Sunday, June 16, 2013

Deadbeat Dad

First off, seeing as it's Father's Day, I've got to mention what an amazing dad I have, who is most definitely NOT a deadbeat! I'm very lucky to have such an awesome dad who has my best interest in heart and supports me no matter what. He may give me crap sometimes, but I'd have to say I deserve it, especially for all the crap I give him back. I'm so lucky that he loves the horses as much as I do and I've got to admit that I love our long spring road trips to horse shows. Not only is he an amazing dad, but he's also an amazing horse show dad and groom, keeping his cool, cheering me on, and occasionally frantically biking the 15 minutes back to the barn to get my forgotten Flair strip or yellow watch 10 minutes before my ride time (and somehow making it back with time to spare!). This spring he's told me at at least one or two of the shows how much he and my mom enjoy coming and enjoy the horses and I've got to say it always makes me want to cry that I have such awesome parents who love me so much and love the horses as much as I do. So a huge, happy Father's Day to my awesome dad (and the head of Team Riley's transportation), John!

It may of been about 10 degrees and snowing like crazy, but he was still at Lakeside to help Riley win 3 blue ribbons!

One of my favorite pictures of us- Riley looks sooo thrilled!

So now that I've said that, I've got to switch my focus to the big announcement I mentioned in the last post, the subject of which is Deadbeat Dad. John occasionally brings the boys treats, but when he fails to pick up carrots, peppermints, or Willie Muffins for a couple of weekends in a row, I call him a deadbeat dad for never supporting "the kids". While he's obviously not really their dad (we all know Eye Z Fine and Cliff's Edge have those titles), as of last weekend, he is one step closer since he proposed to me! He of course got my parents' blessing, but also had to get Riles'- which he did with a big bag of peppermints. He brought the peppermints out to the barn and was feeding some to Riley when I walked up and asked him for one to give to Riley. Instead of a peppermint, though, he gave me a ring inside a peppermint wrapper. I was completely caught off guard as I had NO idea he was planning on popping the question any time soon. He's such an amazing boyfriend and "dad" to the boys that I'd of course be stupid to say no- so my only option was to say yes! I'm so lucky to be engaged to my soul mate and am so, so excited, if not a little overwhelmed, for the year ahead before our wedding and after that the rest of our lives.

John and Riley, two of my favorite boys!

John with Cole, my other favorite boy

Getting ready to have some horse fun without the boys at the KY Derby

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring Season Wrap Up

WOW, has it been a great spring season! In the past month Cole has made his eventing debut, Riley finished up his qualifications for AECs, and Riley finished his first training level three day. This spring has made me extra grateful to own such wonderful horses.

As a side note, I have to mention that part of the lack of updates has been thanks to law school. The end of the semester was about as crazy as usual and on top of that was all of the formalities and excitement that comes along with graduating. But I officially have my J.D. (I finally got all my grades back- and I thankfully didn't fail out during my last semester!)! Now I'm just hunkering down and studying for the bar exam at the end of the summer.

Back in mid-May I was lucky enough to be able to take both boys up to Ohio for Greater Dayton HT. I picked it as Cole's first show because it has a reputation as a great spring/first outing show and I thought it'd be a good warmup to see how Riley would hold up before the three day. We had a fantastic weekend, although I was extra busy with the two horses. The week before the show I had pinched a nerve in my back so I was a little worried about how riding two at an event would go over, but my body came through for me and I was actually in significantly less pain the Monday after the event than I was the Monday before the event.

Riley had put in a pretty good dressage test, but I did feel like we left points on the table. The judge seemed to think pretty highly of it, though, because we got a 34 and landed in 2nd place after dressage. The show jumping was in a grass arena (odd because when it's on the grass, it's usually not fenced in with a permanent fence) and I don't know if that threw people off or what, but I think I watched at least two riders in front of me have significant problems, with at least one getting eliminated. Thankfully Riley is a show jumping superstar and jumps on the grass all the time, so he finished with a double clear  SJ. On XC day he showed me that making time isn't a problem and that he's grown up to be an amazing, bold training level horse. The ditch-to-skinny question rode fantastic, although I'm still certain that the old Riley would've dumped me in the ditch. Riley finished the weekend in second place with a super positive experience under his belt.







