Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eyeballs? Take two, they're small!

What do eyeballs have to do with riding? Not a thing, but it the saying struck me as being so funny that I just had to share it. Tonight as the trick-or-treaters came to the door, my husband answered with our bowl of candy, saying, "Eyeballs? Take two, they're small!" to the kids. We found this so very amusing since the responses varied from, "Oooh, cool!" to "Are they REEEEEAL?" Apparently, chocolates covered in eyeball-looking foil for Halloween are all the rage... and just think of how much fun you can have asking kids if they'd like an eyeball!

Back to the point of this blog - riding. Life got away from me this week and I was only able to make it out on Thursday. We had a nice ride, and Saga was surprisingly mellow given how long he'd been in his stall (it's still muddy) and that there were four other horses in the arena. He didn't even try any head tosses! I was having a really hard time getting him off my right leg - we eventually got it, but it was tough. Because I figured out that I'm not keeping much weight in my right stirrup, I decided to do some work without stirrups. To the left, I was fine at the trot, but to the right, I kept sliding off to the left. This makes sense if I'm not sitting even. I'm hoping that I can talk FuzzyPony into doing some longe stuff with me. I need to get my position back!

Today I had a lovely ride and actually got to ride in the outdoor and around the outside of the arenas. Since we're going foxhunting next weekend, I decided to do some interval training work. We started off in the outdoor with a lot of walking and then a long trot on a loose rein. We took a break and then did a bit of canter, but I was concerned because the footing in the outdoor was deep in places and really chunky in others, so I decided to go ride out of the arena. We did a super long trot set, probably 8-10 minutes, where I alternated between two-point and posting trot. We popped over a few trot poles and a tiny X. Saga was really tired at the end of that trot set, and I could feel it in my legs, so we took another walk break.

A little unbalanced in the trot going downhill, but soft and listening to me.

We finished with a three-ish minute canter set, both directions. FuzzyPony very kindly took pictures of us and got some really fantastic ones.

Ignore Saga in this picture and focus on the tips of Taran's adorably fuzzy ears that frame this so perfectly!

Nice uphill left lead canter. I tried really hard on this ride to keep my lower leg forward and under me. Not too bad here.

Right lead canter goign downhill. He's still pretty balanced but reaching out in front. I'm sitting up a litte here to balance him as well.

More right lead canter downhill. I love this shot because he's cantering past the resident sheep without batting an eye. Such a good boy!

Coming back uphill on the right lead. My leg has slipped a bit but I like the way this shot looks.

I was really pleased with how the ride went. Riding out of the arena means that we got some work on uneven ground, and he kept his balance really quite well. He was rateable and steady up to the little X and we got very nice spots each time. He's still hard to balance when he gets tired, but I think that if we keep doing this sort of thing it will be much easier as he gets stronger and I become better able to rate him.

Aren't Taran and Saga so handsome? And thanks FuzzyPony for taking all the pictures!

Monday, October 26, 2009

So much fun, it should be illegal! (TM)

(TM) Today's blog title brought to you courtesy of Daun over at the Eventing Percheron.

This weekend we went foxhunting at Independence Foxhounds. OMG, it was SO MUCH FUN! If you haven't been hunting (on a safe, sane hunt horse), YOU MUST TRY IT. I absolutely cannot wait to go again!

The hunt is near Brenham, TX, about 2.5 hours from our barn, so we headed over Friday night so that we could be there in time for the 9 a.m. start Saturday morning. Some friends of ours, D & T, who are also riders, had invited us to meet them and stay overnight at their property, which is also near Brenham. We rolled in around 9:30 p.m. and enjoyed some drinks and snacks and several hours of great company Friday evening.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early, loaded up the horses, and headed over to the hunt. We arrived a bit later than we had intended and scrambled a bit to sign waivers, pay the capping fee, and groom and tack. I agonized over using my Wintec AP saddle on Saga, which doesn't fit him well at all but is grippy and more designed for jumping, or using my dressage saddle which fits him great but is made of ultra-slick French bridle leather and doesn't do as well for jumping. I decided that I'd be better off in the AP even if it meant that Saga needed a few days off for his back, so I padded him up and off we went. My husband was on Reddums, who was feeling exceedingly feisty.

