouldn’t go forward enough and kept pulling. Nothing like nailing your warmup to make you confident leaving the startbox.

I haven’t worn a watch all year because that’s not my focus at all right now so I didn’t even know what speed/time fault times were. My only focus was each fence as it came and going an appropriate pace. I also tried keeping him moving and busy versus standing in the box (thanks Ride iQ office hours) to keep his brain engaged. He left the box hunting down the first fence and popped over easily.

“LEMME AT EM”

From here we crossed the road and turned right to a rolltop set on a slight hill. I figured if anything would be a little sketchy early on it might be this – leaving warm up, the downhill side was towards warmup and open, but to my (happy) surprise, he absolutely took me to it – to the point I was trying to remind him he DID know what a half halt was and if he could listen, that would be great. After two we were supposed to go through the fenceline and swing a right to a coop. No problem… except I was already so in the zone I went through the first fence opening… not the marked second one. Oops. I realized my error when I emerged between the two Hagyard vet trailers (and probably gave the poor girl climbing out of the truck a heart attack). I had a split second of ‘fuckfuckfuck’ before I saw the ropes end and figured out how to get back to my fence from there. It gave us a less than ideal approach, but I just sat up, put Archie on the fence and rode and he was like “gotta slice across this? SURE MOM!” Here is where I went, HOT DAMN I HAVE A XC HORSE. It’s also where I realized I might need a different XC bit…

All good, we’ll just jump it angled

Four was downhill to a little fan palisade. We’d jumped a bigger one at Cobblestone without problems, so I wasn’t worried about the fence, but I could have done without the “I DONT HALF HALT I FLY FAST I AM ARCHIE” attitude we had going. Needless to say, it was not an issue and we cruised from there to a little bench. Six was a really fun steeplechase brush. I didn’t think it would be an issue by this point, but he hadn’t seen brush before, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. He got a little tap one or two out and barely flicked an ear back at me like, “Oh that? Whatever!” I’m pretty sure I let out a huge whoop here and it might have included a “FUCK YEAH” oops.

THE MOST FUN

Seven was a rolltop up the hill to eight – a water option. The water entrance was a little sketchy so we picked the option. This was the only place on the entire course I felt him back off even the smallest amount. The fence was a raised log stack downhill in the trees jumping into a narrow path and he questioned me for a half-second, I clucked him forward and he proceeded to jump the hell out of it. We’ll take it. At this point we were three from home and I was psyched.

Three from home!

I chatter incessantly through my courses – partly to keep myself breathing, partly just… because? Well, apparently on XC I YELL. One of our barn mates was actually announcing and he said they could hear me essentially through the entire course. Which I mostly find hilarious, but uh, sorry for anyone I yelled at?

Is that… Archie… with his ears up?!

The last three fences were all uphill – a cute table to a grey box and finish over a brown stepped table/fandango. At this point, Archie was picking his own speed and I was basically just there to point him at the right fence. It felt awesome though; I could have picked any fence out there and he would have jumped it. It’s really the first time I felt him absolutely lock into fences and take me there for a full course. He did it a little at our home schooling HT this summer on the back half, but here he was like “I KNOW THIS GAME!”

“I GO FAST” – Archie (Photo @skipperdoodlefritz)

We jumped the last three clear and immediately after finishing I was just an absolute emotional mess. The joy from finally, FINALLY making it happen and it all coming together, knowing I did this, the horse who got eliminated on XC just a few months ago going clear with total confidence. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t have wanted to deal with Archie, but I always (well, almost, when I wasn’t cursing him out HAH) thought if we could just channel that attitude in the right direction he was going to be awesome. I’m so proud of him, he is not the same horse he was when he arrived a year ago and I know we’re just getting started.

New favorite pic thanks to JJ

When results went up, I originally had almost 8 speed faults – which would have meant I did almost 425mpm the entire course. I mean, we were fast but… surely not THAT fast. About 15 minutes later, they changed my time to a much more realistic 3:48 – only one second under speed fault time, but not 425mpm fast. I guess I have to be grateful for my little ‘getting lost’ detour from 2 to 3?

