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Training

So this past Sunday I went with my friend and co-boarder (her mare lives with Vesper) to a dressage/jumper show to play groom for her. I didn’t end up entering myself, because in order to do jumping rounds you also had to ride at least 1 dressage test, and my work schedule lately has resulted in reduced riding time. We can easily bomb around a jumper course with little prep (all I have to do is steer and not fall off on a bad day) but dressage takes a lot more preparation and I didn’t feel confident about riding a test. Yes it was a schooling show, so yes I could have just moosed through it, but I always want to bring my A game to a show, even a bitty schooling one.

Driving behind my trailer instead of pulling it, weirdest feeling

It was the first outing for my friend and her mare as a team, and they did a walk-trot test which was a lovely round and exactly what she was hoping for. I was there to play groom, hold things, take video and be generally helpful, because I myself get show anxiety and having someone there to hand me things and talk me off the ledge makes a world of difference. It was kind of enjoyable to not have to do any prep myself, and just appreciate the show ambiance!

Who am I kidding, I was antsy as anythingโ€‹ not having a horse to ride myself there ๐Ÿ˜‚. It certainly got me fired up for my own show season. I’ve been pretty chill up until now about planning my summer shows, but all of a sudden I realized that it’s now April (when did this happen) and one of the horse trials I was maybe aiming for is in June. Ha ha ha ha. Yikes. Many of my work days are 14 hours long, which means I don’t ride on those days, so each ride needs to start counting for something if we’re going to be fit enough (and confident enough) for a pre-training event.

“Or we could just sleep and eat instead of train”

Yesterday was a flat day, and since it had been miraculously dry for a few days in a row we rode outside in China the huge arena as I wanted to get some gallop sets in to start building Vesper’s wind. We started out with some really solid trot work including lengthening, however apparently I accidentally telepathically communicated to her about the gallop sets, so we struggled some with the shortening portions of the ride. Once we picked up the canter, she was right away trying to haul through the bit which is unusual for her – generally the canter starts out pretty lumbering and warms up into something bigger. It has been a while since we rode outside, so maybe she was feeling more spritely than usual. She doesn’t know she’s an old lady.

“Who’s 17? Not me I’m definitely 5”

I had a difficult time maintaining a canter or even a hand gallop as she just really wanted to let loose and run. I severely dislike riding on her mouth, as it took me so long to soften the hard mouth she had when I bought her, but I couldn’t give her even an inch without her trying to take a mile. So I let her blow off some steam for a few laps, and once she realized she’s not Grand National fit, she eased off a bit and we got some much nicer paces in both directions to finish off.
Of course she was now blowing like the senior she is, and I’m hoping she has decided that I may be allowed to set the pace from now on (probably not if we’re being honest). I’m going to slowly incorporate more stamina work, and if the weather stops being so wet, we can start going out to the cross country field where there’s more space and different scenery.

We cooled out along the trails since they were relatively dry. Vesper is getting more chill out there as she realizes that we always come back to the barn. I can tell she enjoys the change of view, but there’s always an element of anxiety involved.

So now it’s time to actually pick a jumper show and pick a horse trial. More and more I’m leaning towards the September/October HT as that will give us extra time to get ourselves prepared. Likely our first jumper show will be no earlier than June, as most weekends in May are already booked with a billion activities. And also, you know, start actually jumping a height we will be competing at.

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Nekkid

A few weeks ago (or a month? Ish?) I roached off Vesper’s mane, for a couple of reasons of which the main two are:

  • It looks adorbs and badass at the same time
  • Her mane was weirdly uneven thickness-wise: halfway down her neck it went from DRAFT HORSE to Appaloosa (turns out she has a huge bald patch, ew)
    Giant bald patch.

    I don’t regret roaching her at all, because ADORBS and also we are into the Mucky Season which lasts eons and it makes grooming her a lot quicker when I don’t have to scrub caked mud out of her thick draft mane… However the other day I ran into a bit of an issue with this whole nekkid neck situation.