We met up with the leader of second field and she kindly allowed us to join her. We started off taking it pretty easy with some nice forward trotting and a good bit of walking and waiting while the hounds cast for a scent (you'll have to pardon me if I get the terminology wrong, I'm still very new to this). Red was feeling a bit feisty as he kept tossing his head and jerking the reins, but I think my husband had a bit of a tight hold on him. Saga was very good - I did have to continually ask him to be steady and not try to pull out in front, but he didn't jerk me around and throw his head or anything. There were several times when first field went flying by us trying to catch the hounds, and Saga just stood like a rock.

It was a completely different experience than when I'd taken Cash cubbing years ago up in Maryland. He's always been rather antsy in a crowd, and I really wanted to try foxhunting but didn't think it was a good idea... and you know, I was right. I spent three hours having my arms pulled out of their sockets by an absolutely frantic, maniacal horse. It was the first and last time I ever took him hunting.

Anyway, we followed the hounds for a bit through several large fields with grazing cattle, then stood for a while longer and I had the opportunity to chat with R, a lovely dressage and eventer with a beautiful Danish warmblood gelding. As we chatted, we figured out that we had been in the same Beginner Novice division at Pine Hill just a few weeks ago! It turned out that she had been in second place, just before me, after dressage, then had a refusal in stadium, allowing me to move up. It's a small world!

We did a nice canter and trot through yet another field (the fixture for this hunt is about 4000 acres, with one side bordering the Brazos river) and then did quite a lot of waiting while the hounds cast around again for a scent. I was having some technical issues with my equipment, namely that I had put my stirrups on the outside of the saddle flap instead of underneath, and the T keeper on the Wintec webbers was rubbing right against my calf (and I have a lovely set of bruises to prove it!). I almost hopped off to fix them but they rounded up the hounds at that point and then went to cast them off at a new location, so I just sort of dealt with it.

At that point one of the folks from first field came over and asked us if we wanted to go with first field. I said yes after checking to see if there were options to go around jumps, since I didn't want to be faced with a 3' coop and no alternatives. So, we headed off at a mad hand gallop over to a set of woods where the hounds had gone, then went tearing through the woods.

I should mention that by this time I realized I didn't have nearly the stamina for this that I thought I should. My legs in particular were quite fatigued, although I was having a relatively easy time of keeping Saga at a steady pace by bridging the reins over his neck. As we were hauling ass through the woods, I was really having a hard time with muscle fatigue. Add that to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses and it was very dark in the woods... suddenly I thought the trail went left and Saga thought it went right, and I parted company over his left shoulder. It was a fairly slow fall though, and I managed to avoid falling on a dead branch, although I think Saga's knee hit my left thigh on the way down (I got a huge bruise from something, anyway). I landed in the soft dirt - but not in the mud, thank goodness! - mostly on my feet, reins in hand. I even managed to keep my white shirt clean! Everyone stopped, I assured them I was fine and asked them to go on, but R very kindly stayed behind with me. I stood there for several minutes waiting for my legs to stop shaking (my right leg was visibly trembling) and then got back on. R and I walked and trotted back out of the woods to find the other folks in second field and joined back up with them for the rest of the hunt. My husband stayed with first field and helped set up a line to chase coyote, but they manged to escape in fairly short order into the land adjoining the fixture we were on, at which point we all headed back to the trailers.

That's twice I have come off over Saga's left shoulder in situations where I really shouldn't have. I know my right heel comes up in canter transitions, so I think I simply don't have enough weight in my right stirrup and it's causing me balance issues. It's time to go back to riding without stirrups on a regular basis, apparently.

The other issue is, once again, fitness. I was having a really hard time keeping up - I am just not strong enough. Realistically I'm only riding two or three times a week, and then I'm doing dressage. It's not like I'm doing 2-point for an hour while interval training out in a field of rolling hills, like I should be doing. Saga, while he sweated a good deal more than the horses who do this every weekend, seemed to do fairly well. As he got tired toward the end I had to work harder to keep him together, but he did OK, as did Red. In fact, after we got back to our friend's property after the hunt and turned the horses out, Saga and Red went trotting and cantering off into their two-acre grass turnout. They both looked none the worse for the wear.

The folks at the hunt were incredibly friendly and helpful, and we really had a lovely time. We've been invited back for the blessing of the hounds on November 7, and I would dearly love to go. I have already been looking on Ebay for hunt coats and boots for my husband, and a flask for each of us. And then there's the small matter of a jumping saddle, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Tally ho!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


We've been getting rain here. LOTS of rain. So much rain it's nearly made up for the summer without rain. Alas, with rain comes mud.