As for Cole, I once again felt that our test was solid, but could've improved a fair amount. He got a 33, which put him in 4th place. The show jumping caused more issues in the beginner novice, resulting in a move up in the placings for Cole when he went double clear. XC was my biggest worry for him because while he's SO honest, he's not particularly bold. He got out on course and barely batted an eye at any of the jumps- if anything he was more concerned about the tiny ones than the bigger ones! At the end of the weekend, he had to go even with Riley and also bring home a big red second place ribbon. I was super proud of how much he grew up over the weekend and how he really stepped up in the XC. He felt like a real event horse!









Our big, BIG goal this whole spring has been the IEA Training Level Three Day. When they first came out with the training three day years ago, I DESPERATELY wanted to take Riley to one. I had one clean training in 2008, followed by two eliminations and a move back down to novice. I knew Riley could succeed at training, but every time we had a ditch, I either landed in it or picked up three refusals and was eliminated for the day. In 2009 I finally gave up on taking Riley training and started looking for a new horse. I don't regret that decision since it gave Riley time to grow up and gain confidence. Meanwhile, it did the same for me while also bringing Will into my life. But all the same, the training three day was one of the first things that popped back in my head after Riley won his first training in several years at Jumpstart last fall.

The weekend itself was full of plenty ups and downs. Looking at it in its entirety, though, I think it was a huge success. If I wanted to pick it apart I could, and I could probably end up feeling really crappy about my weekend, especially with Riley, but that just makes it not fun. And as I've told multiple people lately, events cost WAY too much money to not have fun- even if I have to make the fun myself. I'm eternally grateful to Will not only for giving my confidence and maturity in my riding, but because he gave me the most positive outlook on events and riding. I'm naturally a very competitive person and sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the dressage score, the color of the ribbon, or even the other things along the way, like how the footing was sloppy or the volunteers weren't always the friendliest. But I know that organizers try about as hard to put on a good event as I do to have a good time at said event, so it's just not worth getting too upset about anything. In his life, Will taught me to have a great sense of humor about a terrible dressage score or other things that don't go how I want them to. I've learned along the way to also accept blame where blame is due and to learn from my mistakes. And when Will died, I learned to sincerely and deeply appreciate any event where at the end of the weekend, I get to go home with my horse.

Side rant over, things unfortunately did not go as planned with Riley. The dressage was ok, but not spectacular. We were the first rider in our division and got to warm up in the pouring rain. I was happy with Riley's overall performance, knowing some of his dressage antics, but I know the test could've been better. After dressage we had a pretty good score for us, something around a 37, but it put us in 8th of 10 starters. XC day had significantly better weather and started off very well. We came in under time for phase A and had enough time to compose ourselves for steeplechase. Riley was a huge rockstar, coming in 30 seconds under- which was amazing if you consider how much I used to struggle to make time at training with him (it was set to go at prelim speed!). He was bold and really seemed to have as much fun as I did. At the C assistance area, we did a quick shoe check and moved onward. Unfortunately due to all the rain and the sloppy footing, Riley came into the 10 minute box without a shoe. We also came into the 10 minute box with a few time penalties from C because I relied on the times posted in the program, not the times posted at the show office. Apparently they mentioned this at the competitor meeting, but I don't think I heard it because I was late. Even more unfortunately, there was no farrier at the 10 minute box to fix Riley's pulled shoe. Thankfully, though, after a little bit of stressing out, we got a farrier over, everything was fixed, and I wasn't penalized.

Dressage in the pouring rain.

Riley's been wearing his fancy pants lately! 

Steeplechase

Cross country itself was fantastic. Riley's grown up so much and I'm so incredibly proud of him. NOTHING on course felt hard for him. We did have a run-out at the corner, but it was entirely my fault because the jump came up fast after a turn and I didn't slow him down enough to let him see it and know it was coming. He easily cleared it on our second approach, confirming that it was totally my fault. Everything else rode very, very well, including the angled ramps, water complex (drop in, bending line to bank up to jump), trekehner, and coffin.





