Jumping Ponies!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yes that's right I jumped for the first time since Erie!  Woohoo!!!  We'll get to the details in just a minute.

As you can probably tell by the lack of updates, this holiday season has been a little on the rough side for me.  It's been really hard on me realizing that my brother's not here this year.  Not to mention the insane amount of hours I'm working each week between the two jobs.  So sorry for the lack of updates.

So let's jump into what is sure to be a massive post here.  Well several weeks ago, we had a big milestone where the Boy and the ponies met for the first time.  That meeting went pretty well I think.  The Boy is still not real sure about horses, but he's trying.  So that gets him a ton of bonus points right there.

As far as the riding goes, I've really been focusing on my dressage lately.  Actually since Erie basically.  But it's paying off.  I switched to the big boys spurs for Bugsy a couple weeks ago and it's really made a difference.  Of course Bugs isn't so thrilled with the switch but he's moving off my leg a lot easier and our laterals are so much better!  We've been working on adding movements to our repertoire.  Or well I have as Bugsy already has them down pat.  We've gotten some pretty decent shoulder ins, and a couple of passable half passes.  I've started working on the extended trot and dabbled with haunches in.  I'm still struggling on the haunches in, but we'll get there.  I've also had some really good dressage rides on Airy.  I was really pleased with the good shoulder ins and half passes I got from her.  She's not nearly as well trained on them as Bugsy, and actually Bonnie hasn't done any of that with her in a long time.  So it was pretty impressive how well we did.

And then the week before Thanksgiving I jumped again!  Astrid decided she was ready to jump a little and so we all moved a couple sets of standards into the arena.  After some dressage with Bugs I decided to tack up Airy in my jumping saddle and I'd join the kids in their lesson.  Well after I blew all the dust off my saddle and got Airy tacked up we headed out to join Carlee, Ari and Astrid.  I'll admit after so much time spent in the dressage saddle being back in the jumping one felt a little weird.  We warmed up on the flat first and then Bonnie had us all head towards a small cross bar.  Airy was not exactly impressed with it.  But she hopped over.  Then the next time around, just as we lined up for the fence she tried to take off, gave a little buck and next thing I knew I was eating dirt.  Silly mare.  Got back in the saddle and we did it again, this time I was prepared for anything she might so.  We ended up jumping a few low fences, but called it quits after not too long.  She didn't try bucking again, but she did give me some pretty wild rides over some of the fences.

After we all finished jumping the kids all took their turns cantering and then Bonnie asked if I wanted to take Kaye over some fences!  Like I would say no to that.  And that's when I realized that the last time I even sat on Kaye was at South Farm in early June!  Crazy to think it had been so long.  So Carlee and I switched horses and Bonnie put the fences up a bit.  Nothing to drastic, just beginner novice height or so.  Kaye had a blast jumping the (slightly) bigger fences!  We had three fences set up, one in the center and then one off to either side at a slight angle.  We jumped them all going both directions, then I decided to do a little course.  Started out over the center fence, off to the one on the left, half circle to the other and then back over the center.  Turned around at the other end of the arena and did the whole thing in the opposite direction.  Toward the end Kaye was really getting in to jump off mode!  I let her keep going in a (controlled) canter, but she was cutting her corners to shave time and everything.  The one fence she cut so close my leg actually brushed the standard.  But she was having fun and I was having just as much fun with her.  I'm really enjoying the opportunity to learn from Bugsy and work with the all the other horses.  But I do miss riding Kaye and just getting to have fun!

Thanksgiving weekend I had a wild ride on Buggers.  Bonnie and Astrid were heading down to Maryland to pick up Buddy and Little Cuddles.  I headed out to the barn in the morning and tacked up to ride with Ari, Maggie and Tricia.  I made my first mistake by forgetting to lunge Bugs before I got on.  We warmed up beautifully at the walk, moved forward into a nice trot and then started with some pretty good laterals.  We had a couple great leg yields and then a very nice shoulder in.  Then coming out of that Bugsy spotted the super scary, horse eating...orange cone laying on it's side.  And he took off bucking.  Really Buggers?  The orange comes that have been in the arena for years?  The orange cones that you have jumped over, ridden around and played with?  So when he finally settled down I hopped off and hooked him up to the lunge line.  Lunged the pony for about 10 minutes or so and then hopped back on.  Ahh, so much better now!  He settled down and worked really well for me, even though he was very confused when I tried to show the two point position to Maggie.  He could not figure out why I was doing that in the wrong saddle!  So things went smoothly until we got to the canter.  I picked up the canter and first asked for a lot of canter-halt-reverse-canter transitions.  Canter a circle, halt, reverse, canter two circles.  Then maybe half a circle.  And so forth.  Then I asked him to do a three loop serpentine of the arena with a simple change for every loop and then do a three loop serpentine back in a counter canter.  Halt at the gate, turn on the haunches and do the same thing off the other lead.  First time down and back was great.  Then on the second time as we were completing the third loop down he tripped.  And came up bucking.  And I'm talking big, snap his back type bucks.  I sat up, dug my back into him, dug my spurs into him (and remember I was wearing the big boy spurs, so he felt them!) and made him move forward.  Once he stopped bucking we finished the exercise and then I made him to it again.  He was a sweaty Bugsy afterwards!  Oh well, I think I made my point.  Hopefully. 