    You may remember from the About Us page that I am an actress in the film/TV industry; well I have also always wanted to do stunt work, especially any equestrian stunts, and I finally have made some connections and contacts and am pursuing this new branch of my career. It came to me that, although I consider myself a very confident, competent rider, I am pretty uncomfortable riding bareback (both physically and confidence-wise) and bareback riding will likely be a huge part of equestrian stunts. Not to mention bareback riding is just generally awesome for developing balance and security without the support of the saddle.

    The last time we barebacked. Only while cooling out.

    So I decided to bite the bullet and get practicing without a saddle, at least for the last 1/3 of my rides. Which is lame because I can only manage a few steps of jog without a saddle ATM so it feels a bit like regression. I will take this moment to make note that, although she is a draft x Warmblood, Vesper has a spine like a Thoroughbred and even short bareback rides make for very painful bathroom visits for about 24 hours. I love my saddles. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

    I have a breastplate that Vesper can wear during our usual rides as an “emergency grab strap” if necessary, however as soon as we remove the saddle, the breastplate has to come off too, leaving me NOTHING TO GRAB if things go sideways (literally and figuratively). I discovered this on the weekend when I had my first bareback ride that wasn’t just us cooling out, when I instinctively reached forward to stabilize myself at the trot and grabbed only air. So now I actually have to learn to actually ride bareback and not just flop around while gripping tightly to her mane. Bummer.

    Other than feeling a bit like I’ve never ridden a horse in my life, and waddling instead of walking for a few hours after, our foray into riding bareback was encouraging. I spent time reinforcing “whoah” at the walk just in case, and worked up to a bit of jogging. The longest we went was about 1 long side of the arena, but I wanted to end each jogging session on a good note so as to promote accurate muscle memory. I also wanted to protect poor Vesper from my atrocious balance. She was a great sport about it.

    “This is my impressed face.”

    To finish things off, I decided to also start working on dismounting at the different gaits, and remounting from the ground. Someday I may have to fall off a galloping horse for stunt work, so I may as well start getting comfortable with coming off on purpose. Also being able to mount my 16.2hh Hummer horse without holding her mane or using a mounting block will look pretty badass, no? (Once we move past the “landed fish” stage anyway) Who am I kidding, I need her mane to grow back STAT because otherwise I basically just launch my upper body over her back and shuffle my leg over her butt, and there is nothing cool or badass about it.

    I started out using a small jumping block to give myself an extra foot off the ground, and after the initial “WTH woman” look, Vesper stood like a champ while I wiggled and flopped. Eventually I’ll have to phase out the block if I want to actually Be Cool. Thank goodness I had the arena to myself.

    The dismount from a walk was pretty easy… She came to a stop quickly once I hit the ground, and I kept hold of the reins anyway to make sure of it. We repeated it a few times so that I could practice my timing with hitting the ground and stay in motion so as not to get “left behind” as she keeps moving. Every attempt was a success, you’re welcome ego. My only concern really is not to take all the impact on my weaker knee – that and not stumble and hit the ground with my weak shoulder. Stunt performer, you say??

    Next time I’ll definitely feel comfortable enough to try a dismount at the trot, luckily our arena is very soft footing so if I do bite it, I shouldn’t come away too bruised. I am also planning to work our way up to riding tackless, with just a neck rope, but I’d better get comfortable with bareback and a bridle first! 

    In the meantime, I might use one of my stirrup leathers as a safety grab strap around her neck like they do in eventing. I’ll do my best to avoid using it so that my body learns the correct way to manage balance, but at least it will be there in case of an emergency.

    I have a dear friend who is pretty much not planning to ever own a saddle when she gets her own horse, and I think she is a psycho because I don’t understand why bareback is so enjoyable. 

    Psychopath friend who looks majestic riding Vesper with no saddle. Funny story is that she fell off during this ride though which WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IN A SADDLE RACHEL. Ahem.

    Doesnt Vesper’s back just look so comfortable here, like a draft cross should be?! Yeah, it’s not.

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    The Sitch

    Now that we’ve established a back story, it’s time to move on to what’s going on in our riding situation.

    Wet. Wet is what is going on. PNW winters.