As for show jumping, we had a very good round with a terrible detour in the middle. Jumps 1-4 were fantastic. Jump 5A/5B was a one stride in-and-out. I cut the turn a little short to 5, which normally isn't a problem for Riley, but I think in hindsight, I ought to of let him see the jump a little longer. Moreover, jump 5A was a vertical with a solid rail on top and a striped rail going diagonally across the center as a filler. When he jumped 5A, he knocked the top rail HARD with his hind legs. The way the ride went at 5 was very uncharacteristic for Riley and the best way I can explain it is that he didn't understand the question at 5A and thought the diagonal striped pole was the top rail instead of the solid rail that actually was the top rail. When we got to 5B, he felt a bit angry about knocking the rail at 5A as though his mind was still on that having happened and he refused the B oxer. We reapproached and the same ride happened. He jumped 5B on the third attempt, but he still seemed to not understand why he knocked 5A HARD with his back legs every time he jumped it. I have a pretty strong feeling that if he wasn't so tired, he might of been able to power through the in-and-out despite not understanding it, but that his normal extra athleticism and mom-saving powers just weren't there on Sunday morning. Of course after our near-elimination at 5A/5B, he jumped everything else clear and was a total rockstar.

Sunday morning jog




Despite our issues, Riley finished 6th in the T3D. He apparently would've also won best conditioned had we of not excused ourselves from eligibility for the award. We excused ourselves because Team Riley donated the Willpower Award in honor of Will to go to the best conditioned horse. It would've been great to win it, but I really wanted it to go to someone else to help keep Will's memory alive and hopefully make them feel as awesome as I did when I won best conditioned with Will. I also won a sportsmanship award, which was really awesome. As I ranted earlier, I'm just not into whining about things when- for lack of a better phrase- shit happens. I feel like shit definitely happened to me, but it's just not worth it to me to let it ruin my good time, so it was awesome to get recognized for that. We also got a completion ribbon from the USEA and IEA, reminding me that it really was a HUGE deal for Riley to finish the weekend. I know I say it again and again, but I'm so proud of Riley and the horse he's grown up to be. I'm so lucky to own him, flaws and all, because at the end of the weekend he tries so, so hard and really puts his heart into it. I can only dream that Cole grows up to have as much heart as Riley does or as Will did.


And thinking about Cole, he was a total superstar at his first ever novice! A mere 2 weeks after completing his first ever horse trial, in what might not of been one of my most brilliant moments, I decided to move Cole up to novice at one of the more difficult XC tracks in area 8. Thankfully, though, Cole didn't know how stupid I might of been and happily stepped up to the challenge. In his dressage he seemed more focused on the sloppy footing, the squirrels, the other horses, and just about any thing other than the rider on his back and the actual test. We deserved the 42 that we received and will hopefully have some focus at the next event. He's enough of a baby that I know he's going to have good days and bad days while he figures out horse showing and it was just unfortunate that dressage was one of those bad days.

Next was XC, where he was AMAZING. He's very, very honest, but not always a bold or catty jumper, so once again I was worried about making it over all the solid fences. He really seemed to eat it up, though. He got out on course and got in such a great, easy feeling rhythm, that I unfortunately let him pick up some speed fault penalties. I could've trotted more on course, but he has a huge stride and I really wanted him to learn the "forward" lesson since he doesn't always get that. While we were fast, I don't think we were ever unsafe- it's just that it was such a pleasant rhythm that I didn't want to break it or risk making him think that he wasn't doing the right thing.




On show jump day he took a while in the warmup to feel like he was paying attention. I don't know if it's those nice, thick bones of his, but he really doesn't seem to care if he wonks a rail pretty hard. I had him jumping well enough, though, and it was our turn to go, so we headed over for our turn. I could tell about 10 strides back that I didn't have his focus for the first fence, and I just never got it. As a result, he knocked the crap out of it, throwing it out a good 10 feet and making it look more like a landing rail than a top rail of a fence. That seemed to snap him back to the moment and the task at hand, though, and he was awesome everywhere else on course. Cole ended up in 7th place overall and was also 1st place amateur and 2nd place OTTB, meaning he got a novice AECs qualifying score and $100 for the OTTB award. And more importantly he had a very positive run and successfully finished his first novice.