So it's been a good couple of weeks with the ponies.  Lots of other stuff happening on the non-pony front.  But I think I'll save that for a separate post.


2012 Is My Year!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finally I have the horse, I have the confidence, 2012 is going to be my year!

What brought this on you ask?  Well I was taking a look at the provisional calendar for USEA and I'm really getting excited about eventing next year.  I'm finally in a place where I feel comfortable and confident riding.  I have a horse to event who has the talent to win everything, and the brains to keep me safe.  For the first time in my life, I feel like we wouldn't be a joke going to the AECs.  So I'm tentatively planning out my 2012 season.

April 7-8, 2012 - Spring Bay Horse Trials, Kentucky

I love this event!  And early season is great for us.  The way we work over the winter always has us well prepared for the early events.  Our horses usually look better than the ones that spent the winter eventing down in Florida!  
May 19-20, 2012 - Greater Dayton Horse Trials, Ohio
Dayton is always a nice event.  And we have the option of staying a Hearthstone rather than the grounds.  So it saves us a bit of money and we can bring along an extra horse or two to school cross country depending on the room in the trailer.
June 16-17, 2012 - Lost Hounds Horse Trials, Pennsylvania
I've had great experiences at Erie in the past.  Two years ago that was my first event back with Kaye, and it's at the same place Bugsy and I won this summer.
June 30, July 1, 2012 - South Farm Horse Trails, Ohio
I can't say enough good things about South Farm.  I love this place.  Sarah is a wonderful organizer to work with and she always puts on top notch events, recognized horse trials and schooling shows alike.
September 6-9, 2012 - AMERICAN EVENTING CHAMPIONSHIPS, Georgia
I'm putting it out there.  That's our goal.  The AECs.  I can't believe I'm even writing it down.  But I am and that's what we are going to spend the next year working towards.  And saving for.  lets not forget that part.  I'm sure all said and done the trip will cost me a grand.  But it will be worth it. 
 Of course we will sprinkle this will combined tests and some dressage shows.  And I'll be getting the youngsters out next year as well.

I can't wait already!  Only 155 days till our first event.


September/October Goals Review

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

September/October Goals

  •  Continue to work with Twinkie
    • Success, I had some really good rides on Twinkie in September.  She's really coming along well.
  • Begin schooling First Level dressage with Bugsy
    • Success!  It's not a whole lot yet, but Bonnie had us start working on some of the laterals and the extended trot.  We're getting there!
  • Work on my own fitness
    • Well I signed up for the fall Walking Campaign through Pitt.  So I guess that's a start at least.
  • Start the "babies" under saddle
    • Titus was started under saddle again.  So that's one down...

November/December Goals

  • Continue First Level work with Bugsy
  • Start jumping again
  • Continue to work with the "babies"
  • Build up my own fitness
  • Ride Naughtie, Airy and X
  • Find a way to balance my time with D and the barn   


Valley Miss 3/7/1988 - 10/14/2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Well over the last few weeks I've had a lot of stuff keeping me busy and distracted.  Dressage shows, the new boy and playing with baby Titus, all gave my a chance to put something out of my mind.  But it's time to face to reality.  A couple weeks ago Bonnie and I really talked about Miss.  She's just not been doing well lately.  She's losing weight and she's not herself.  Her breathing is getting really bad again.  We agreed the best thing for her would be to let her go before winter got here.  She doesn't need to go through another cold winter.  And I don't want to wait too long.  It's not fair to Miss to keep her around just so I feel better.

Still even after making the decision we couldn't quite make the call yet.  A couple weeks passed and we still didn't call the vet.  But then Miss told us it was time.  Her breathing was steadily getting worse and she kept losing weight no matter how much grain we gave her.  When we saw her almost lose her hindquarters just walking out to the arena we knew it was time.