    Mid-March in our corner of BC is basically precipitation hell, but I’ve wised up and back in February I found us a delightful barn with an indoor (plus about a billion other amenities) and we don’t plan to be going anywhere else ever, I hope! So riding is really only limited by my work schedule now, which fluctuates between “sporadic” and “56 hours in 4 days” (I work in the film/TV industry). During those sporadic times, I get loads of riding in, but more recently it’s been the other end of the spectrum, and I went 11 days without a ride up until this past weekend. 

    11 days is way too long to be away from this view.

    I do have a wonderful leasor who rides twice a week to help keep Vesper in shape and remind her that people are still in charge and she doesn’t get to call all the shots just because I haven’t seen her in a week.

    Our rides are currently geared towards building fitness for the spring/summer when showing is more imminent and could pop up at a moment’s notice. The other day a friend of mine played over some grid/gymnastic jumps, with highest at 3′, and her Ladyship was quite puffed at the end of it, so I’m incorporating more canter work to build up her stamina. I like to throw in a low jump here and there if they are up in the arena in order to remind her that jumping doesn’t have to always mean “freight train mode ACTIVATED”. Our rides tend to be mostly trot work, as I find it the easiest gait to practice lateral work at, and I probably give more walk breaks than are truly necessary… I do baby her a bit, no lie.

    “She tortures me: 1 min trot, 5min walk, it’s too much I tell you!”

    I’ve been able to sneak an extra couple of rides in so far this week as I have been starting work late morning or early afternoon. My co-boarder informed me the other day that she’s taking Kenya (the black mare above) to a local dressage/jumping show on April 2 and that I should totally bring Vesper because *fun showing day with a friend*! (Side note: my childhood self is squeeing, I always wanted a barn friend to ride and show with) The issue here is that April 2 is really dang close and I would have to not only get V in jumping shape (for 2’9″ only, most likely) but also memorize a dressage test. UGH. So basically I’m waffling about it, and will probably blame my “unfit horse” if I don’t actually compete. Unfortunately in this show, if you want to jump, the dressage test is mandatory so I can’t go and just jump around for fun while co-boarder does her fancy dressage stuff. If we jump, all I have to do is steer and not fall off, but in a dressage test, I actually have to ride and be judged on it. 

    Look I can’t even steer without someone on the ground helping me

    My plan for this spring/summer was to compete in a 3-phase Horse Trial and hit 1 or 2 other h/j shows to tune up and have fun… My budget this year is snug, and I’m torn between attending on April 2 for the sake of having an absolutely great day with my friend and Vesper’s best friend (gosh we’re like a Pony Pals novel) and using that as the first of my 2 h/j shows, or saving my money for one a bit further into the spring when we’d probably be more ready and might get more out of it…? Maybe? I’m going to go with my friend either way, but I’ll probably be moping internally if I don’t bring my own pony to play with.

    The dressage test we would be riding is actually the same one I rode back in September, so I know that we can do it and it could be an opportunity to clean up some of the areas that needed tightening last time (like, hmm, I don’t know, entering the ring in a straight line instead of a random diagonal Em?! “Wandering” was a kind way to put it in my comments). I wouldn’t be going there to get any kind of ribbon, but I’d love to ride more than one round of the jumps and the idea of riding a dressage test twice in one day is nootttt appealing!

    So many decisions. And only 2 weeks left to decide, which is only like 4 guaranteed rides so long as my work schedule remains as predictable as the weather we’re having.

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    Playing Dress Up

    One of the things I love about equestrians is the diversity of disciplines, and styles within each discipline. Every rider and every horse is such a unique personality, which can be so fun to explore through our “fashion” choices. Are you the type to dress up for every ride? Do you match all your gear? Do you ever even wash your barn clothes? Does your horse look like a patchwork quilt advertisement?