Red, being out in the back pasture (he HATES being stalled), gets to live in the mud when it rains. The barn is on Texas blackland, which is well-known for turning into thick goo when it rains. Normally it gets to be about ankle-deep at the gate, but this fall, it's nearly knee-deep, and I am NOT making this up.

Last Thursday, B., who leases Reddums, went out for her weekly lesson, and went to get Red out of the pasture. She sent me this little gem to describe her experience:

"I had a nice adventure this evening with acquiring dear Reddums from the pasture. The mud at the front of the pasture was literally knee deep (waders would not have helped me keep clean today...). Although I usually use the tractor tracks to avoid this issue, the only ones were about 7-8 paces away from the main gate, and I would have had to recreate the "Swamp of Sadness" scene from the Neverending Story to cross it. Instead, I went through a 2nd pasture to reach where the horses were standing. Alas, I could not take Red through the fence with me. Thus! We got to pick our way through the mud back to the main gate where Red refused to go a couple of times ("Don't let the sadness get you, Artax...").

After about 20 minutes of negotiating ground (Red: "I'm not going that way" B: "How about here?" Red: "Nope." B: "I have cookies..." Red: "Oh ok. But this other way's better."), I finally got him out of the pasture with mud up over the knees of my breeches and halfway up my thigh...and upper arm....and...nose?? The lead rope was now brown as was part of his halter, where my muddy hand got to grab. We made it back to the barn with a whole 7 minutes left before my lesson started. Much washing, then riding (which went well, he's just out of shape), untacking, cleaning tack, then adventure #2: Leading out to the pasture...: stumble stumble stumble fall, open gate wide...."Ok Red let's go." Red: "Nope." B: Opens gate wider. "How about this way?" Red: "Hell no." B: Opens gate wider and steps in mud up to knees. "This is the way we came earlier....I still have cookies..." Red: "It's dark and there's an empty stall inside. I saw it." B: "You're supposed to be out here. Let's go now....whoa!" Loses boot and part of half chap. Grabs gate before falling. Red: "Now can we go inside?"

Anywho, I tried several means to get him into the pasture via coaxing and tried to safely force him (he kept slipping then backing up) to no avail. Since I couldn't walk in it, I had a hard time trying to convince him he needed to walk in it too."

The long and short of it is, Red got to stay in a stall for one last night before being tossed back out into the mud. At this point I am hoping that his shoes, especially the hind one with the pad protecting his old abscess, don't get sucked off and buried. And that he doesn't get hurt in all the goo. It is impressively muddy out there!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parental visit

This weekend, my parents came to visit. I don't think I ever explained on this blog how I came to have Saga, but to make a long story short, my parents bought him for me as a graduation present when I finished my Ph.D. in May.

I should probably mention that I asked for a horse at every birthday and Christmas since I was in 8th grade. I dropped oh-so-subtle hints, like reading the following poem to them, repeatedly:

Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony
By Shel Silverstein

There was a girl named Abigail
Who was taking a drive
Through the country
With her parents
When she spied a beautiful sad-eyed
Grey and white pony.
And next to it was a sign
That said,
“Oh,” said Abigail,
“May I have that pony?
May I please?”
And her parents said,
“No you may not.”
And Abigail said,
“But I MUST have that pony.”
And her parents said,
“Well, you can have a nice butter pecan
Ice cream cone when we get home.”
And Abigail said,
“I don’t want a butter pecan
Ice cream cone,
And her parents said,
“Be quiet and stop nagging—
You’re not getting that pony.”
And Abigail began to cry and said,
“If I don’t get that pony I’ll die.”
And her parents said, “You won’t die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony.”
And Abigail felt so bad
That when she got home she went to bed,
And she couldn’t eat,
And she couldn’t sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die—
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn’t buy.

(This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won’t buy
You something you want.)

So the long and short of it is, I never got a pony growing up. In fact, I was so desperate for a horse, I went out and found a great couple who happened to be good friends of the family and adopted them as horse parents, since my parents were not particularly horsey inclined. When I got my first job fresh out of college, the first question my Dad asked me was whether or not I'd be able to afford a horse. My response: "Oh HELL YES." And so I bought Cash off his previous owner for the low, low price of $1 and shipped him up to Maryland where my new job was... but that's a story for another day. The point is, I didn't get a horse growing up, but my parents finally did their parently duty and got me a rather... um, large... pony.

The last time they saw Saga was not exactly the best impression. He was 100 pounds underweight, had no muscle, and was not going very well seeing as how I'd only had him for a week or two. I'm pretty sure they were horrified by what I'd picked out. I think it was a different story this time - they kept commenting about how nice he looked and how handsome he was! My mom kept sneaking both Saga and Red carrot bits as we were tacking up - I think Saga found a new best friend!