I went out and spent a couple of hours with her this week.  I groomed her and gave her as many peppermints as she would eat.  I cried into her mane for the last time.  It was a good evening and I got a chance to say my goodbyes to her.

Dr. Maro came out Friday and Miss was put to sleep out behind the arena.  She buried out back with her friends.  She was reunited with Vinny, Tru, Jade and all the others that we've lost.  I know she happy to finally be able to run free without any pain or discomfort. 

Thank you baby girl for taking care of me as I was learning to event.  Thank you for showing me how much fun this sport is and what a terrific partner can be found in a thoroughbred mare.  Thank you for trusting me to take care of you.  I'm glad I was able to keep you happy and comfortable these last few years.  I'll never forget you baby girl.

One of my favorite Miss photos.  Her and Maura at Virginia

Bonnie with Miss in Kentucky

Maura and Miss at Pony Club Champs in Kentucky

 In Loving Memory

Valley Miss
March 7, 1988 to October 14, 2011


What's In My Tack Trunk: Leg Protection

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We're starting a new segment here on X-Tra Pony, reviews and recommendations of the products that I use.  I've had some requests asking what boots, or feed I use and I figured why not make it part of the blog.  And since my one horse owns enough gear to outfit the entire US equestrian team, it's a good way to take stock of what I do have.

So up first:  leg protection.  I have used a lot of different options for leg protection over the years.  Different boots, wraps and so forth.  So I've got a lot of options in my trunk.  But only a few that I really still use.  I have several pairs of the generic neoprene splint boots, you know the ones you can pick up from your local tack store for $20 or so.  

Adequate protection but when I started riding X and with the way he brushes behind, I wanted something with a little more protection for the fetlock.  In come the Sports Medicine Boots.
I really liked the SMBs for X, they offered him the protection he needed, and I liked the extra support for the fetlocks.  But I found out that X's brushing was actually wearing away at the boots.  So it was time to find something else.
Love, love, love these boots.  They are the Weatherbeeta molded galloping boots.  And at about $25 a pair, pretty inexpensive.  They hold up well to X's brushing and they are super easy to clean up, just turn the hose on them.  X gets the hind boots every ride.  And these are also my go to boots for cross country.  

Now for the front legs, I do like a little more support for X.  So he gets a set of Saratogas.
The Saratoga wraps provide a lot of support but are still lightweight and the horses seem to like them.  As with any wrap, you need to be very careful when using them.

The ponies also occasionally use bell boots.  Usually just for cross country or when trail riding.  I'm not picky about the bell boots.  I usually just pick up a cheap velcro pair from my local tack shop.  That way I'm not too upset if I lose one in the water. 

Then Kaye, well she's a special case.  She allergic to the neoprene in most boots so we had to find a fleecy option for her.  I found this pair of open fronts and they work well for her.
They were fairly inexpensive and seem to hold up well to the occasional beating.  Kaye will interfere a bit in front when she's not balanced, so with the kids all riding her boots are a must!
Whew!  And that's what's in my tack trunk!


Gogo Fatale

The equestrian community and the blogging community never cease to amaze me.  Close to 2 years ago I stumbled upon Andrea's blog and started to read all about her adventures with the amazingly talented and quirky Gogo.  I went back to the beginning and read everything.  I was inspired by Andrea's devotion to her horse.  Unfortunately I hadn't 'met' Andrea and Gogo until after her injury at the AECs so I never got to tag along on their eventing adventures.  But as I followed along through all the ups and downs of rehabbing the mare, it was obvious that Andrea would do anything for her. 

Yesterday, Andrea gave Gogo her final gift, a peaceful passing.  They had a beautiful last day together and in the end, it was quick and peaceful.  Andrea stayed by her sweet mare's side and truly did a selfless thing. 

Andrea, we share in your sorrow.  Thank you for taking us along for the Gogo ride.  She will be very much missed and remembered fondly by many.  Although not nearly as much as by you.  We are all here for you, we love you.  We look forward to being a part of your next adventure.


NWPAHA Summer Classic Dressage Show

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yup that's right, Bugsy and I went over to the dark side and went to a dressage show.  And I loved it!

Our win at Erie means we are halfway qualified for the 2012 AECs and I want to go.  Bugsy will probably be my best bet to do well there.  And let's face it, although Bugs is nowhere near ready to retire, he is getting older and realistically, he can't keep doing this forever.  So this is it, this is my chance.  And I know the lower levels at the AECs are extremely competitive.  It's not like the upper levels where you can usually bank on moving up a few placings if you jump clean.  At beginner novice you have to have a good dressage score.  And although Bugs and I can muddle through the dressage well enough for here at home, I want to be good.  So I need ring experience, and lots of it.  Luckily last weekend I had a dressage show practically right in my backyard.