He’s so proud of himself

When all was said and done, we ended up 9th out of 16 and I couldn’t be happier. We brought home a big beautiful silver ribbon (which Archie had 0 interest in posing with) and the most perfect end to our season.

JOY
Don’t ask me why he looks 16.2 here

He’ll get some time off while I go to the Maryland 5 Star this week and then winter dressage boot camp starts! Here we come BN!

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Jump Start HT, Oct 2021: Dressage and SJ

Love this pic from Xpress Foto

This past weekend we went down to the Kentucky Horse Park (aka my Disney World) for Jump Start Horse Trial. By the time all was said and done, we had 13 with my barn there showing in everything from Intermediate to Starter. Needless to say, it was a full weekend and thank god for golf carts.

My friend picked up Archie and I on Friday afternoon and we were on the road by 2:15pm. With traffic and construction, we got there a little after 6pm and the unpacking/getting our lives together started. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what we did all evening, but I know suddenly it was almost 10pm, dark and we were starving. What happened in all that time? Literally no idea. One of the ladies from the barn ran out and picked up dinner and we ended up eating a pizza in the barn aisle by headlamp and stall light. Typical horse show night to say the least.

Photo @skipperdoodlefritz

Saturday morning, our barn’s rides started at 8:30 and I rode dressage at 9:30am. I managed to stay clean (a true miracle) and we started the walk down to the rings. If you’re not familiar with KHP, it’s about a solid 10 minute walk down, depending on how pumped your horse is to go do dressage. Archie was pretty chill, all things considered. He had one moment of ‘I’d like to jig in place’ but settled right down. We walked in the warmup for a bit to make sure all the brain parts were installed and got to warming up. He felt absolutely incredible in warmup – his trot was totally on it and we had some of the best canter work we’ve had. I headed over to ride my test and for whatever reason, as soon as he got near the arena, all his nice relaxed flow just evaporated. I tried to trot around and get him re-settled in the time I had before going down centerline, but it never really happened. He went in tight and tense and all I could do was try to coax the best out of him. Ironically, he settled in the first canter circle and we ended up with two nice canters in the test, along with some lovely free walk work (we’ve been working on it!) In the end, it was a 40.3, which put us in 13th of 17 after dressage. I wasn’t thrilled, but I know if we can put the walk and canter from this test with the trot from our recent work, there might just be a fancy little dressage horse in there.

Red pony don’t care bout these

We show jumped early Saturday afternoon, leaving me with only a small bit of time to change and try to eat something. Luckily that ring was closer so I was able to watch some higher rounds ride the course, walk and still have plenty of time to warm up. As soon as we went into warm up (it was fairly empty, I wouldn’t do this in a crowded ring) and walked around, I went for a short forward gallop around. When my trainer got there, we did each fence once off each lead and he was so on it and ready, that was all he needed.

Cute tho

As soon as we went into the ring, I felt him really light up (in a good-Archie-way, not a wild-gonna-die way). I’m telling you, that horse LOVES an audience. Showoff. He felt absolutely fantastic the entire way around and it was a bold, forward course. We had a rail at 4, which was a left turn off the back rail, from a lazy hind foot. It was probably the one fence set a little soft and he just got lazy and didn’t care. Even with the rail, I was thrilled with the round. It was one of the best we’ve had, in a big ring with a lot of atmosphere and a tight course. Even with the rail we moved up to 12th going into XC the next morning.

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Cobblestone Revel Run HT August 2021

The weekend of my birthday, seven of us (well seven riders, eight horses, one mom, one barn mate along for the adventure) headed up to Michigan for Cobblestone HT at their new Revel Run facility. RR was formerly a golf course turned into an eventing venue, meaning it’s every equestrian’s dream come true. It was about a 4 hour drive for us, which honestly wasn’t bad at all.

The majority of the barn was running Modified, Training and Novice, who did dressage and SJ on Friday and XC Saturday, but the two of us running BN and Starter went up together since we did Dressage and XC Saturday and show jumped Sunday.

Friday was full of watching everyone show jump, walking courses and unloading. The facility is still new, so they have temp stalls and it required some toting of things around. Everyone had great rides, Archie got a bath, off to dinner we went.

