Saturday, October 6, 2012

Practically Perfect Ponies and Pretty Ribbons

Life has been rolling on at an extraordinarily fast pace, so unfortunately the updates have been a bit fewer and farther between lately (that pesky law school thing gets in the way). But since the last post, Cole has decided that he doesn't like the idea of being Coleslaw and Riley has really stepped up to try and fill in Will's shoes. 

I was a bit distraught about Cole after taking him to KY Classique. He was so badly behaved, and he's been so badly behaved on other off-the-farm outings that I was beginning to wonder if it was more of a I-hate-being-off-the-farm thing than a green-horse thing (some horses are just like that). Thankfully over   the past few weeks he's been trying his best to behave on field trips and convince me that he's just green, and he'll hopefully grow out of it. 

The Sunday after Classic, we trailered over to the KHP for XC schooling. Cole let me know that he's going to have issues with changes in footing (i.e. grass to gravel) and light-to-dark. Other than the not-jump-issues, though, he was perfect! He jumped several starter fences and didn't bat an eye at the water. My goal with him has been to take it easy, since there's no reason to push him and risk backing him off, especially since he had almost no jumping experience when I got him. We brought Riley along for moral support for Cole and John was able to jump him over everything that Cole did. John even hacked Cole around for the second half of our schooling while I made Riley jump big boy things to see if he felt ready to go training again.

Riley loves XC schooling when John's the rider!

Cole also went to his first "horse show" the weekend after schooling. We went up to the Oldham County Fairgrounds for a small, local schooling-type show. It was no KHP, but he saw bleachers, screaming children, and plenty of other horses going in all directions around him. There were no Vietnam-style track flashbacks, and he was almost well-behaved enough to place well. I think he could sense when the judge was looking, though, because those were the only times he threw some bucks. 

Looking deceptively well-behaved.

Second! (...out of two.) He was a total champ for being so well-behaved though- he even cantered for this class.

This past weekend, I loaded both boys up on the trailer for round two of Cole's KHP show adventures. Cole was my non-compete, and Riley was signed up for training(!) at Jumpstart. This weekend was Riley's first attempt at a training level event since 2009, when I gave up on him and bought Will as an older brother to Riley who would actually jump the scary fences. Sunday was also the 6 month mark since losing Will, and I can't help but think that he was giving Riley some of his bravery on cross country. 

Friday night was a whirlwind of baths and schooling, and thank god my mom was there to help. We took both boys down to the dressage fields so I could school one after another, which was the only way I could've gotten both ridden. Riley was pretty good for the super crummy, swampy footing, and Cole was actually safely rideable above a walk (a huge improvement over Classic).

On Saturday, the footing had dried up a bit, but not very much. The warmup was complete slop, so we opted for a dry-ish grassy patch to warm up on. My warmup was pretty good and my test would've gone well if I didn't let Riley snowball out of control at the end. It was definitely better than it has been in the past, but I botched the last 4 movements. My goal was to score under 40 and we just barely squeaked by with a 39.6. 

I didn't have much time between dressage and XC, so I headed back to the barns and started getting Riles ready. The footing was a bit sloppy and the air was somewhat muggy (and Riley was borderline fit enough...), so Riley got to sport some of Will's big kid studs as well as a Flair strip. Warmup went well, although it's never very encouraging to see a fellow competitor crash into the warmup fence. 

We left the start box and Riley was rocking and rolling, albeit in his trademark giraffe style. The first few fences rode very easy and set him up well for the meat of the course, which started with a formidable double brush for #5. #6 was the clover cutouts on a 1 or 2 stride line, which I knew wouldn't be a problem. #7 was called the "fern display" and was a shared fence with prelim. I kept telling myself it'd ride fine, but it certainly was a little bit looky and VERY big when I walked it. Of course Riley being himself, it rode great, and the stone wall-ramp right after it was like a twig after he cleared #7. The next fences I had to worry about were #12A/B and #13A/B. #12 was a relatively small log, but was placed at the top of a small hill where I was concerned Riley might slip, and had a sharp turn to the B log. Of course slipping wasn't an issue, and there was tons of time to turn to the B and get a nice jump over it. 

Giraffe face before fence #2.

His belly barely cleared the straw rack, fence #10.

The bunker, fence #11.

#12A and down the hill.

Turn to #12B.