    I’m fairly chill about our attire when schooling at home, as I don’t care what we look like unless photos are being taken..! I’ll be wearing breeches, appropriate layers which generally tend to be “daily” clothes that have been recycled into barn clothes due to wear, holes etc, Elite half chaps, Ariat paddock boots and SSG gloves with holes in at least one finger. I was wearing second-hand Elation breeches of the cheapest variety for many years (because I can’t justify $200 on breeches but boy do I wish I could), until I saw a photo of some severe saggy bum syndrome and decided they need desperately to be recycled and some new, flattering ones purchased…

    Yikes. I went to Greenhawk on Boxing Day and bought a pair of these pretties for $100, which is double what I’ve ever spent on a pair of breeches before:

    Elation Platinum “Brooklyn” breech

    They make my butt look AH-mazing, may I say. Something about the piping on the rear, and fabric that doesn’t stretch out aggressively. I also bought a secondhand pair of Lauria Garrelli breeches with silicone knee patches that fit me like a custom pair and had maybe never seen a saddle. I’d never heard of this brand but hoo boy do I love them. Also butt-sculpting fabulous.

    I put a bit more effort into looking tidy for a lesson out of respect to my instructor, and I do find sometimes that when I “dress to impress”, I actually ride better. Something to do with self confidence maybe?

    For Vesper’s day to day I’ve got 2 jumper pads (one black, one brown *snore*) 1 black dressage pad and a purple quarter sheet for cold days. Dark colours means I can go longer between washes because you can’t tell how grotey they are *many thumbs up*. She only occasionally wears BoT boots on her hinds if her windpuffs pop up. We’re minimalistic with tack – saddle, girth and bridle does it for basic daily rides! As conservative as we are, my heart years for those “outfit of the day” photos with the matching polos and saddle pads, gorgeous breeches and stylish tops. I have been sorely tempted to purchase cute polo wraps that pop up for sale on my local equestrian FB pages, but the idea of wrapping polos every ride is enough to steer me back to sanity. 

    Look at it. Looook. So pretty. All the matching! โค

     I started my show experience riding in the hunter classes (or show hunters for you non-Americans) which are super conservative about show attire. Colours should be muted and not distracting from the horse’s performance, which I appreciate, but having to braid before each show was stressful and frustrating for me. Since I bought an eventer and decided to say goodbye to Hunterland I have branched out with some fun colours, as this is expected (basically mandatory) in low level eventing. For our first event back in September I splurged on a dark purple saddle pad that is the exact shade of purple I wanted for “our” colours. Which are deep purple and gold, because a royal mare requires royal colours, yo.

    Her Royal mooseness.

    I just can’t bear to use it for our daily rides though… it’s too pretty! I conveniently also found a dark purple merino wool top at Costco around the same time which is obviously the cool-weather eventing shirt now because MATCHING. Ahem.

    We look fly.

    She also has a custom purple & gold sport bonnet from EDA Designs that is washable and lightweight and absolutely charming that I have a hard time using for schooling even though you could wash it every day and it would still look brand new.

    Model status

    I love to dress up for shows, since I’m such a rub at the barn on a regular day. I only own 1 show shirt, which is white because flexibility, and a black Kerrits Competitor show coat with white piping. My one pair of Ariat field boots are only used for showing (or photo shoots, or clinics that have not yet happened but may happen some day), and I have a secondhand pair of white Kerrits breeches but they’re slippery as heck, so I save those for dressage when I’m less likely to fall off and/or die. I wear minimalist spurs at shows for the sake of fine-tuning my leg aids when the adrenaline is up and my horse reverts to turning like a bus in the stadium classes. Gloves are black SSGs with no holes (only 1 pair of those).

    Blinding the judge with my Clorox breeches is sure to get us a ribbon.

    At shows Vesper gets the bonnet, the purple pad or a white dressage pad, a clean tail and her breastplate for XC to give me something to grab in case of a stumble. No more braiding because I shaved all her mane off into a roach! Happy dance.

    Due to my long work hours and relatively-full extra curricular schedule, I don’t get a lot of barn time, so I prefer to spend my limited time in the saddle as opposed to wrapping polos or making the pony look pretty. Not going to lie though, on my Saturdays at the barn, I have been known to fuss and primp her before and after our rides though!