Cole was not very fond of wearing his ribbon.

So in something considerably larger than a nutshell, that's been our big spring season. The next show in the calendar is Midsouth PC HT with Cole going novice, so there will definitely have to be an update after that. Also look forward to a huge announcement from Team Riley in the next few days- it's VERY exciting!!! I just thought it deserves it's own post by itself, aside from the Dayton and IEA reports.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What in God's name have I gotten myself into?

I guess I'll start it off like this...as some of you know and many of you don't know, I used to play baseball back in the day. A recent blog post on Horse Nation by Yvette Seger, about the similarities between baseball, finally gave me the excuse of why I may fit in, in this horse world. But it's probably my only excuse, the rest is just being crazy enough to buy into it.

Short of three years ago I met this girl Maggie, we were as we call it "framed". She knew just about nothing about me, but our mutual friend gave me a rundown about her.

Rides horses?! Awesome, I'll finally get to ride one, I've lived in Kentucky my whole life and haven't yet, that's like sacrilege.

She Events...I'll wikipedia that so I at least get what she's talking about...but have mostly no clue.

Ride Riley...have a blast and want to learn more

(can't remember how long later) Riley gets least and I have to learn on Will and the famous pony Ransom.

And it was all down hill from there, I was hooked, I have to show at least once. In a way it was to show Maggie I was that interested and wasn't all talk, but there was a lot more to it I would find out.

To bring it back to the baseball thing, ever since I was five I was playing organized sports; football, basketball and baseball (I would have played volleyball too since it was my mom's sport, but it was always during baseball season). Baseball was my sport though, I pitched in high school and even got some offers to play in college. I ended up deciding to go into architecture instead though. What was I thinking?! Actually what no one knew until I got done with my senior season was that if I went any longer I'd probably blow my elbow out, I was in a lot of pain after every game I threw.

For the longest time I was always occupied and extremely passionate about something that I was involved in. Even though I can't play anymore, I still love the sport (Go STL Cardinals!) and will eventually coach little league some day, I just don't know when. I even drag Maggie to games, lucky for me the first game I took her to there was a bench clearing fight in the middle of the first. Is that comparable to anything in eventing? the closest thing I can think of is jousting.

When I started riding with Maggie, I instantly felt that passion about something again, and it wasn't from me. The amount of excitement and drive she had for riding really grabbed me. Baseball, like most other sports has a timetable. At a certain age there is no progressing. You can still play in pick-up leagues, organized leagues, but there is a certain point when you can't excel past your peak. It felt amazing to be around someone who was just as passionate as you about something. And in a way it filled a hole, something I was missing.

But now; mostly joking, I ask myself...what in the world did I get myself into?

It has been a countless number of shows (thank God I made it through the first one), three Rolex XC marathons and many of late nights at the barn either setting rails or cleaning tack. The list could go on, but my mind doesn't want to think that hard right now. And I'm still here and I'm going to show. It started with a hand me down pair of half chaps from Maggie. Then a pair of paddock boots. Then, at Rolex 2012 Dawn and Maggie both got me whips and bedazzzled/glittered them, that is when I knew I was in too deep.

I was actually probably in too deep just months into this, depends on when I started to show up at the barn, treat in hand, and was able to create a horse song out of any song that came on the radio. You all didn't know I could do that did you? Just ask Willard about his apple bottom jeans and wolf boots with the fur, or Riley about Riding Polo. Did you know Riley is a huge fan of Ke$ha? She's his guilty pleasure and even follows her on twitter. Willard loved Pretty Lights and Bassnectar, but we still can't decide Cole's favorite yet. Then I started creating a comic about the boys and their life on the farm, Horsin' 'Round. The mind works wonders when you sit at the barn all day waiting for some crazy redhead to get done riding or working. I never mind though, there is something soothing about being out there, just you and the ponies in the scenery that makes Kentucky so beautiful. Like Yvette wrote, there are plenty of songs I could sit back and think about while riding or just hanging out at the barn. I need to think of a start box song now to make sure I'm ready to go.