I forgot appropriate horse bath shoes…

Saturday my dressage ride time wasn’t until almost 11am, but we were there bright and early to watch the earlier XC rides and braid. First time officially braiding my own horse for a show and I was downright pleased with how they came out. Magic combo of Spot On braiding wax and Quick Knots for the win. I’m still slow AF because my horse has more hair than any other in the barn, but at least this helped.

We eventually headed down to dressage warm up and rings and Kristen actually came to watch and met us over there! She was super helpful making sure I looked presentable too – I need to find a horse show mom I can hire apparently. Archie was a little inconsistent to start in warm up, but my coach came down between XC rides to help warm us up before she had to hurry back and by the time she left, he felt great.

Our test was fine – nothing to be unhappy about, but I definitely let some nerves creep in and pulled and pulled and pulled. It’s my go-to subconscious nervous move to slow my horse WAY down (something Archie never argues with) and it’s totally apparent in the video later. We were moving in practically slow motion and that had us sitting 7th out of 15 after dressage on a 39.8.

We didn’t run XC until LATE Saturday – like after 5pm late. By the time we got out there, we’d been able to see most everyone else ride and I was feeling great. We got into the warm up and any forward I’d had just.. evaporated. My coach worked with me and got us to a point where we were easily jumping all the fences in warm up, but it should have been a warning flag.

So slow

A warning for what? Well, leaving in startbox in ABSOLUTELY NO HURRY WHATSOEVER. We were fine over jumps 1 and 2, despite our absolutely lackadaisical pace, but when we got to 3 (a really straightforward log stack), Archie was so behind my leg, he just opted out. I represented and he jumped it easily and really tried to get him up before 4 without screwing with the balance. Four went fine and then we came around a semi-sharp corner to five, a small but bright blue house with cutouts. He was behind my leg and I just… gave up going to it and we had a stop. I let myself get flustered and chose an absolutely horrendous track for representation and Archie (rightfully) said no again. Finally, I took a deep breath, circled around, got the horse in front of my leg and over and off we went. Six and seven were two of the bigger fences on course, but posed absolutely no problems.

Then came the water – it was unflagged for Starter, but he needed the experience of going in. We walked up confidently and… he said, “no thanks.” A small disagreement ensued because, um, no sir, that’s not an acceptable answer. Once we were in, he was fine and I was finally (!) fired up. I just wanted to get through the flags and home at this point: we WERE finishing. Apparently this was the ride he’d needed all weekend, and the last four fences rode beautifully. We were both sweaty messes, honestly embarrassingly so for Starter, but we’d finally conquered that demon. Thank God for sweet Kristen who grabbed Archie to keep him walking so I could catch my breath and not pass out.

Sunday, both my barnmate in the BN and I rode fairly early so we could get out of there. My coach had left already, but left me (and the third barnmate who stayed to support) strict instructions. I decided to walk over to the ring a little early (it was about a 10 minute walk from the barns) by myself – and a pump up playlist of Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie. Apologies to the children/families who walked by.. oops.

It worked and by the time I was over near warm up, we had game faces on and were here to get some shit done. The next step of the plan was, before we did any other warm ups, to go for a short gallop. Not a stadium canter. A GALLOP. This worked well at Cobblestone, where warm up for stadium was actually set on the XC course (since they’d all run the day before). When Archie and I came back to warm up, he was in front of my leg, moving forward and doing a much better pace than the day before. I jumped a handful of warm up fences and… waited. The ring that had been running 15 minutes ahead when I walked up had now somehow gone to 10 behind? We waited until I was in the hole, at which point I jumped my oxer and vertical each once again and off we went.

As soon as we got in and the bell rang, I went and did a BIG canter loop around the ring, really making sure he was in front of my leg. Once we headed to the first fence, I felt totally ready – we had this. And we did. I gave him one awful distance to the out of a five stride line across the diagonal, but he jumped it cleanly and we finished double clear.