Saturday morning, Courtney and I loaded up Kiwi and Bugs for the short drive to Harlansburg for the Open Dressage Show that is held in conjunction with the NWPAHA Summer Classic Arabian Show.  Being so close, Courtney thought it would be a good opportunity for Kiwi to get her feet wet.  And of course we had all our minions along, Astrid, Victoria, and Ari.

First up was Training Test 2, Bugsy warmed up great, he was listening and soft and really just working well for me.  I ended up not needing much warm up at all on him.  We just did some trot work and then our canter departs.  So then I just kept him walking to keep his muscles loose and warm.  Of course when we headed into the ring for the test I got nervous.  And as a result the first half of our test was a little bit tense.  But as we moved through the test I relaxed and things got a lot better!  And apparently the judge didn't see the tension because I walked away with a 73.214!  In a recognized dressage show!  I was shocked.

Then it was back to the trailer and Bugsy got to chill and eat hay for a couple hours before we headed back to the ring for Training Test 1.  Again Bugs warmed up great.  And then this time when we headed into the ring I wasn't nervous at all.  It was a much better test right from the start.  Bugsy was supple and tracking up, working off his hocks.  He felt great in the canter work and he gave me this great long and low stretchy circle.  To me this test felt 100% better.  Enough so that I got the high score of the day with an even 75.000!  So pleased and proud of my Buggers!

Look at that stretch!

And then it was a break for a couple more hours till we rode our last test.  I'll be honest.  By the time we headed over to the ring for Training Test 3 I was tired.  And so was Bugsy.  Dressage is hard work!  We kept the warm up very short.  Just a little bit of trot work and then a quick canter depart on each lead.  Even so we were both tired when we headed into the ring and it showed.  Plus this was the one test I never had a chance to ride at home in it's entirety.  We still had a fairly decent test.  Just not as great as the first two.  We still came away with a 62.400 and lots of things to work on for the next time.

At the end of the day we went home with blue ribbons for Training Tests 1 and 2 and a red for Training Test 3.  Pretty good accomplishment for my first recognized dressage show.  So now we are thinking about heading to Chagrin on October 15th for the NODA Schooling Show.  And we might tackle First Level Test 1.  Stay tuned!


EHSC Photo Overload

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guess what came in the mail yesterday.  The amazing pics Brant Gamma took of Buggers and I at EHSC!  Woot!  Here are some of my favorites.


July/August Goals Review

Monday, September 12, 2011

July/August Goals

  • Ride Twinkie
    •  Success!  I've gotten a couple of rides on Twinks lately and she is progressing so well.  Our last ride was fantastic, she was bending and moving off my legs.
  • Work on improving my own ability to ride Bugsy in Dressage
    • Success!  33.8 in dressage at EHSC HT says I'm improving.
  • Work on my own fitness
    • Not so much a success.  In fact, I didn't really do much on this on.  Fail.
  • Continue to work with Naughtie
    • Another fail.  Actually I don't think I've even been on Naughtie in the last two months.
  • Become more comfortable riding lots of horses
    • Success!  I've been riding Bugsy, Twinkie, Airy and actually I feel like I would be fine getting on any horse in the barn.  Even Cuddles. And I think Bonnie wants me to start riding Mystic a bit.  Of course not sure when I'll have time for that...

 September/October Goals

  • Continue to work with Twinkie
  • Begin schooling First Level dressage with Bugsy
  • Work on my own fitness
  • Start the "babies" under saddle


Erie Hunt and Saddle Club HT

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ok, finally getting around to blogging about my time at Erie Hunt and Saddle Club.  I had Friday before the event off.  So time to get Bugsy all squeaky clean and that last ride in.  Bonnie actually got on Bugsy and rode him first, so that was a nice treat.  I always enjoy riding after she's been on to tune things up.  Bugs got a thorough scrubbing as did my tack and he was tucked in for a good night's sleep.

Saturday morning I was at the barn e.a.r.l.y.  My ride time was at 9:12 but we had to feed and load up with enough time for me to get dressed and tacked up and plenty of warm up time at the show grounds.  Plus Bonnie wanted to work Bugs a bit before we left.  He goes better the second ride usually.  Made it to the barn in time to watch Bonnie ride, always educational.  The kids all slowly started arriving and we managed to get on the road only slightly behind schedule.  Pulled into the show grounds with about an hour till my ride time.  Perfect.  I got myself dressed while my superb grooming team took care of Bugsy for me.

