Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 3

The great thing about this being a schooling show was that we were able to school XC the day before. And not just school XC, but actually school and put together the jumps that were on our course. And it was a weird, windy, and open course. Instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken me to walk the course, it took me an HOUR. Yes, an hour. And, okay, I did walk it without a map since they weren’t out yet but this was BN, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was and I was not a happy camper when I finally realized there were only 12 fences.

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I digress.

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I successfully schooled every single fence I was going to be expected to go over for the show (including the scary Mushroom fence that Gus had spooked at riding past in our very first show at Poplar) and even got to go over a couple of N questions, the best being a bench into the water and then out over another log thing. I was feeling very successful and Gus was locking onto fences like an old pro.

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Unfortunately I was also feeling very very sick. Hacking up a lung, fuzzy brain, weak all over, the works. Apparently this all led to me riding better than my trainer had ever seen before. I think I was just too sick to micromanage my ride. All I could manage was sit back, leg on and once fence at a time.

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There really might be some truth to that, however. I didn’t have a single refusal or even real thought of refusal from Gus the entire weekend. There were definitely some bad spots (see the mushroom fence below) but we managed to get though them. I just have to keep riding to the base: keep the leg on and sit back.

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The only thing we had a slight issue with was the first water. Knowing that Gus was probably going to be a little bit of an idiot about it and not wanting a refusal over a water crossing, I slowed to a trot before the water so that it wouldn’t sneak up on him. He still hesitated! So for the second water crossing, I gave him a little love tap. That did the trick and we had no issue. To be fair, the entrance was a lot nicer into the second water but this is something he’s going to have to get over.

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But remember how in Part 1 I mentioned that “not feeling it” was going to be a recurring theme for this show? Well, I almost decided that I was just not going to XC. I had already schooled everything and I was sick and, dammit, I just didn’t want to do it. No joke, I literally sulked in Gus’ stall for ten minutes before pulling my shit together and getting out to warm up.

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In the end, I’m glad I didn’t skip out. XC really is the best part of eventing after all and we had a really great ride. I think Gus and learned a bunch from this weekend and I’m excited to get to our first recognized event. Hopefully we’ll finish on our dressage score again!

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Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 2

The time to tack up and get ready for stadium came way to soon. We had walked the course the night before but my memory really wasn’t all that great and it had been such a sweeping big course that I wasn’t feeling confident about getting every fence. I had to watch a few people ride it to really get it down and I’ll admit that, on course, I had a couple of panic moments where I just kept riding around the rail hoping the fence would come up.

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The one positive that I am really holding on to is that when we walked down to the arena and saw the fences, I was convinced that they were still running the Tadpole division and that they hadn’t moved the fences up. It’s not that they look particularly small but they didn’t look huge. Actually, they really didn’t look that big at all. It was amazing.

 

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And then when I went in there to ride my test, Gus didn’t look at a single fence. We didn’t get all the correct distances of course, but I kept my leg strong and my elbows soft and rode the hell out of that course. New Trainer was super pleased and thought that was my best stadium to date. Of course, she hasn’t seem some of the really disastrous ones but it still meant a lot.

Gus was still a tiny bit spooky as we rode past the judge’s tent which was right next to a two stride line but that will come with more rides in different places. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get him through the line, obviously, but it did lead to a less than pleasant second fence.

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But even with the spook and one disastrous approach to fence 9, we rode a great course, had no rails down and came in under time. Another double clear for Gus and I. I like going double clear, makes me feel good even at a schooling show.

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Double clear aside, the thing I really can’t leave alone is just how confident I felt the whole time. Even with being sick, even not being sure I knew the whole course, even back talking to New Trainer in warm-up (um, blame that on being sick?), I didn’t fear that course. This is HUGE for me.

Last year I was still nervous about getting around the Tadpole stadium course and now I’m thinking the BN course doesn’t look big enough. While I’m not ready for Novice yet, this is the first time in a long time I’ve stepped out of the stadium ring and thought that I might be by the end of the year.

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I  could have ended my day here and been totally happy with how well everything had gone. Gus was on point and I was managing to hold it together. Win – Win. But we still had XC up and I was going to have to dig deep to find the energy for that!