While the score is nothing to brag about (um triple digits), the fact that it’s a number, not a letter and there was absolute improvement from our last time out meant I was so pleased with the trip. It’s an absolutely gorgeous facility, the footing was PERFECT the entire weekend, the people were wonderful and it gave us a chance to go do the thing somewhere new. We’ll definitely be back!

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Father’s Day Schooling HT: June 2021

Yeah, I’m behind seeing as this happened um. Two three months ago.

In my defense, I was hoping to get some photos so I waited and then photos never materialized and then I forgot and… well, here we are. Still writing it down to have to look back on.

Instead you get… this

My barn puts on two schooling HT per year and the spring/summer one is always Father’s Day weekend. We’d had our less than ideal outing to IEA, but had redeemed ourselves in the spring Tim Bourke clinic, so I felt ready (and determined) to go in and get it done.

Spoiler alert: we got it done.

Hi friends, bye friends!

I won’t bore you with the details of riding BN A because it’s just… not interesting, but it was major improvement from previous schooling shows and IEA and we were sitting on a 32.2 to lead Starter (out of 8) after dressage. I’d love to tell you all about our stadium round, but I remember next to none of it. I do know I buried the poor horse at the in to a line and he somehow jumped from essentially underneath but left it up.

The owls are where I try to murder us

I was feeling great going into XC – we were at home, we’d been schooling BN, there was nothing out there he couldn’t pop over easily. We left the startbox and fence 1 (a tiny log) was RIGHTTHERE. I think we actually trotted it because it was so close. Totally fine and then we were cruising. We did the first big loop without any issues, around the back (where Archie was CONVINCED he was jumping the ditch and I actually had to pull him off of it), down the bank, into the water jump field and back towards startbox. Around fence 4, things seemed to ‘click’ and suddenly I could feel him looking for the flags, searching for the next fence. It was an awesome feeling and one I’ve been waiting on from him.

The moment it all clicked.. and he took off on me LOL

I later actually joked I’m the one person who is THRILLED when my horse tries to run away with me on XC. We came through the finish flags having jumped clear and since I didn’t wear a watch, I could only hope, without any time. Sure enough, there it was – Archie’s first win (my first event win!) and my first FODS at a HT. Did I actually tear up? Maybe.

Arch wasn’t too excited to pose with his blue ribbon (it was dinnertime by now), but he got lots of cookies and scratches. It solidified that he’s here to stay and felt like finally, FINALLY some of our work was really paying off.

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IEA HT 2021: XC Day

Behind again, so let’s knock out IEA HT XC (aka the last day of the longest horse show ever). I was something like the seventh to last ride of the weekend. If you ever needed motivation to get your shit together and move up to BN, going XC at 4pm on Sunday will do it.

Hard to tell, but Sunday he was literally using the door to hold up his head

Despite having LITERALLY ALL DAY to get ready, I somehow ended up running short on time. Luckily there were still a few of the juniors around who were done and they helped get me put together to head on over to warm up. I was feeling super ready after the day before and honestly in hindsight, a little cocky. With the number of eliminations in stadium the day before, I was already thinking about ribbons and BN move ups and just being generally a mental asshole.

On my way I had no fewer than three people stop and tell me things like, “OMG everyone is falling off at 5!” or “Sooo many eliminations already! 5 is super spooky!” which honestly was… not helpful. I know everyone was trying to be helpful, but all it did was make me question my plan and my ride.

We got over to warm up, I’ve got 20+ minutes until my ride time, I pick up a trot and not three strides later, they’re yelling asking if I’m ready to go. Uh, NO?! I try to mentally put myself back, but now I’m questioning AND a little frazzled. Trainer tells me to snap out of it and go jump around. Archie proceeds to warm up quite lovely. He’s a little sticky/behind my leg to the BN rolltop the first time, but jumps it lovely the second (this should have been a warning flag, but instead I was like, “Oh he was perfect the second time!”) During this time, start has asked me twice more if I’m ready to go (keep in mind: still 5-10 minutes out from my time). Finally, I answer that yes, I’m ready to go.