We finally got to ride in the outdoor arena (first time in over a month) and we worked a lot on canter. I did one pretty long canter set both directions, then took a break and worked on some trot work, including leg yields. He was much better than in our lesson last week, I think because I really got him going off of my leg at the walk first. I really do need to start wearing nubby spurs, because it's just not pleasant to take my foot out of the stirrup and boot him with my heel. The dressage whip just isn't effective sometimes. Anyway, leg yields are coming along, and the bending on the trot was better to the right. His head is getting straighter to the left, or I'm not letting go with the outside rein as much, or probably both. Whatever, it was nice.

The final bit of the ride was another long canter session, with lots of transitions and lengthenings, as well as some counter-canter. It's really the first time we've done either lengthenings or counter-canter, and I was very pleased with both. He's really got a big stride in there and I can feel him move out, but he doesn't get a whole lot faster. Certainly I think he'll get better marks on that than Cash ever did. He did have a tendency to get a little strung out at the end of the lengthening, but that's always going to be an issue, so we'll continue to work on that. We changed rein across the diagonal and did counter-canter along the short side of the arena both ways, and he was steady and stayed bent.

All in all, a fantastic ride and my dad commented how we were really starting to look like a team!

Visiting with Cash

Yesterday (Sunday) I went out to visit Cash. It's just started to turn cooler here, and now's the time of year when he is most prone to colic. If I'm going to lose him to colic, it's going to be in the fall... so I figured I'd better take whatever opportunities I have to go see him.

Other than being a touch sunburned, he looked fantastic. Fat, healthy, and getting fuzzy. I took him a tub of baby carrots, since after the choke incident he's not supposed to eat anything big. Even his Senior food gets turned into a mush so it's less likely to cause choke. He happily munched through those and then was polite enough to pose for a few pictures.

Hi there!

Is that camera carrot-flavored?

You say it's not? Did you check???

This inspection will only take a moment, just hold stiiiilllll...

EEEW! You were right! GROSS! That camera has PEOPLE GERMS on it!!!

Yes, I know I'm still the most gorgeous spotted pony you've ever seen.

Damn, but I miss him more than anything sometimes. I had a good cry in his mane before I left. Every time I see him I'm afraid it will be the last.

Another lesson

Last Wednesday, I had another lesson with Joan. I'd ridden Monday (Saga was FABULOUS) and Ziggy's dad rode Tuesday, so at least Saga had gotten out of his stall before the lesson. The horses have been in for most of the last month due to all the rain, which we desperately need. Unfortunately, lots of rain makes for not much turnout time!

The lesson was definitely not our best. There were five other people in the arena, and Saga wasn't best pleased about going head-to-head with them, although the head tossing was minimal and got less as the ride went on. I told Joan about the dressage show and Pine Hill and what I felt we needed to work on, so we got right into canter transitions.

Frankly, even after doing probably 20-30 transitions per side, I can't say that I feel like they got much better. I think the biggest problem is that I'm giving up my position and allowing him to run a few step (sometimes quite a few steps) into the canter. When I commented about that, Joan said that must be it.

Whoa, wait a minute. If I'm giving up my position and it's screwing up my transitions, why aren't you telling me?

Joan is very, very focused on how Saga goes. If he's not round enough, or bent enough, she tells me immediately. She might tell me I need more inside leg for more bend or whatever, but in general she's not telling me what to do with my body to get more of X out of Saga. This has been working so far, because we have progressed so, SO much in just 6 weeks. However, I'm starting to worry that I'm not a good enough rider to train with her, except on an occasional basis. If I'm not riding it right, I need someone who will tell me exactly what I need to do with my body (chest up, heels down, whatever) so that I can make my horse do it. If I'm not correct, the obviously he won't be correct.

I'm not sure where this leaves me. I definitely want to continue riding with Joan, but I feel like I need her to be more picky about me. I need her to focus on rider position just as much as she focuses on horse position. I'll talk to her about this in my lesson next week and we'll see if we can work through it. I just need her to help me be a more correct rider so that Saga will go better!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Last weekend, my husband and I participated in a jousting demo at Pioneer Farms. We took Saga along for the experience but left Red at home, since we're still dealing with his abscess. Fortunately for my husband, a good friend of ours was kind enough to bring an extra horse for him to joust on, since Saga hasn't had any training to prepare him for jousting.