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 1

Since the agility trial the previous weekend, I have been battling an unrelenting sinus infection. Trouble breathing, sore throats, and a nasty hack are not what you really want going into a horse show, especially not when you’re going to be camping. But it’s what I had.

Partially due to being sick and partially due to the fact that one day shows are just a mess, nothing quite seemed to line up perfectly this weekend. I felt like I was left constantly rushing from one second to the other and not making good use of my time. For example, I could have been giving Gus a bath and actually making him look presentable (i.e. NOT like a wooly mammoth) but instead I wasted time walking XC without a map.

But I’ll share that story later.

Suffice it to say, when I tacked Gus up for dressage, the only thing I was happy with was my shiny new bridle. And if it weren’t for Hillary helping me out, I highly doubt I would have made it into the ring at all.

But thankfully I did. And I even managed to remember my dressage test which I had only rememorized earlier that morning.

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I was not in the best state of mind going into the warm up. I was running late, which always makes me cranky, and just not feeling the whole day. This will be a recurring theme for this show. New Trainer put me to work trying to control where Gus’ rib cage was at all times but in my head I was thinking “this is a lost cause today. Let me just ride my test and get this over with.”

Not the best attitude right?

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I know, I’m miserable when I’m sick and horse show stress was not helpful.

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However, thanks to having that warm up and these many months of consistent lessons with New Trainer, Gus and I marched down that center line and laid down the best test we’ve ever had. The connection was steadier than it has ever been, our canter transitions were lovely, and, even though I was unbalanced through the final turn and off the centerline, Gus still gave me a nice square halt.

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We earned a lot of 6.5s for this test and even a handful of 7s. Not a single score below 6 which was extremely pleased about. The judge did want more steady connection and better accuracy  through my corners but hey, I’m sick, cut me some slack. That’s what I’m going to chalk it up to anyway.

I’m even happy with my posture which is a lot more up and lot less hunter lean these days. I still have to figure out how to stop slipping my reins though since I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone yells at me or I see pictures. Jesh, it’s amazing I have any connection sometimes.

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Our final score was a 34.75 which I thought was pretty fair. It put us in fourth place, right in the middle of the pack and that was good enough for me. I was thrilled with how Gus kept it together and how I managed to ride a fairly competent test even with being sick. Biggest accomplishment for me, though? I managed to remember to smile for almost the entirety of the test and didn’t ruin all of my photos.

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Next up: Stadium!

Show Prep

The downside to the agility trial last weekend was that I spent three days in the cold and what was a slight tickle to my throat turned into a full blown sinus infection. Lovely. I would have stayed home from work on Monday but am already taking Friday off for Poplar so that was a no go.

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I suffered through work but trot sets with Gus that evening were out of the picture. It rained in the afternoon so the trails would have been slick anyway. I went home and watched Dateline.

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The rest of this week is going to be hectic though. Not only do I have several errands to run for last minute things (black dressage girth, Velcro and new memory card for the Cambox, and food to eat), the beast still has to be worked, the laundry very badly needs to be done, and, most importantly, I need to dig out my camping gear. It might be a coldish evening… hopefully I can find my long underwear!

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Still, I am very excited for this weekend (and feel a lot better today than I did yesterday so there’s hope for this weekend!). We had a great jump lesson last Wednesday and will be doing our first XC school on Friday before the show on Saturday. Plus, Hillary and Annie will be there. YAY, I love hanging out with blogger friends.

Not Wrong but Not Correct

Over the weekend, the boy and I took all three dogs to another Circle of Friends Agility trial.

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If you’ve read all the other recaps from this particular club’s trials, you’re probably expecting something along the lines of “Well, it doesn’t look like it, but we made major improvement this time out!” But you’re not getting that today because Harley was a rock star.

Not even kidding.

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I only had to walk her off the course twice and only once was because she lost her mind. The other was because it was the last class at the end of a long Saturday and she was exhausted. But the rest of the time? Man, she was focused. We didn’t Q all the time (stupid dropped bars) but man did I have a different dog this weekend.

The big thing that changed between the last trial and this was really how I handled things going wrong. Harley is a sensitive red head and she does not like to be told that she is doing it wrong. Before, when she missed a contact or broke her start line stay I would get frustrated and tell her she did it wrong. And then she would shut down.