Into the startbox and out to the first fence we go. Pick up a canter and feel like I’m riding forward, but in hindsight, he was sticky leaving his new BFFs in warm up and needed a healthy tap or two. Instead, I ride up like I’m out for a Sunday hack and surprise, surprise, Archie stops. Deep breath. Regroup. Reapproach, tap him, up and over we go. “Alright,” I think, “we’ve got that out of the way. Now we’re away from everyone and going.”

Well, we make it another 100 meters where there’s a super gentle slope and some sand on the ground. Archie says, “NOPE. Not doing that. I’m done. This is STUPID, you are STUPID, I am GOING HOME.”

We proceed to have a fight ON THE FLAT about trotting forward. Now I’m just annoyed. Fence two comes up and it’s the world’s tiniest log. Archie skids to a sort-of halt at it, I say, “THE FUCK YOU ARE,” smack him and he pops over it. Jumping from a standstill/sortof walk: not recommended, but this thing was like 20″ tall so I DON’T EVEN CARE. Forget annoyed, now I’m pissed.

Around the corner to three. We knew he’d probably try to run out left here (there’s a BN jump to our right) so I’ve got my stick in my left hand and… he runs out right. Basically INTO the BN fence. I turn him, give him approximately two stride lengths and tell him to get his ass over it, to which he willingly pops over. From there, we go through a fairly narrow path in a grove of trees to a hanging log at the edge. He finally feels like maybe he’s understanding this game and it jumps without a problem. Five was the Fence Everyone Was Talking About. It was set with the water to your left and warm up to your right and was naturally a slightly spookier looking fence.

Am I now 400lbs? Apparently.

I ride like hell to it until like.. two strides out and I don’t know if it’s nerves, mental state, exhaustion, frustration… I just turn into a puddle and stop riding. Surprise, surprise, Archie stops and ta-da, my weekend is over. In hindsight, if I’d just ridden to that fence, he would have jumped it.

From last year, but same fence

I was definitely disappointed leaving the course, but more in myself for letting my emotional brain take over my logistical/rational side. By the time I got back to the barns, a friend handed me a drink (God bless eventers), I untacked, cooled off (literally cooled off, it was so hot) and started trying to get packed up. My very sweet barnmate had waited for us to haul us home so I’m hustling trying to get everything together.

Archie then decides that, nahhh, he doesn’t load anymore.

I strongly consider leaving him at the Horse Park at this point. “Free to any marginally acceptable home.” Maybe just set him free.

A local trainer works some magic with the tiny terrorist and gets him on the godforsaken trailer and we’re finally, FINALLY headed home.

It takes me two days to even go to the barn again. I’m frustrated, ready to sell the stupid horse, wondering why I do this sport. Luckily, time is a good filter and within a few days, I can tell that’s not the answer. The answer is the horse is still green XC, he went to a huge offsite show, it was day 4, and his rider mentally checked out. My trainer reassures me if I’d just ridden to 5, he was starting to get the hang of it and probably would have at least jumped around a few more and that we’ve made considerable progress over the last few months.

Haven’t set him free yet

And that’s the wrap up of IEA weekend. It didn’t end how I would have liked it to, but when I look back, I’m still thrilled with Saturday, had a great time and learned a lot. Archie held himself together at his first HT for the most part, he was never bothered by the 10 billion cicadas and I didn’t fall off a single time. We made it around a hard stadium course and looking back, the XC course was kind of a mess for all the Starter divisions. In the end, of those of us who made it to the startbox, there were 5 rider falls, 10 eliminations and 3 retirements.

The last 10 months with Archie have been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced with a horse, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet. That XC course exposed he’s still green and needs miles – particularly miles off the property. We’ve formulated a plan for the next few months and since then, I’ve buckled down to get it done. It’s already paying off (more on that soon!) and I’m happy to say, I have not left him on the side of any roads or set him free.