Saga was horribly traumatized about horses wearing trappings. First, my husband rode up to us on his loaner horse, Bandit, and Saga was ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that the trappings had eaten Bandit and were now coming after him. We followed Bandit around for a while (horses are always braver when they're chasing the scary thing rather than being chased by it) and Saga just could not believe that Bandit was OK. He kept reaching over to touch Bandit with his nose... it was pretty funny. My poor traumatized horse!

Our friend Azulox was out taking pictures - he's a professional photographer and I don't want to steal his pictures, so here's a link to Bandit and his trappings: Saga says, "Eeek! Red and yellow, kill a fellow! RUNNNN!"

Unfortunately, at that point our friend Alexis came galloping up on his horse, Booker, who was also wearing trappings. Well, apparently Saga does have some Quarter Horse in him because he did a maneuver I've only ever seen working cow horses do - essentially, he dug in and skittered sideways with his belly about two feet from the ground. This would have been fine except that my boots were covered with slippery mud, and despite my grippy stirrup pads, my right foot slipped out of the stirrup. Normally, riding with one or no stirrups would be fine (note our disastrous stadium round at Pine Hill a few weeks ago where I lost a stirrup after fence 6), except that Saga was still skittering to the right, so all my weight was in the left stirrup... and my foot slipped out of that stirrup too. I had that one eternal moment to think, "well shit, this is going to hurt," but I somehow managed to get my right leg over him (I'm pretty sure he just slithered out from under me at this point, still going sideways to the right) and landed, quite neatly, on my feet with the reins in my right hand. Not only did it not hurt, it was actually much more graceful than many of my intentional dismounts after I've ridden at home. Of course, nobody saw my graceful maneuver, but everyone asked me why I had gotten off!

After hopping back on Saga again and walking around a bit more, I put him away to go help with the games, combat, and jousting. We did a little work with Saga on the mounted combat, desensitizing him to the foam sword. He did pretty well with that but needs lots of practice. It takes a lot of work to get a horse to play the SCA games and joust, even if the horse has a laid-back personality and is generally amenable to humans doing crazy weird stuff. Hopefully that's something we'll have more time for this winter.

During the breaks, Saga and his buddy Lucky hung out at the trailer. Unfortunately, Lucky took exception to the fact that Saga had hay and he didn't, so he kicked Saga. (Aside: WHY OH WHY can I not own a horse who will stand up for himself? I used to call Cash the Great White Weenie Horse, he was such a pushover. You'd think that a 16.2 hh gelding would stand up for himself, but noooooo... sigh). Anywho, Lucky managed to land a kick on Saga's left rear cannon bone, leaving a nasty cut and slightly swollen leg (Lucky wears hind shoes). I hosed it and cleaned it out and was happy to find that it didn't go through all the layers of skin. Then I went to wrap it, only to find that I had no vet wrap. Seriously, if I don't have my own trailer, I forget SO MANY things, it's crazy. So I asked around for vet wrap and guess what... the only vet wrap around belonged to Duchess' mom, whose favorite color is... you guessed it...


Have I mentioned how much I HATE PINK?

So it was my turn to be traumatized for the day since I had to put pink vet wrap on my horse.

The world may never be the same.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tonight's featured guest... Reddums!

Poor little Reddums is still stuck in a stall with his abscess. I trotted him out tonight and he didn't seem off, but he still has a hole in his foot where they drained the abscess, so no way am I putting him back out in the knee-deep pasture mud.

Sooo, since I needed to soak and re-wrap his foot tonight, I figured I'd snap a few pictures and explain what I do for an abscess, since it's a good thing to know in general.

First, fill a bucket about 1/3 full of hot water, then add about 1/2 cup of Epsom salt. Swirl it around the dissolve the salt, then convince your horse it's fun to stand in the bucket. Red is not a good patient for this part, so we have no pictures, but I did manage to get him to stand there for about 10 minutes. Why Epsom salts? My understanding is that they have a nice anti-bacterial property, so they keep any critters from making a home in the drained abscess.

While your horse is soaking, gather the rest of the stuff you'll need: a towel, Vet wrap, Icthammol (take the cap off), a gauze surgical pad, and (of course!) Duct tape. Make sure everything is handy because once you take that foot out of the soak and dry it off, you don't want to put it down again till you've got the whole thing wrapped.

Next, if necessary, hose the foot off with hot water to get any debris out. Then dry it off with a towel (it really needs to be fairly dry to get the wrap stick to it).