    So let’s hear it in the comments or on your blog – how do you and your pony dress up for schooling and/or shows? ๐Ÿ™‚

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    Pony Fuel

    Very recently, Amanda over at The $900 FB Pony posted a discussion about equine nutrition and asked other folks what their horse eats and why.

    I was stoked for this topic, as equine nutrition has been fascinating to me since I was quite young – the first book I ever saved up my own allowance to buy was about horse nutrition. I was the kid sneaking into the feed room at the riding stable just to run my grubby little hands through the huge bin of oats, and sticking my nose into the alfalfa hay just to take a whiff (still guilty of this one at 28, won’t lie). It wasn’t until I bought my first horse at 23 that I finally began really digging deeper into nutrition and its impact on my horses. Which is ironic, because I will eat toast for dinner if my husband is away and I am at home alone.

    (Side note: I made the mistake of showing husband what the horse gets in each meal, including measurements and nutritional importance. I got a blank stare in response, and was asked, “Why don’t you put that much effort into our meals?” Oops.)

    My first horse was a hard keeper, so I spent eons delving into the research on caloric needs, fat content and other healthy weight gaining options. Vesper, on the other hand is the easiest keeper on the planet: she just about looks at a blade of grass and gains 3lbs. Based on her super cresty neck, my vet suspects she may be metabolically challenged or insulin resistant, but since she has never had a laminitic episode and is otherwise very healthy, I opted to skip the blood tests and just treat her like a confirmed case of IR. 

    You should see how fast her head whips around when she hears a rustling bag. No wonder her neck creaks.

    I have spent more eons researching starches, sugars, protein, fat, etc and their impact on a horse’s blood sugar and insulin in order to keep my mare healthy. Thankfully this is not an uncommon condition these days, so there is tons of research available online and many discussions in forums about what has worked for others with IR horses. It has also helped me become more aware of my own diet and effect a minor amount of guilt at the amount of sugar I consume daily. Not enough to really make me drop chocolate, though. Sorry body.

    Daily Vesper gets:

    • Low sugar Timothy-mix hay
    • Alfalfa pellets 
    • Hoffman’s vitamin/mineral mix
    • Milled flax 
    • MSM 
    • Magnesium 

    Split into 1 feeding at breakfast and 1 feeding at dinner. 

    Because of the high starch content, commercial feeds containing cereal grains (corn, wheat, etc) are not suitable for an IR horse, and so I only feed commercial feeds with a combined starch + ethanol soluble carbs (ESC) of less than 10% (you’ll often see this listed as the NSC, or non structural carbs of a product –> starch + ESC = NSC). This ensures that her body isn’t being overloaded by sugars that her insulin levels can’t handle. 

    Alfalfa pellets have a NSC of approximately 9%, which provides a good “base” for her meal. The vit/min mix fills any nutritional gaps that are not covered by her hay/alf pellets and have added amino acids for muscle building. Flax provides omega-3s to decrease inflammation, improve coat and hooves, etc. MSM is one of the only joint supplements with scientific evidence behind it relating to joint support – this one might be a bit of the “owner placebo” effect: she does the same on or off it and there’s a ton of disagreement about the effectiveness of oral supplements, but it makes me feel better that she gets it, and it isn’t expensive, so it stays. The magnesium is something we’re trying out, as it some horses who are IR (or Cushing’s) do very well on it to manage their blood sugars. It was recommended to me to help reduce Vesper’s thick crest, so we’ll see.

    Fat neck.

    In my area, commercial feeds that fit into that category are rare, and I’ve tried pretty much all of them. For the sake of simplicity (and my wallet), I decided that the alfalfa pellets + a vit/min supplement would suffice, since the pellets are just hay condensed into easy munching form and she’s got more energy than many 5 year olds. Vesper is an absolute pig and would tear apart her paddock if she had to watch another horse eat while she can’t, nor would she deign to eat her supplements which are bland, powdery substances, thus she gets hay pellets to keep her happy. 

    My horse.