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IEA HT 2021: Dressage & Stadium

Saturday we finally showed – at almost 4pm. I spent the morning helping in the dressage rings (there were three running simultaneously which was… chaotic) before heading back to the barn to start getting ready. Much of my barn had already ridden dressage and a fair number had already show jumped or were getting ready for it. Fun stuff being the solo Starter pair in the group. It was hot and I didn’t want to take too much out of already-inclined-to-be-lazy Archie (especially knowing we had to SJ after), but I also needed to remind him (as I do daily) that he is not made up of 2x4s and is, in fact, capable of bending. Of course I rode dressage at nearly the exact time we had three BN riders show jumping so I was flying solo here. We’d known this was more than likely to happen and had talked through my warm up game plan already, so it wasn’t particularly panic-inducing.

Dressage ring in gate-ing with my friend Carl Cicada

In fact, warming up Archie felt fantastic. I had enough horse, he was mostly bending and his canter felt great. Years and years ago showing breed show stuff my trainer was all about “Don’t try to fix or change anything in the warm up. You’ve done the work at home, you can’t change it now,” which I think is still great advice and one I take to heart. It pains me a little to see people trying to get the work done in the warm up – that’s not the place.

As we headed to our ring (ring 2 aka the ring in the middle of two others), I couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off my face. After five recognized scratches, three horses and five years of work, I was finally, FINALLY riding down centerline. On my very own horse.

ALL THE FEELS

Our test was… our test? I don’t know what all to say about it honestly. We did the right things in the right places at more or less the right speed with some type of connection more or less, which was all I could ask for. I’m not Michael Jung, my horse isn’t Valegro and it’s BN A which is an extremely boring test. Not saying I’m great at it, but I can suck and still objectively say it’s boring.

WE MADE IT MA

We had two or three moments that stand out, mainly one in our free walk where we were coming across the diagonal and a horse happened to be warming up right outside our ring (there was a very small amount of space between rings). Archie, who had been stretching nicely, went HELLO WHO ARE YOU WHY ARE YOU IN MY SPACE GTFO. Lovely. The other moment was pure rider error. With three rings going, rings 1 and 3 had bells and I had a whistle. In the middle of my test, I hear a bell. And proceed to completely fucking panic for about 3 seconds trying to figure out what I’d done wrong until my sane brain kicked in and remembered that wasn’t my ring. Needless to say, Archie felt me go WTFWTFWTFWTF OMG OMG WTF up there and lost his own focus and connection. Sorry dude.

In the end, we finished with a 37.5. Not great, but for my admittedly non-dressaging halter bred QH at his very first HT in the middle of an absolutely chaotic space? It might as well have been a 27.

No dressage pics so you get stadium (xpressfoto)

I went back to the barn to chill and take my time to change tack and headed to stadium warmup. This time (thank God), my trainer was around. About six horses out, we jumped a little and feeling great, went on in.

xpressfoto

Plenty of people were having issues with this course (I’d later find out 30% of my division was eliminated in stadium…), but Archie’s strongest phase right now is stadium so I was determined to have a good ride. The first fence was straight across the short side of the ring and enough people had stops at it I rode the hell out of it which was probably slightly ridiculous looking at 2’3″ish. Two rode well and was a bending line to three, set right on the rail where everyone was sitting/standing. A combination of not having Archie’s shoulders straight (hi rider error) and him not seeing everyone until the last stride or two and going WHO DOSE PEOPLE meant we had a runout right.

Fence of distraction (xpressfoto)

I circled around, swapped my crop to the right (you know… where it should have been the whole time) and rode him growling, “JUMP THE FUCKING JUMP OR DIE.” And pretty much the rest of the course like that too.

Xpressfoto

We finished the rest clear and I was so proud of this little horse. It was not an easy course for starter and it was late enough in the day that there were plenty of people watching and horses hand grazing.

Crying with happiness for real (xpressfoto)

That was a wrap for the night, showing wise. I was absolutely beaming. Party pony had handled day 1 like a champ and now it was party-Holly time. By which I mean, stuff my face with all the food at our DIY competitor’s party, drink a single drink, laugh until way too late and pass the f out until 6am. That’s a good day to me.

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Catching Up & IEA HT 2021: The Beginning

Yesterday evening I realized I’ve done something horsey (and time consuming) every single weekend for going on seven weeks in a row. Oh. No wonder I’m exhausted, my life is in semi-shambles and I’m living out of laundry baskets (clean… I… think?). How do people do this all the time?!