The abscess is the dark spot that's in the center of the picture.

Now this is the tricky part. From the time you dry the hoof to the time you're done with the wrap, you don't want to set the foot down. This is why you laid everything out within easy reach while the foot was soaking.

First, get a nice glob of Icthammol on a cotton gauze pad.

Mmmmmicthammol. Don't get this stuff on you, it's nearly impossible to get out of clothing. However, it's great at drawing the pus out of an abscess.

Next, apply the Icthammol and gauze to the abscess.

Use Vetwrap to hold the Icthammol and pad on - wrap the entire hoof, including the edges of the hoof wall.

Cover the whole mess with duct tape. Don't be shy about using lots of it - the purpose of the duct tape is to provide a temporary "shoe" to protect the foot. It will wear through in a day or so, maybe a bit more if your horse is on soft bedding.

Now you can put the hoof down. Here's what it looks like:

Notice how the Vetwrap and duct tape go up over the coronet band? That's a problem - if it's too tight there, it can cut off the blood circulation to the hoof.

Fix the problem by taking a pair of scissors and carefully snipping down about 1/2 inch into the wrap - you can see where I've peeled the wrap away from the coronet band. The little yellow bits are flaps of the Vetwrap underneath hanging down (sorry, the blurry picture makes this hard to see).

Finally, because I have one, I put an Easy Boot over the whole mess. This just gives Red a little more cushion but is not necessary. Staying in a well-bedded stall should provide his foot cushion enough.

After our little vet clinic, I took Saga and Red out to graze for a while. Saga looks none the worse for the wear after the show this last weekend, despite continuing to be stuck in his stall due to the weather - and we're supposed to get even MORE rain tonight!

I tried to get a few pictures of the two of them, but they kept moving and there wasn't enough light for the camera. However...

Now I'm not saying that Red's short or anything, but he does appear to be a bit smaller than Saga...

Well, what can I say? Saga is the star of this blog after all... :)

So does anyone else want to share tricks of the trade for handling abscesses? Other than shoeing with pads, of course. Red will probably stay in but be OK for light riding until the farrier comes out next week and we'll see if either the abscess isn't deep enough to worry about, or if he needs shoes and pads until it finishes growing out. I'm hoping for the first option!


So the videos I've been uploading the past few times have been pretty miserable in terms of quality. Now granted, they're being shot with a little digital still camera and not a fancy-schmancy HD video camera, but still, the quality I get on my computer is WAY better than what Blogger lets me upload.

Daun over at Eventing Percheron suggested trying Vimeo instead, so here goes.

So if you want the password to watch the video, it's the name of my horse :) I'll figure out the privacy stuff in more detail some other night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pine Hill 10/4/09

My weekend started out rather interestingly - Friday night late I went to check to see if ride times were up, and they were - but I was not on the list. I had turned in my entry form in the box at Pine Hill on September 5, when we went schooling there. And my name was not on the list of ride times!!!

I called Pine Hill early Saturday to see what was going on. Apparently they had never gotten my entry, although they had received my coggins, release form, and fee for schooling that day. This was really odd, since I had bundled everything together in one little packet and paper-clipped it all together. Ok, no matter, they could fit me in, and they had a stall as well as RV hookups as I had requested. So it was a GO after all.

But first, the list of chores was quite long. Fill up the truck. Pick up the trailer ($970 gets you new brakes but no ramp - the ramp will be ready on Tuesday). Find some Wellies (we went to FOUR STORES before we found any, but Academy had some for $20 and they're super cute). I also happened to get a few new dry-fit shirts while on the quest for Wellies, so that was a bonus. Oh, and then lunch, because by then Fuzzypony, who had agreed to be my partner-in-crime... er, groom, for the weekend, and we were both hungry.

Wellies! Fortunately, my step-daughter and I wear different sizes... otherwise, I'd never see these cute boots again, except on her feet!

We finally made it to the barn and loaded up, then pulled out around 2 p.m. It started raining about halfway to Pine Hill, and was still raining when we got there around 4:30. We unloaded, got Saga comfy, and got set up. I tacked him up to go for a short ride and look around the place - in the rain.

The maniacal grin of someone trying to convince themselves that riding in the rain is in fact fun. Saga has other ideas.

We headed on down to the dressage arenas and worked in both, since I wasn't sure where I would be riding the next morning. Saga was very looky and distracted for about the first 10 minutes, as there were people out schooling on the XC course nearby. He eventually settled down and we got some nice work in, although he had a tendency to kick out on the left lead canter departs. That was new and odd.