    I have tried many different combinations and permutations of feed for my horses, as I’m a bit OCD about their nutrition and want to do my best by them. I’m always willing to try different options for grain, supplements etc if there’s enough science and anecdotal support behind it. I love reading through new research about equine nutrition, and have come to realize that there are still so many horsey people who do things “the old way” when it comes to feeding and are surprised at the amount of research that has gone into this topic.
    So what do you feed your horse, and why? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Show recap

    My first event…

    This is a recap of my first ever 2-phase event, held in September 2016. It was my first time riding a full XC course and my first time riding a dressage test.

    The whole day prior to the event it was *dumping* rain and I was nervously checking the weather reports every few hours in hopes that it would clear up on the day, as I was anxious about doing XC in a slick field when I’m not super experienced at riding this type of course, even on a dry day. Thankfully, the weather app maintained that it would be sunny on the day, and we awoke that morning to sunlight and very few clouds! My show nerves weren’t nearly as bad as they usually are before a show – this felt so much more to me like just a day of fun where we would go and “play” at the XC field like we often do! Show jumping (and hunter classes) have always been a bit stressful for me, even when schooling at home, but fox hunting and XCing have just been sheer fun with no pressure. Super clear where I belong, methinks!

    The ride to the park was uneventful – I had packed 95% of our stuff the night before, so it was mostly a case of tidy up the horse (who enjoys wearing her breakfast all over her face and in her extremely thick forelock) and put her on the trailer. Wonderful husband drove us there so that I could focus on my day. We arrived to a beautiful, sunny park with dew in the grass (ew, dew = slippery, go away dew) and numerous others already there. I went down to sign in, they gave me a package which I assumed held my number, a bag of horse treats and some pins. I proceeded to stop at the bathroom to relieve my nervous bladder, and awkwardly mostly banged into a lady who I knew immediately was a judge, and found out later that she was in fact, my judge. Excellent start, Em. Knocking your judge into the porta pottie isn’t going to earn you bonus points if your horse doesn’t halt square (PS my horse doesn’t halt square, ever.). I walked the XC course to make sure nothing had changed last minute, and to remind myself that I’d already jumped the Scary Fence numerous times last week and scoffed quietly at it in passing.

    Returning to the trailer found some friends of mine who had come to watch and support us, one of whom is also an avid rider and an excellent amateur photographer, as evidenced by all the following photos. She basically didn’t stop clicking the whole day, for which I am infinitely grateful to her. She got some real gems that I will be plastering around the house in very large print sizes. With about 45 minutes before our dressage test, I tacked up Vesper and got ready myself into my super pretty Clorox-white breeches which I have never worn before, my new Kerrits show jacket which a) actually fits me in a really flattering way and b) is STRETCHY which is just The. Best. I have broad shoulders and a narrow waist, so jacket fitting is a nightmare. Adding my clean field boots to this ensemble made me feel like a high class Real Rider. Showing can be a pain in the bum sometimes, but boy do I feel snazzy all decked out in my show attire!

    IMG_0620.JPG
    “Je suis pretty.”

     

    Vesper is the most ridiculously chill horse at shows, I don’t even understand. She takes one look around, realizes she’s at a show, cocks a foot and goes to sleep. She’ll talk to the other horses a bit when we first arrive, but once she’s off that trailer, it’s snooze time. Weirdo.

    At this point I’m repeating my dressage test (mostly silently) like a lunatic and figure it’s time to head over to warm up. We saunter over, get our tack checked (love this unexpected part of eventing) and join the folks in the warm up ring, which is attached to the huge ring where they set up 2 separate dressage rings. This footing is heavenly. It’s some kind of hogfuel that basically gives your horse springboards on their feet, so every step is light and floaty and energetic without rushing. It makes our nice sand arena at home feel like concrete. I love riding here whenever we come to this park, so I absolutely knew without any doubt that we would have an awesome test. Vesper is always really focused when she rides away from home, plus the epic footing told me we were going to slam this one out of the park. Our warm up consisted of focusing on keeping a connection through the inside leg to the outside rein and developing softness in her jaw. It felt pretty darn good, and she was excellent right away so we didn’t need to spend too much time there.