And now Rolex 2013 roles around...is there a certain time frame from when you start to when you hit the point of no return? I just want to see if I'm average of above average. After just about a year I took Will to a Dressage show, and now I'm on the verge of eventing. I'm making my combined test debut at Sayre School in two weeks! And thanks to some Rolex shopping, I'm ready to go. I now have a not so bedazzled whip, saddle pad, show coat (the tailor better have it ready next Wed.) and I'm in the process of breaking in some tall boots. My feet hate me tonight after using the bathtub method of stretching my boots.

And as I sit here in 3 layers of socks and soaking wet leather boots, praying they would dry faster, i still have to wonder, why do I want to put myself through this?

But it's all so much fun, I've had more XC experience than anything and thats the best part.

I actually feel very lucky to have been introduced to the sport of Eventing. I have been missing something that takes hard work and a new desire to learn. I'm also very happy to find that it was compared to my favorite sport. If you have read this far and remember to ask; ask me about when I completely botched my walk-up song my senior year and see if you can guess what song I went to bat with for one game.

I don't know how to describe how excited I am to finally take Riles to a show! I'm so happy Maggie has gotten the horses she has, each one holds something special to me, even mr. big head (Cole Power i.e. Cole) already. Will taught me so much and Riley was there from the start, and I even have learned a little on Cole, my goal is just to get a ribbon in anything on each...and then take Ransom the Wonder Pony to Rolex ;)

John

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Milestones

In the horse world, as in all aspects of life, it's helpful to mark progress in achievements and milestones reached. They can be big or small, but whatever they are, it's always nice to look back where you came from and know you've been moving forward.

This past month, Cole tried to put on his big boy pants and went to his first ever dressage show. It was his first trip off the farm since his surgery and he had to brave it alone since Riley, his moral support, had to stay home with a stone bruise. It was not the outstanding dressage debut that I would've loved, but when I entered Cole in the show, I knew it wouldn't be. I did, however, know it would be a great learning experience and a venue where Cole could be as good or bad as he wanted to be with no high stakes involved. It seems as though other people also chose the show for that reason, because despite being very tense in his tests, Cole got 2nd place in Intro B and 3rd place in the eventing percentage class for doing Beginner Novice A. I'm especially proud of Cole because he'd only been working for a short while and cantering again post-layup for about a week or two before the show. The best part is that the basic parts are there and it can only get better with more experience off the farm and more progressive training. I think he'll start jumping again soon so that we can get back on track to a beginner novice event sometime this spring/summer season.

It was nice and cold (and snowy) for Cole's first show.

Cole trying to behave.

More importantly than Cole's first dressage show (although don't get me wrong, it was a big deal for him!) was an enormous milestone for me this past weekend: I braved my first out-of-state show since losing Will almost a year ago. Approaching the trip, I had all sorts of doubts and fears. It's one thing to experience the sudden and tragic death of a horse, it's another to do it far away from the comfort of home. In Lexington, I regularly work with fantastic vets, I have close access to two top-notch equine hospitals if my regular vets are unavailable, and in the worst case scenario, I trust the Lexington Disease and Diagnostic Lab to perform a necropsy. If something happens while traveling away from home, I have to put all of my trust into unfamiliar people and institutions and hope for the best. And while the timing was right to go to Southern Pines HT, I couldn't ignore that I'm still approaching the one year anniversary of losing Will and that the show was located relatively close to the Ark in North Carolina where he died.

Thankfully despite all of the bad memories and dreadful fears, the weekend was a huge success. Riley once again stepped up and impressed me with what a wonderful horse he is. Two weeks before the show, he had unfortunately turned up lame with a stone bruise. He more or less had those two weeks off, so when we left for North Carolina, he was sound again, but hadn't had a good dressage or jump school for some time. My goal, then, was to simply complete the show with a healthy, sound horse at the end of the weekend. If we bombed one or more of the phases, I was willing to attribute it to not having schooled enough before the show.

As it turned out, we didn't have the best dressage and we pulled a rail in SJ, but I would by no means say we bombed any part of the show. Riley put in a solid dressage test considering the circumstances. In show jumping we had a great round, but I kind of pushed him to the #2 fence and he pulled the rail. Otherwise I felt like our jump lessons have been paying off and was very happy with the round.