After riding, Fuzzypony and I cleaned Saga up, tossed him some hay and alfalfa (OMG he thinks alfalfa is CANDY), and then headed out for some tasty Mexican food. I ordered a burrito that was as big as my plate, and managed to mostly do it justice. Apparently I was hungry! After dinner we headed back to do night check. We found a couple of friend there who mentioned that there was a good chance the show would be cancelled tomorrow, since it was still raining and the forecast was calling for rain through noon on Sunday. I have to say, I wasn't too upset about that, since riding in the rain and negotiating super-slick footing is just not all that fun. Saga was cheerfully munching his neighbor's hay (why, but WHY do they always do that???) having finished all his alfalfa, and had sucked down most of two water buckets. We refilled buckets, replentished hay and alfalfa, mucked, and headed to the camper for bed. I think we were asleep by 9 p.m.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to hear the rain positively POURING on the camper, then woke again at 6:30 a.m. to hear more of the same. Figuring that the show was cancelled for sure, I went back to sleep till 7:30, and which point I rolled over, looked out of my window, and to my surprise saw someone carrying a saddle and wearing a pinney. Apparently, the show was on after all! And it was STILL raining!

I got up, got a power bar, and headed down to the barn to feed. Saga was napping but came over to inspect breakfast. After feeding him, I went down to the secretary's booth to get all our paperwork taken care of, then headed out to paddle through walk cross-country. The footing was actually pretty good except for fence #13, a rolltop with a slightly downhill approach. Due to the rain, the whole course was pretty much one big water obstacle. The most challenging part of that course is that many of the fences have awkward approaches where you can't see the fence till 4-5 strides out. Many of the fences are very small (single logs), so it's a nice inviting course. I planned to trot most of it, given the footing situation.

While I was off taking care of that, Fuzzypony was back at the barn braiding Saga for me. Didn't she do a lovely job?
Saga decked out for dressage. Look at those lovely braids!

I tacked up and got all my stuff on, including a raincoat over everything, since it was still raining. Our ride time was 11:00 a.m., and we were right on schedule.

Warm-up was a mess. Saga started off high as a kite, but settled down within about 10 minutes. The footing was miserable, and understandably he wouldn't move out much. The canter transitions were nice except that he kept kicking out with his hind on the left lead departs (I think I have figured out that I am cueing him too far back and he objects to my leg on his butt), but immediately went back into a lovely canter. He was very slow and careful, and very balanced, I think because of the footing.

Lovely warm-up footing. And yeah, it's still raining.

11:00 approached and we went to the arena, waiting for the rider I had been told was in front of me to go. Then I noticed another rider circling the arena, and she told me that she was next. The arena steward said I was next. Since she had been waiting for some time, I let her go first, assuming that I would be able to go immediately after. No, I was told I had four more rides to go now. So we went and stood. With two riders to go, we started warming up again. Saga was a little more heavy but still responsive and careful. We went back to the arena and started circling, then the judge told me that I was not next but had been moved to go last in the division. I was upset but tried to be gracious about it. I went and stood for another four rides, then warmed up again. Saga was heavy. He was ready to be done and was not at his best. He was still kicking on the left canter departs, and when I dropped my whip before going into the arena, he refused to even do a canter depart. When I showed 10 years ago, whips were not allowed in dressage for eventing, but I had seen several people go in the arena with a whip and figured, what the heck. It was either ride with a whip or have a disastrous ride without one. So, in we went, with whip in hand.

Our ride was actually very nice! He stayed steady, bent, and listened. We didn't careen around any corners and the bracing against my hand was minimal. Our canter departs were beautiful both directions (thank you Saga for not kicking out in the arena!). The canters were a little heavy but he was tired. Our free walk wasn't too great because we didn't get much stretch, but it was on the short diagonal in a 40 m arena so there wasn't much time. I'll ride it better next time. Overall, I was actually happier with that test than the ones from the show last weekend!

Unfortunately, the dressage judge this week wasn't quite as nice as the one last week. We got 7s on most everything except the free walk (a 5) and the halt (a 6) because his haunches were left. AAARGH! And we have been working on that! Oh well, we scored a respectable 33.2, which landed us in third place. (NOTE: If you are ever with me at a show, please DO NOT tell me what place I am in until everything is done and over with. You can tell me my score, but don't tell me how I'm doing in relation to everyone else!)