    Luckily there were some nice ladies at the gate who kindly answered my derp questions consisting of “um what do now” because I’ve never shown dressage and was there sans coach and basically had no idea what I was doing. I told her all this and she proverbially patted me on the head and told me which arena to go in, when to go in, and when to start my test. *wipes sweaty forehead*

    Aaannnd then we rode our test! It went by so quickly. I felt like I was grinning the whole time, but according to the photos, that was just in my head. Vesper was springy and steady and quiet and basically told me to shut up and steer because she’s been doing this since I was a fetus.
    IMG_0717.JPG

    IMG_0733.JPG
    Hey, look at the jumper girl sit up like a dressage rider! No hunter perch here.

     

     

    I am hooooked. I remember thinking we could have ridden our corners a little deeper, and had her working over her back more, and had a softer mouth connection… But I didn’t really care, because it felt fabulous, I didn’t forget any part of the test and she was in her “happy working” mode! This horse has the most excellent work ethic. We scored a 52.5, which put us in 6th place out of 11 riders in my division.

     

    Well, with the scariest part done, I was feeling pretty darn confident about our XC run 2 hours later. I steer and hang on, and occasionally remind Vesper that we are doing BN speed, not prelim speed, and she handles the rest basically. She got to snooze more and eat hay and bask in the sun, while I visited with my family and friends and did another walk of the XC course with my photographer friend. I managed to drink a few sips of water during this time and wasn’t too nervous.

    An hour before our XC start time, I got changed into my XC outfit – it turns out the pretty Clorox breeches are hella slippery and there was no way I was going to go hooning around my first XC course in slippery breeches. Thank goodness I had brought along my beige ones for schooling/Just In Case – too bad I managed to drop the crotch/waist area in the water bucket first. I figured at least people wouldn’t be able to tell if I peed my pants out of fear. I was getting a bit jittery, but mostly from excitement. I didn’t feel any nerves really, for the first time ever. Another excellent reason to be an eventer.

    I wore my purple top to match her flashy new royal purple pad – I decided that royalty deserves royal colours, and so purple shall be Queen V’s eventing colour from this day forth. With gold trim, because crowns. I’m super glad that I took the time to match us, as it made the whole thing that much more fun and less “rigid” (I’m looking at you, hunter land).

    IMG_0961.JPG
    We’re coming for you, Scary Jump #9.

     

    I added the stirrup leather around her neck at the last minute juuussst in case.

    IMG_0963.JPG
    Perfect husband keeping me hydrated.

     

    We got to watch a few riders in the pre-training division go while I tacked up, since our truck was immediately next to the final jump in their course. It was awesome and inspiring to watch these gorgeous pairs thundering past us and flying (in a very safe and controlled manner) over the fence right beside us. It got my blood hot for our own run!

    Vesper actually half fell down while being tacked up because she was falling asleep, but the *moment* I mounted up, she was buzzed. She knew exactly what was going on, and jigged the whole way back to the warm up area. This mare is an eventing machine, it is so much fun. Obviously our warm up was super strong and forward and I had to apply the curb chain more than once just while cantering/galloping in order to get her to pay attention to me. She practically hauled me over the warm up jumps, so we didn’t do more than 3 and I knew she didn’t really need it anyway, beyond warming her muscles up.

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    If I let go of your face, you’re going to run away and we both know it.

     
    With our warm up complete, I basically hovered by the starting box and watched the 2 riders before me go. Both were disqualified at jumps 2 and 3 respectively, so I was called forward to prep. With 20 seconds to go, I started my little stop watch, but then realized that was a little too much time, so stopped it – but then couldn’t get the darned thing started again! I was pressing the buttons frantically and finally gave up when I got my 5 second countdown, because whatever, I’m here for fun anyway and the time was mostly just out of curiosity’s sake.

     

     

    Leaving that startbox was exhilarating! I had 245% confidence in my horse and about 98.7% in myself, and I was so happy to be out there, knowing that my horse was too. She charged happily off with ears and head up.