Soon enough I was in the saddle and heading down to the dressage ring. Bugs warmed up great.  He was in the bridle just where we wanted him.  He was tracking up nicely.  All in all he looked exactly like a beginner  novice horse should.  We did our walk, trot and canter warm up, then just walked some small circles until it was our ride time.  As soon as Bugsy hit the dressage ring he suddenly remembered that he was a big bad intermediate horse.  And he went like an intermediate horse.  Oh well, he was a little more up in the bridle than we would have liked for beginner novice, but he was listening to me, and we rode a pretty good test.  So I figured we would either end up about mid pack or at the bottom of the division, depending on what the judge liked.  I practically had a heart attack when scores were posted and Bugsy and I were tied for 3rd!  I was shocked, I never expected to do that well.

I actually look like I know what I'm doing!

We had a couple of hours till it was time to jump, so Bugs was untacked and got to chill on the trailer with a hay bag, and we headed out to walk the cross country course.  It was a nice, straight forward course, actually the exact same course I jumped with Kaye 2 years prior.  Bonnie and I worked out how to ride the course, especially the water, and then we headed over to stadium.  Once again the stadium course was straight forward, no confusing turns or anything like that.

Before too much longer, the kids were tacking Bugs up again (in my snazzy new Ecogold pad) and we headed over to stadium warm up.  Bugsy warmed up great for me, although he was a little insulted by the small jumps.  We watched a couple of rounds and then it was our turn.  He was perfect in stadium, until the last fence.

As we were jumping the last fence we had a slight, uh, equipment malfunction.  My right stirrup slide off of the stirrup bar, and that threw me off balance just enough that I lost my other stirrup.  Well, then the banging stirrup spooked Bugs and he took off around the ring.  We did about 5 laps or so of the ring at a gallop before he jumped an oxer backwards and that's when I went off.   I just couldn't stick on anymore.  Luckily I was ok.  A lot sore, and a little shaken up, but ok.  Bugs stopped as soon as I went off and so the kids were able to grab him and take him back to the trailer.  Honestly at that point I wasn't sure I was up to finishing the show.  Luckily we had crossed the finish flags (several times) and so we were not penalized for the fall.  The kids took care of Bugs for me, hosed him off and then tacked him back up for cross country.  I got a drink, calmed down a bit, and manned up to get back on.

Warm up was a little rough.  Bugsy was being good, but I was still very nervous.  But the good news is even though I felt like I was going to be sick, I was staying with Bugs perfectly, even when he started leaving out strides before the fences.  Tammy coated my saddle in Saddle-Tite.  And then my support crew headed out to find a spot on course and I just had a few minutes left.  The starter called for my time, and we were off.

I was super nervous the first few fences.  And I kept Bugsy fairly slow.  And then after fence 3, my stupid pinny got caught around the whip I had under my saddle, so that slowed things up a bit.  We trotted the up bank at 4 and then down into the woods.  Then coming back up out of the woods Bugs picked up and easy canter, and suddenly I remembered how fun this was.  I rode my entire course in two-point, which actually Bugsy liked a lot better, sitting the canter/gallop on him is just asking for a little too much at this level.  He was such a good boy for me!  Even did the water like a champ!  The water was just an unflagged pass through for beginner novice, about 5 strides or so after a log.  Originally the plan was to go around the water rather than risk a stop, as we all know water is not Bugsy's favorite thing.  But after seeing the course Bonnie told me to take him through it, since it wasn't flagged, even if he did stop we wouldn't be penalized.  About 3 strides out from the log he saw the water and sucked back a little, but I growled at him and he said ok!  Jumped the log and then he did drop back to a trot before the water, but he trotted through with no hesitation and then picked up the canter again afterwards.  We finished the course with big smiles and 9 seconds under optimum time.

My support crew took Bugs for a well deserved shower, after he got lots of treats of course.  And I got a well deserved gatorade and a seat.  It wasn't too much longer till we heard the announcement that scores had been posted for my division.  If I was shocked to be tied for 3rd after dressage, just imagine my shock when I saw that I had won!  The first and second place horses had some problems in stadium and so I was tied for 1st after that.  Everyone else already knew it, and actually I'm glad Bonnie didn't tell me.  Would have made me a lot more nervous for cross country.  Both the other girl and I ran clean on cross country but I was closest to optimum time and so I won.  1st place out of 19 in the division, including some professionals, feels pretty darn good!