When it came time for cross country, I was extra stressed out about making it through safe and making it over the ditch. The water was also a bit difficult (but fair) for training, with a drop in to a bank out, 2 strides to a log stack. And as always (and once again considering the time off during the last two weeks before the show), I was concerned about Riley making the time since he usually struggles with that. The best part of XC was feeling all of my fears melt away as we galloped out of the start box and over the first fence. Riley easily breezed over everything and showed me a gear I've never seen before during the first half of the course- so much so that we cantered around the last 4 fences. The big fences felt easy, the more technical questions felt easy, and he even jumped the ditch in the half coffin without batting an eye. Once upon a time, cross country with Riley was very stressful because I didn't know where, when, or if he would stop. Now it's just plain fun and he makes it feel easy. Will left some very big shoes to fill, but Riley has proven that he's up to the job while Cole's busy growing up.

Passing up the huge milestone of my first out of state show in almost a year was a daunting task, but I'm so happy I had Riley with me to help and to once again give me courage when I needed it. The best part about having him back at home is just how often (and sometimes how loudly, like this weekend) he tells me that I have too low of expectations for him. Riley might not have the raw talent of other horses, but he more than easily makes up for it with his huge heart and how hard he tries. He may be hindered by medical issues, but he constantly impresses me with how much he can still do in spite of them.

Once again, I feel so lucky to have two wonderful horses. The past month has made me super excited for the coming show season and what it will hold for all of us, hopefully including more milestones like Cole's first events and Riley's first T3D. Will did a great job teaching me to enjoy my horses for who they are and to not measure success in ribbons. Knowing this, I think this show season will be a very, very successful one.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Snowventures! And Cole Finally Gets a Job

I'm beginning to think that every time I schedule a Friday lesson and/or vet appointment, the world decides it needs to dump a bunch of snow and/or sleet and/or ice on Lexington (and Nicholasville). It might be one of those rules of nature that just is- you know, the same way it snows as soon as you wash your car (and if you live in Louisville or Lexington, that means there's more salt accumulation than snow accumulation, which then gets all over your no-longer-clean car). And I guess because I scheduled BOTH a vet appointment AND a lesson this past Friday, the world decided it would give Lexington some legit snow.

So while the roads were slushy enough to maybe merit a snow day for Fayette County schools, I bundled up and headed out to the barn to meet the vet. I guess after the big ordeal of the last month or so, Cole is finally starting to behave well (for Cole) for the vet. He got the rest of his stitches out (the high-tension stitches were removed first last Tuesday) and was cleared for regular turnout starting this week!

The vet cleared him for small-space turnout on Wednesday. He was very happy to run!

video
He also enjoyed rolling and bucking/squeaking.

Next was fun with Riley- since Ash Grove had already been salted, the sun was beginning to come out,  and the jumping trainer has an awesome indoor, we decided to brave the elements and head out for our jump lesson. I was definitely late, but I'm really happy I went because I had a giant ah-ha moment during my lesson. I always get nervous about the first fence on course that I end up not having a good, forward rhythm and flubbing it every time. Riley also acts kind of spooky the first time he sees a particular fence, so I have to work on getting him to things boldly the first time and letting him take over after that. I had a second ah-ha moment when Joyce pointed out that I just kind of throw Riley away and let him figure things out when I don't see the perfect distance- so we worked on getting me to open up my shoulders and add leg to ride more confidently. Sometimes I think I've had Riley for so long that lessons on him rarely reveal new things, but even though I know him back and forth, it's nice to know that we can still improve. Because he knows his job so well, I've also realized it's nice to have some lessons on him so I can focus on fixing my issues without having to do a lot of training at the same time. The drive back was very pleasant as by then ALL the slush was melted. I was very happy to make it up the barn driveway and get everything unpacked and re-packed for Lakeside on Saturday.