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    Here we go again, bailing out mum’s butt from the deepest take off point EVER…

     

    Jump #2, the barn, was easy, and I let her roll out up the hill to the log ramp of #3 like I had planned, which set us up really nicely. She looked a bit at round top #4 which was a 3 or 4 stride combo to round top #5, but all she does is back herself off a bit so she can get a better idea of how to handle things. After #5 was a long gallop which allowed me both to let her roll at a steady pace as well as check on our brakes. Everything was hunky-dory as we came up to log ramp #6 which was tucked away to the right behind a bunch of trees. I eased her back so that I didn’t miss our “turn off”. The jump judges suddenly appeared as we came up to the fence, so Vesper bobbled a bit when she saw them, but it didn’t affect the jump at all. #7 was an easy log pile, and I had planned to take a long turn to #8, but there was a jump judge sitting sort of where I wanted to go, so I said “oh heck, let’s just do all the inside turns for fun today!” which brought us to #8 on an angle. This was a small jump but had some large boulders under and around it, which had made Vesper looky when we schooled past it last weekend. I was prepared for her to bobble, which she did in a small way, so I simply added leg and, as per usual, she kept forward. Then it was a short gallop to Scary #9, the 2’9 high and 3′ wide table, where I left her to mostly manage her own pace with just a tiny adjustment as we came in, and we flew over that stinker better than any of our other jumps in the whole course!ย It’s one of those fences that, once I’ve overcome my fear, I want to just jump it over and over again. A medium gallop to small log ramp #10, 2.5 strides (whoops) to the ditch #11, then to the small and very easy ramp #12, leading into the drop bank of #13, which my husband thinks was about 3′ high. I opted to trot into this one, and I totally didn’t slip her the reins enough and got a bit unseated on the landing, but she didn’t mind and it was quite fun! Off to the basic upright #13, where I realized that the girl ahead of me had not, in fact, been DQ’d, and was still completing her course on a very slow and steady horse, only a jump ahead of me! I slowed us right down at this point, because I didn’t want to come anywhere near her and didn’t know the rules for encountering another horse in your division still riding when you catch them. Apparently the starter man thought she had been DQ’d and so sent me out a bit too early. Anyway, this gave us a chance to slow our pace, pop over #15 a basic log vertical (apparently I could have gone through the water instead but I didn’t know this, so we jumped) and have an easy canter looping back up to #16: a log ramp, 2 strides to #17 a barn. Then the last little gallop to #18 a bench, and across the finish line!

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    Illegal amounts of fun

    Have some helmet cam…

    We finished our XC in 4:56 with an optimum time of 5:14. It’s a darn good thing that we had to slow down because of that other rider or we would have just ripped through even faster than we did! It sort of maybe made me think that she’s definitely built for higher levels, because she jumps better with bigger fences, and her natural steady hand gallop was too fast for our division. I would have been keen to have my watch available! I also was way too choked up on my releases – I wasn’t expecting any issues to come from 2 sets of reins, because I always jump with 2 reins in the Pelham, but I actually found them quite cumbersome during our run. My release is something that is a constant work in progress. Otherwise though, it was the most fun I’ve had riding other than fox hunting (even more so, maybe!) and I couldn’t stop smiling.

    And that was basically it. Vesper got cooled down, bathed, poulticed and fed copious amounts of treats for taking such stellar care of me the whole day. We didn’t stick around for the results, knowing they’d be posted online later, but ended up moving up to 5th place after our XC run.

     

    Uncategorized

    Welcome aboard

    It has long been on my mind to blog about my equestrian adventures (and the mundane things, too) but after much humming and hawing, I finally bit the bullet and started one. I’ve been following other equestrian blogs for some time now, and always felt it would be fun and useful to have my own. I enjoy looking back over journal entries to see the progress we’ve made, and I personally love reading about the struggles and victories of other riders.

    My plan is to chronicle show recaps, training plans, equipment reviews and other horse-related topics. I am a low budget rider, so the reviews will be on the very wallet-friendly items that I purchase, which may be useful to other folks trying to be spending conscious!

    I love you even though you basically eat hard cash.

    I encourage folks to offer feedback and requests for posts, and I am always looking for more blogs to follow, so please do leave comments or feel free to contact me directly!