The scariest fence on course was next, and consisted of a HUGE ditch and a couple strides to a skinny-ish brush. The ditch lives right next to the Rolex sunken road, and I heard rumors that it was on the prelim and intermediate courses at Classic. It was definitely both wide and deep, with tons of room for horse eating monsters inside. It's probably a good thing that the photographer didn't get any pictures of Riley jumping the ditch, because while he was a very good boy and ignored the monsters trying to eat him, it wasn't exactly pretty. We came up to the ditch in a fastish coffin canter after I'd shown him my whip to make sure he knew I wasn't scared of beating him. He got up to the ditch, thought for a second about jumping, then thought again about running out to the left, and then finally decided that he'd better go ahead and jump it. We landed well to the left of our line to #13B, more on track for the prelim skinny/C element or a total runout of the complex. But we got it together and wiggled our way to #13B and jumped it from what felt like practically a stand still. I was so proud of him, but the rough-and-tumble riding there carried over to the next two fences, after which we got our groove back.

Over the brush!

Just a little long...

Galloping on.

The rest of the course rode beautifully. The last big questions were the bank complex and water complex, where of course he had no issues. Besides jumping the ditch, I was most proud that he came in 20 seconds under optimum time because that was an issue for us the two times we actually completed training level events (it's kind of obvious when riding him on XC why he wasn't a very good race horse!). We were 7th after dressage, but a few of the top horses had trouble making the time, so we moved up to 3rd after cross county. 

That afternoon I was able to ride Cole again and he was much better with Riley there as moral support. I figured out that he's fine with everything in the dressage fields except the big buildings on the far side and the arena closest to them- the Museum of the Horse, the Visitor's Center, and the USHJA headquarters all seem to collectively freak him out. Elsewhere around the KHP he had no issues with the Big Barn, the old indoor, or tents pitched in some of the arenas in anticipation of the Kentucky National - it was isolated to that group of big buildings right by the dressage complex. I'm not sure if it reminds him of the racetrack or what, but that seemed to be the only issue. Otherwise he was a very good boy and was much better behaved all around the park.

Riley was working very hard while babysitting Cole.

On Sunday, I was the last division to show jump in my assigned arena, so we had most of the morning to relax. I had enough time that I quickly re-braided Riley and then John and I took the boys around for a walk and to graze. Sadly we missed the Pony's show jumping round, but we were able to catch his awards ceremony. 

We got Riley ready and headed up to the SJ arena, where I was a bit early. I went with my normal early warmup protocol and jumped several fences before giving Riley a break. I picked him back up with only a few rides in front of me and suddenly turned my brain off. My warmup turned into a bit of disaster, and I even had an unplanned emergency dismount at the warmup oxer (although in our slight defense, I'm pretty sure the front rail was actually taller than the back rail). Thankfully that knocked some sense into me and I had a few good jumps before heading over to the competition ring. 

My show jumping round itself wasn't that bad. We chipped in to the second fence and maybe had one other ugly fence, but overall it wasn't the kind that makes people gasp and think "wow, they're still alive!" at the end of it. I had plenty of faith in Riley, but was still thrilled when he left all the rails up, especially because rails had been flying all morning. 

All that was left was to see where we ended the weekend- whether we kept our third or had managed to move up. The announcer took a moment to give out a special award to the lowest-scoring senior amateur in the training rider division, and I was VERY surprised when I heard my name called over loudspeaker! 

After the Play For Keeps award was presented, they still had the division left to place. At this point I'd realized that Riley had won, but was still in a bit of disbelief. I've definitely never led a victory gallop before, so I wasn't sure how to start things off or how to go about it. All in all, Riley won a cooler, a lunchbox, a saddle pad, a basket full of apples and peppermints, and a big blue ribbon. I was so proud of him for being such a good boy the entire weekend, and the first place was just icing on the cake.

Stupid-Pony Picture Time!

Riley's favorite part of winning!

Later that afternoon Riley took John cross country schooling while Cole went around and jumped several starter and beginner novice fences. I could probably do without some of Cole's enthusiasm (especially about yanking out my left arm), but I was very proud of him for jumping everything I asked him to. 

Overall the weekend was very successful and I was very proud of both boys for being so awesome. Riley's had an easy week since and has been sure to eat several of the apples he won each day I've visited him this week. 

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