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This time, even when it was a big mistake, I kept things super positive. When we missed a contact or a start line stay I would go “Oh no, we missed something, let’s try it again!” And you know what? She stayed with me. She tried again and she got better. It led to some really amazing runs.

There are still little things I’d love to fix and make more solid, like our start line stay, but I was so incredibly pleased how well we worked together this weekend. It was our best trial in almost two years.

 

Short People Dressage

All my life, I have despaired at ever having that dressage look. No matter how long I made my stirrups and stretched my legs, no matter how much I sat on my pockets and put my shoulders back, I always looked like a fish out of water. I figured there was just no fixing my stumpy legs and I would just ride as best as I could and hope for a miracle.

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Well, the miracle has occurred and it was as simple as having a saddle that fits me properly in both the seat and the flap length. Yup, short flaps suddenly make me look like a proper (if not perfect) dressage rider.

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I know it’s not a miracle cure, I know I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I feel like I have a chance, ya know?

Anyway, Hillary originally sent me the link to this saddle, a 2014 Devoucoux Mendia with orange piping and short flaps, back in October and said “you need it…” Well she was right. I did. Lucky for me short flaps and orange piping aren’t in huge demand and it was still around when circumstances changed and I could afford the saddle. Well, it was actually on trial but it came back! So I snapped it up and crossed my fingers.

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And you know, it was basically made for me and Gus. Not even kidding. It fits us perfectly. The first time I rode in the saddle, I basically swooned. I have never felt like this riding dressage. My trainer even approved of the saddle and she was die hard set on me getting a County (which would have been considered had this saddle not fit).

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The downside to a new black saddle, and one with short flaps, is that nothing I have fits or matches. My normal size dressage pad makes the whole get up look ridiculous so I’ve been riding in my jump pads but they aren’t really fitting either. But I have a new, hopefully amazing, black dressage bridle on the way and will be on the look out for a new girth as well. And then when I recover from that spending spree I’ll be picking out fun new combos for a whole set of new short Ogilvy dressage pads.

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This is the first time in a long long time, where I have gone out and picked my dressage saddle to hack in instead of the jump saddle. It feels good!

Lainey Ashker Clinic

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from riding with Lainey. She’s a lovely rider and obviously she has a soft spot for my favorite breed, the thoroughbred, but my trainer also had me a little nervous going into day 1 of the clinic. What if I couldn’t keep up?

Luckily, that was not the case. Lainey is a lovely clinician. She expects you to try and she expects you to work hard but she doesn’t get frustrated as long as she can see that. She will get frustrated if she doesn’t think you’re giving her (and your horse) 150% but that’s exactly what I expect out of my trainers.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of great pictures from the weekend. The clinic was held in an indoor and while the boy did eventually figure it out, I just asked for video. So that’s what I got!

Day 1 wasn’t my best performance ever. Gus did really well over all the grids but I could not seem to keep everything going. It wasn’t horrible, and we were not the worst pair in the group by any means, but I was frustrated going through the bounces.

Day 2, things finally sunk in and I had a great day. Am I perfect? By no means but I felt real improvement both in myself and in Gus. Lainey saw it too. Also she loved Gus. Really loved Gus.

But I mean, who doesn’t?

It was Gus’ first time in an indoor and he barely batted an eye. The second day he did look cross eyed at some extra standards that were right outside the door that hadn’t been there the first day but kept going when I made it no big deal. He’s a good boy. He also did not bat his eye at any of the jumps. You may not remember, but one of the problems I have at shows is that any new stadium fence is super scary. The more we get out though, the more that will go away… hopefully.

The grids Lainey set up were to help us focus on us. I was the only one on a green horse but I thought they really helped Gus too. Or maybe it was that I was riding better. Probably both. She really got after me for sitting up and having a steady contact through the grid, something that I’ve been trying to do with New Trainer as well.

Lainey has definitely gone on the list of clinicians that I will gladly pay to work with again. Her teaching style really fit the way I learn and she complimented what I was already working on at home without dumbing things down. I believe she’ll be back in April and I’d love to have the chance to ride with her again.