I guess because the world did not successfully convince me to cancel my Friday jump lesson, it tried to exact its revenge on Saturday for my planned trip to Lakeside. However, being the hardcore crazy horseperson that I am, I wasn't about to let a little snow get in my way. I figured that my trip would be just like the day before- a little slushy, but nothing to really worry about. Apparently I was wrong, but thank god my dad was there to do the driving. About halfway there I realized maybe I really WAS crazy for still deciding to go, but we'd gone far enough that we might as well make it to Lakeside. After we were there, I was surprised to see that it was so busy. I thought for sure I'd be running late for my classes, but I had a looooong time to wait.

I came out from entering my classes to discover this slush-sculpture that my dad and John made out of all the slush on the front of the trailer.

I entered what I normally do with Riley- the 2'6" Gambler's Choice as a warmup and the 3'-3'3" Schooling Jumpers. The Gambler's Choice was a great opportunity for me to work on doing tight turns while keeping the same forward rhythm. I was also really happy because even though Riley's been backed off of fences at Joyce's the first time he jumps them, he was easy to ride forward to the jumps the first time (it probably also helped that I was prepared!). Riley won the Gambler's Choice, which was awesome, but I think I'm going to have to stop entering it since it's probably too easy for us. Riley was also awesome for his Schooling Jumpers rounds- we had one or two bad distances, but I was thrilled with our jump-off round in the second class. We got nice distances, he made tight turns but still came forward out of them, and he was able to gallop and come back and balance when there was a lot of space between us and the next fence. He ended up winning both his classes and getting champion, making the day a huge success. We do the jumpers at Lakeside in the winter to practice jumping and memorizing courses, but mostly it's for Riley to go out and have fun since stadium is by far his favorite phase and he only gets one opportunity to do a course at an event. I also stress out a bit too much about stadium, so it's nice for me to relax and have fun over fences at a show. All I really have to do is look at my next fence in the jumpers and he's happy to make tight turns- I'm beginning to think a trained monkey could win the local jumpers with him!

Riley got a well-deserved day off yesterday (while we went to the U of L game to see the Firecrackers half-time show... seriously, if you've never seen them at a UK game, look them up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq_FxvFbYWE).

And tonight, for the first time since November, I got to ride TWO horses! Cole just walked for 15 minutes, but I'm happy to say I lived to tell the tale- after how bad he's been to hand walk some days, I was very impressed at how content he was to practice his free walk. It's about time he got a job and started earning his keep, even if it's just short rides to start out with. And of course Riley was awesome- Red Gate's indoor has been SO nice to have this winter. Not only can I ride on crappy days like this at 7 PM at night, but having to use the indoor has made Riley much more balanced and forward regardless of the size of the space we ride in. I'm really excited to see if his dressage scores will drop at all this season since I definitely feel like we've been improving.

Something I haven't seen in a long time! And of course it's blurry because he wouldn't stand still/stop trying to eat his reins.

Monday, January 28, 2013

An Update and a Quick Reflection on the Eventer Stereotype

Well, things have been quite busy around Team Riley lately. I'll get to the title/heart of this post in a bit, after an update. The boys had a quiet vacation at the farm while I also took a quiet vacation in Louisville over Christmas break. Well, actually, it was quiet until two days before I was supposed to come home, Cole bullied Riley into destroying a round pen panel. I have no idea what happened, but the gate panel doesn't look so hot. Riley survived the encounter with nothing but a few scratches.

Cole looking innocent in his baby paddock. We all know the truth about him.

After their vacation, Riley got a big haircut and started back in work. Mostly he's been doing flatwork with me, but he's also been giving John the occasional jump lesson on weekends to get ready for John's show jumping debut.

Riley was pretty excited about his bath.

But he did get a pretty sweet butt design! The idea was courtesy of my dad.

Cole still had a little bit of time off from his surgery after break, so he was enjoying his half day turnout.  I think he could sense that his 2 month vacation was coming to an end, so one week before I could ride him again, he ripped his left front leg open. When I found out it was the same leg where he had surgery I about had a heart attack, but somewhat thankfully it was further up his leg. Also thankfully, while he did a good job slicing it up, he managed to miss important structures, including going into his knee joint. Not so thankfully, he had a little bit of initial infection (calling for strong antibiotics), I still can't figure out how he did it, it was super swollen, and it required about a bazillion stitches and even more vet appointments. Back to being thankful, Dr. Beyer did a beautiful job sewing it up and other than some gross fibrous swelling over the front of his knee (that Dr. Beyer assures me is normal, despite my freak-outs about it), Cole has been healing pretty well. He even gets the stitches out tomorrow!