How I feel rn

Needless to say, there’s a lot to catch up on here. The highlights are on Instagram, but I love having the longer form posts to look back on, so there may be some retroactive out of date things coming up. Since we left off, I’ve taken some lessons, schooled XC, rode CobJockey’s Connor, acquired a bike (thanks Jen!), went to Archie’s first sanctioned HT and ended up in a last minute Tim Bourke clinic. I… think that’s everything? Honestly, who knows.

Our lessons and schooling leading up to IEA HT were great. Super progress, Archie was basically loping around like, “I got this mom!” I conquered the stupid starter slatted table at home that I’ve had a mental block over for like, 8 months. We dressaged. Off to the Horse Park we went on Thursday morning (in the rain), despite my not showing until late Saturday.

Cannot be bothered with this log anymore I guess?

It was so much fun to have so many of the barn there – between all of us, we had something like 17 horses across the regular HT divisions and the Classic 3 Days. Archie got settled, we watched everyone jog for the three day and I went off to Jen’s to spend the night, with a pit stop to ride Connor!

Also adorable and v good at posing

He is so much fun and Jen has done a great job with him. She asked if I wanted to get on and I wasn’t about to turn down a ride. Bareback and new pony makes me sound a lot braver than I am, but the truth is Connor is so well behaved and trained (and the damn Brockamp pad is so comfortable) it wasn’t nerve inducing one bit. I didn’t want to do too much on him, seeing as it was already getting later and I was his third rider of the evening, but once I was told to shorten my reins like 4′ we were off. Some trot, a little canter, played with a tiny bit of his lateral work – man, I felt spoiled riding such a confirmed dressage pony! Also, very jealous when hacking my very not-confirmed pony 24 hours later.

Mexican food and margaritas followed (aka my love language all in one, ponies and mexican food) although we rode bikes to dinner which was slightly questionable at a few moments seeing as I hadn’t been on a bike in… twelve? years. Only ran into one wall though, so there’s a win, and apparently ride/steer better post-margarita, which is an interesting data point to think about for my dressage…

The three of us spent basically the entire evening discussing ponies and tech stuff (so, like, my only two interests in life?) before I finally sent myself to bed knowing I had an early alarm clock. I’m so grateful for their generosity (did I mention they also gave me said bike after I mentioned I’ve been trying to buy one for a year?) and it was basically a perfect way to kick off a horse show weekend.

Settled in and looking adorable

Since I had the World’s Worst Ride Times (Dressage Saturday at 3:53pm, SJ Saturday at 6:18pm and XC Sunday at 4:10pm…) and a barnmate was the volunteer coordinator, I ended up helping out with Steeplechase practice Friday for the 3 Day competitors. It ran like a mini-clinic with Dorothy Crowell and I learned so much. It was a ton of fun too and I got to hear lots of fun stories from Dorothy and I mean, talk about being starstruck. I finally snuck out around 3pm to go ride my own horse (who at this point was thinking horse trials were GREAT, hang out and eat all day?!)

Greatest compliment of my life

Archie was a little distracted and slightly up (completely understandable) so we hacked over to the indoor to school and put all our marbles back in. Within just a few minutes, he realized what this game was and was such a grown up I could not have been prouder. I figured we’d go hack for a bit to cool off, semi-forgetting this was Cicada Country. Back on the roads & tracks there were places they were so loud it felt like a jet was overhead. One of the wildest things I’ve ever experienced. By day two, we were used to just throwing them off of us and (mostly) no longer did the cicada dance every time one landed on us. (Fun fact: they make a fun scream when you grab their wings…)

Spotted on our way to coursewalk

We finished the evening doing some course walks and having dinner with barn mates. We got super lucky and all of our campers/trailers ended up being grouped so we spent a considerable amount of time eating, drinking and generally being merry.

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May 2021 Schooling Show Recap

My barn does nearly monthly schooling shows throughout show season. They’re super useful because my trainer sets legit courses and brings in “R” and “r” judges who also regularly judge at recognized USEA events in our area. Add in they’re at home (no hauling!) and extremely affordable – it’s a great way to get some atmosphere and school before heading to recognized events.