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Bits & Pieces

Apologies for the lack of horse related posts recently.  It’s not that I haven’t been riding and that I don’t have things to share, it’s just that I’m trying so hard to put my day to day life back together.

Work seems to be falling apart at the seams. So to help me get back on track I bought journals. 


It might seem silly but lists help me. Today’s also really depressed me when I put together today’s work to dos. Spoiler alert… I only got through a third of it. But each day will get better!

And luckily I have this cutie to entertain me.


She is very sneaky and keeps climbing on the new couch even though we are trying to retrain her to stay off. 

At this point I am love with the new saddle and I promise to share lots of photos once I have leathers and a sunny day for the boy to come out and take them. It’s crazy how much having a short flap helps. 

But things will settle in shortly I’m sure. I’m sick of feeling out of control so it’s time to change the paradigm.  

Winter Blues

Can they be called winter blues if it’s 70 degrees and sunny out? I’m not convinced but I have no other adjective for what I’m feeling right now so let’s just roll with it. Things are just off. I know 90% of what I’m feeling is due to work and the other 10% is my normal winter and short day glumness but it doesn’t make things any easier to deal with. So I’m trying to focus on the positive.

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Like, that I am getting a fancy new helmet and it is arriving today… and not the reasons behind why I am getting a new helmet (suffice it to say, the story is gross and I never want to think about it again let alone write about it here).

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Or the fact that, while I am in love with my new saddle, it now means I have to spend a lot of money on new saddle pads, a new girth, new stirrup leathers, and a black bridle. I love buying new things. I don’t love paying the bills!

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I sent my entry for Poplar in this morning and I am so excited to get showing again. It feels like forever since we ran at Chatt Hills and I know that Gus and I are in a much better spot training wise so this should be fun. Plus, Hillary will be there and blogger meet ups are always a blast.

In reality, I have lots of fun things going on so hopefully I’ll snap out of this funk soon. Things at work aren’t great right now but all I can do is take it one day at a time and go visit my pony. At least he doesn’t expect anything from me  but carrots and kisses!

Review: Lund Figure 8 Bridle

Figure 8 Bridle by Lund Saddlery

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After hearing some talk around the interwebz about this new brand, Lund Saddlery and how nice the stuff was, I had to give them a try. I was looking for a new bridle anyway so it seemed like a good opportunity. So I reached out to the company to see if I could buy something before they officially launched. I am so lucky they said yes!

When the bridle arrived, I was simply blown away. I have never had the luxury of spending a lot of money on bridles so I won’t be comparing this to an Edgewood or Antares, but it was definitely more than I was hoping for. The most expensive bridle I own, is the Micklem Competition Bridle and, while I am not as turned off by the leather as some, I will admit that it’s a pricey bridle for what you get. I don’t remember what I paid for my Lund’s bridle but it wasn’t as much as the Micklem and the leather was really nice. Right out of the box is supple and soft and has only gotten more so with use and cleaning.

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I also loved the big padded monocrown. The other bridle I ride Gus in is a cheap Dover snaffle bridle and I can tell he prefers this one. I prefer this one too because of the fancy stitching and the nice stainless steel. You’ve got to admit, it classes the whole thing up.

I have been using this bridle for several months now as my main hacking and jumping bridle so it has gotten a fair bit of use. And, while I am not the best at keeping up with tack cleaning, it has held up beautifully. Even the sheepskin padding hasn’t worn away like a lot of the cheaper stuff does.

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Gus is sort of between sizes for bridles. He is on the shortest holes for anything horse sized and the longest holes for anything cobb sized. I decided to go for a cobb size in Lund and am glad as it does seem a little big. I have Gus on just about all the smallest holes and my trainer still things I should add a hole to the middle strap (I’ve been too lazy to remember to bring my punch out to the barn). It seems to do pretty well where it’s at.

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Final Thoughts

Without a doubt this is my favorite purchase of 2016. The craftsmanship is wonderful, it looks beautiful on Gus, and it holds up to my abuse all for a fraction of what it probably should cost. While the fit is maybe a little bit large for a true cobb, if you’re between sizes like Gus and a lot of other thoroughbreds, this bridle should do the trick.

I highly recommend you give Lund’s bridles a shot because I think you get a lot of bang for your buck.