Believe it or not, the top cut is over Cole's knee- you'd never know there was a joint there because of all the swelling.

The first of many comically large bandages for Cole.

The stitches (coated in Aluspray) after being in 4 days. 

So thanks to his klutziness, Cole has been back in solitary confinement for the past 2+ weeks. We've been hand walking together for the past week and while some days he acts like a 1300 lb yearling, he's been pretty well behaved overall. He's also been a bit more sulky about his stall rest this time, but he perks up when he gets attention and he's even gotten two Uncle Jimmy's Hangin' Balls out of his additional stall rest. Hopefully the vet will have good news tomorrow about turnout and riding, since I think both of us are going stir crazy over all this stall rest.

Back to Riley, he's been nothing but awesome since coming back to work. Shortly into the year I had a big face-palm moment when I realized I wasn't happy with his flatwork practically all fall because he was popping his shoulder to the outside when we went to the left. So after a week spent doing way too many shoulder-ins, his shoulder has been more or less staying where it ought to and the quality of his flatwork to the left has increased drastically. It's been super-awesome to have access to an indoor this winter because even with my days ending later than I'd like and the weather being crummy, I've been able to keep riding. And the best side effect of the indoor is that while it's very small, suddenly Riley is much more balanced and neither of us feel so claustrophobic in a dressage ring. I think spending the winter riding inside more than I'd like is actually going to be good for us because if I can get him to move forward well in the indoor, I ought to be able to do just as well in a dressage ring.

Finally to the title of my post. Before Cole had his surgery and before she left for Florida, I took Cole off the farm for a lesson with a local pure dressage trainer. She was highly recommended and when we started the lesson, I told her a little bit about me and my horse. First, she was very surprised that Cole was an OTTB because he's so big and he's pretty balanced for a green horse. Second, she complimented me on my riding because I'd admitted that I was an eventer. I was scared about what she would think of my riding because there's a stereotype of a "dressage queen"- a prissy dressage purist. I was happy to find out that a) she was down to earth and NOT a dressage queen and b) she didn't think too poorly of my riding. As a side note, the lesson was AMAZING and I definitely plan on taking more with her when she gets back from Florida.

This past weekend I took another lesson off the farm, this time on Riley with a local hunter/jumper trainer. Once again, I admitted that I was an eventer, but that I wanted my show jumping rounds to be a little less get-er-done and a little more pretty. Once again, I got a comment along the lines that I ride much better than she thought I would, being an eventer and all. Hunter/jumpers have the stereotype of the "hunter princess," who cares not only about being pretty over the fences, but also about whether everything from her boots to her helmet to the breed of her horse is in fashion. This trainer had once again come highly recommended, so the lesson went well (she was very down to earth, too) and I think our show jumping rounds with be smoother and more polished if I keep at it.

So to bring it all home, while these prissy, somewhat stuck-up stereotypes of dressage riders and hunter riders exist, apparently when you take the two disciplines and shove them into one weekend along with some cross country, you get a stereotype of a scary backyard get-er-done type of rider. I know my riding is rough around the edges, and I know I've seen some scary riding at events, but I didn't know we had our own stereotypes! (Other than, of course, having terrible fashion sense and loving our colors a bit too much.) And of course I'm happy my riding isn't so awful as to fit into said stereotype, even if my fashion sense is (see my awesome purple trailer). Judging from my first two lessons I think my 2013 adventures in pure dressage and pure jumpers will be both highly educational and entertaining at the same time!

Oh, and a few more pictures that didn't fit in elsewhere:

Poor Riley had to get up from his nap to go to his jumping lesson.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Team Riley is on Christmas Break and can't wait for Santa to come! Riley's list is longer that ever, he wants soooo many treats, carrots and peppermints. Cole just wants furry wolf boots that fit.

And here is the latest holiday edition of Horsin' 'Round



And here is the first ever Team Riley Christmas Card!



Team Riley wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!