After hurrying up to wait for dressage, we had to do a speedy turnaround for stadium. I pulled off my coat, threw on my armband, shortened my stirrups (woohoo! jumping in a dressage saddle!), and changed bridles. I did end up getting a Waterford bit for Saga last week and rode him in it once, and he definitely didn't lean into it as much as the other bits I have, so I had decided to go with that for jumping.

We did a speedy warmup consisting of three fences, then headed over to the stadium arena where we only had to wait for a few minutes for our turn. The arena was incredibly sloppy even though it had stopped raining for about an hour. All divisions used the same basic course, so the path was well-worn by the time it was our turn to go.

I would pretty much describe our stadium round as a train wreck. Saga just got more and more sprawled out as the course went on, and I simply could not sit back enough to balance him. You can't quite see it in the video, but I lost my left stirrup after the barrels when he jumped really big and barely got it back for fence 7. We came in crooked on several fences and we were just unbalanced in general. I think we were both kind of tired after dressage and just didn't put in a good round. Somehow we managed to make it around without refusing, knocking anything down, or me falling off. Not quite sure how we managed that, but I guess it counts.

After that we had quite a bit of time before cross-country, so we untacked Saga, hosed him, and then I went to get lunch and lay down for a while. Fuzzypony even made me a sandwich! At 2:40, when the BN XC division was set to start, we headed back down toward the barn only to be told that if we were riding BN, we'd better get our butts down to the course NOW because they were almost done! Fuzzypony and I did the speediest grooming/tacking/getting ready job EVER, then we zoomed down to the warmup, jumped two fences, and went straight to the start box. I was the last rider in the division to go and we'd made it just in time.

Saga was a total MACHINE. We trotted to the first fence since it was downhill from the start box and I knew the footing would be bad, and from there out we cantered most of the rest. The footing was surprisingly good and Saga just got into cruise mode and WENT. It was such a change from having to fight with Cash to keep a steady pace! The problems we had were where I had to balance him in front of a fence and he didn't balance well, and then after the fence he would be sprawly for 6-10 strides before we could get it back together. Somewhere around fence 4, I remember thinking to myself "Holy cow, we're not even 1/3 of the way around and I'm SO tired. I'm going to DIE!" But Saga just cruised on and took pretty good care of me. Some of the fences were pretty klutzy but we made it around OK.

Time wasn't an issue but I had my watch going and checked it a couple of times - optimum time was 5:31 and we made it in at 5:44. There was a section toward the end of the course where the footing was rocky so we trotted and lost a few seconds there. But, apparently his cruising speed is about 350 mpm, which is good to know. Obviously we will need to bump it up a notch or two to actually make optimum, but for our first go I was very pleased. Fuzzypony managed to get video of our first two fences and the last fence - everthing else was back in the woods.

I was SO TIRED when we hit the finish line. I am WAY out of shape for this. Saga was blowing hard and didn't recover quickly either. Part of it was the humidity - it was super hot and even though it wasn't raining, very humid. But most if it is just that he's not in shape. We haven't been conditioning and he's been standing in his stall for most of the past 3 weeks due to the weather. Clearly, even if we have to do interval training in the arena, we have to do it. And me, I have GOT to get in shape. This desk job of mine is not doing me any favors.

Tired after XC, but I'm pretty sure there are bugs stuck to my teeth I was smiling so much!

After XC we could see a storm rolling in, so we loaded up and got ready to go as fast as we could. I put poultice on Saga's legs and wrapped him, and just before we left they posted the scores for my division. Second place, and we finished on our dressage score!

Yeah baby! Not bad for having 10 years off!

As soon as we pulled out, the skies opened up. It thundered, lightninged, and poured so hard we could barely see to drive. Fortunately the storm was short-lived, but it rained HARD. The drive home was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived around 8 p.m. Saga got his legs hosed, then tucked in his stall with his dinner (1 g of bute just in case) and a full net of hay and alfalfa. I still have to clean out the truck and camper, although the trailer got taken care of for the most part, and drop the rig back off at the trailer place so they can fix the ramp and figure out why my left turn signal won't work (no, it's not the bulb or the fuse - the problem seems to be in the connector to the truck). But for now... success is sweet!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Um... fabulous

Here's the weather forecast for Bellville this weekend.

Yuck. I think I'll pack my floaties, a pair of hip waders, and a rubber ducky for Saga.

No word on ride times yet, but supposedly they'll be up tomorrow morning. At least the trailer is ready - they didn't get the ramp finished but the lights work and I have new brakes.