This might be my new favorite photo of Archie, where he does not want to wear his bonnet and gives me a look of absolute murder.

Our second of the season was Saturday, so I signed up to do a Green as Grass (18″/crossrails) round and another at Starter. We’ve consistently been jumping Starter height at home (or even BN!), but I knew with some additional atmosphere, Archie could be a little worked up and figured a quick jaunt around the small stuff would be confidence building for both of us.

He did greet my car Saturday morning like this and I almost cried not gonna lie

We had early ride times and he was definitely a little ‘up’ (…for Archie. Being up means we walked around really fast snorting for like a solid 3 minutes before realizing that was a lot of work) so I tried to give him a nice, relaxed warmup and went for a long walk around the farm away from the busyness as much as possible. By the time we went down centerline, he was about as relaxed as I felt I was going to get him that morning. He held it together for 97% of the test and it was definitely one of the best we’ve had (of a sample size of like 4 but whatever).

He had one sassy moment in our first canter circle where he “bucked” (nobody tell him he can’t actually buck very well), I trotted too soon after the walk work (brain fart) and he got a little antsy in our second trot circle with a few strides where he broke to the canter, but other than those, I was honestly so proud and happy of the little guy. Our trot work was worlds better than the last time we did this test and almost as good as its been in lessons, our canter work was some of the absolute best canter we’ve had and he even *drumroll* had his ears up for most of my test. Showoff wants an audience apparently.

Can you spot the “buck”?

I was absolutely gleeful with a 35 (a 65% for you dressage people). A 35 with two big mistakes that are easy to resolve? I’ll take that all day. Those are easy points to pick back up, plus some smaller ones (ahem, where did that nice square halt disappear to Archie?) and for a horse who has been doing dressage really only since January.

Our stadium rounds were great (minus the moment he decided to jump a crossrail like it was 2’6″… wtf dude and deciding to start our Starter round on the wrong lead despite having auto changes) – double clears and the one at Starter he was absolutely fantastic. Even when I didn’t see a distance and shoved an extra stride in down the outside line, oops. There was a really tight rollback and he said, “game on” and got it done like it was a piece of cake.

I shoved an extra stride in here and made my horse jump straight up but he’s a saint so

We took our nice jaunt around the 18″ division XC fences and he was great, although I expected nothing less seeing as we walk over most of those jumps multiple times a week on hacks. (We ended up 2nd so we did bring home a pretty ribbon) Our Starter round started fine – popped over a little log we schooled a few weeks ago, we were coming to a little slatted table and all of a sudden… the front of my horse disappeared out from under me. Somehow Arch had tripped (?) and he fell hard – my trainer happened to be almost right there jump judging and she said his face was practically on the ground. I slid off right over his head and landed basically sitting down. It was an incredibly slow motion, gentle fall and I landed still holding his reins. Archie stared at me in confusion for a minute, wondering what the hell I was doing down there. I was (and am) completely fine – I’ve fallen harder tripping over stuff on my own feet, but wanted to make sure he was okay. He had grass on his legs, but seemed to be no worse for wear. Honestly nobody knows how he did it – the ground wasn’t slick, he doesn’t wear shoes, nobody could find a hole or anything, so we’ve just chalked it up to a freak ‘forgot I had four legs’ kinda thing. I got back on (schooling shows woohoo) and jumped around a few fences in warmup and then between divisions, popped over a few small XC fences just to end on a positive note.

I went out and checked him yesterday and he’s totally fine, not a bump or bruise, so it doesn’t seem to have done any damage. We went for a nice long walk/trot hack before he got rinsed off and stuffed with more cookies.

It wasn’t the ending I really wanted, but that’s horses and life – and I’m glad it happened at home vs at a bigger (more expensive) venue. This upcoming weekend we’ll head to the Hoosier Horse Park to school XC (and peek in on Jen and Karen showing at the IDS show!), the weekend after Sharon White will be here for a clinic and then a few weeks later, we’re entered to go down to show at IEA Horse Trials! Kicking off a busy summer and I’m excited to see how everything goes with the PartyPony!

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