A Long Weekend at MAEF!


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I was excited to be heading back to the Mid-Atlantic Equitation Festival this year, since we didn’t go last year due to a variety of factors, including the fact that it was the weekend after the election and I knew I couldn’t mentally handle that much stress from both work and horse in one week.  And in retrospect that was even truer than anticipated, so I was in Florida rather than horse showing.  So I was happy to have had a really successful year, and be heading back this year.

We deliberated between my doing Novice (2’6) versus Intermediate (2’9″), but while I’d competed and placed in the 3′ Adults there in 2015, she’d been off all last winter with the Weird Leg Abscess and only done 2’6″ stuff this year, which we’d been rocking, so thought we’d be more competitive.  Plus one of our juniors was doing the Intermediate, so that would space our barn entries out more and not be as competitive with one another.

Because of the odd dashboard electric issue with my vehicle the prior weekend, I didn’t feel comfortable trailering myself as usual, so Cally got to go down Thursday night with one other horse from the barn, and was professionally tucked into her stall and left to settle in.  I got an adorable photo from Holly.

We also consulted on number of trips before our Open Eq and M&S Adult Medal on Friday, and made a best estimate of 3PM for us to go.  Which is great for me, who gets from from work at 3AM and does her own braiding.  I slept my normal hours, woke up and had breakfast and made my tea to go (thank you, makers of Yeti, for giant insulated beverage containers), and made the short drive down to PGEC.  I got all my additional stuff unloaded (truck, tack, garment bag, etc) and gave Cally her ulcerguard, which we’d decided would be a good preventative during a stressful weekend away from home, particularly since a round of it this summer had helped when she’d been doing a lot of showing all spring.  Then we went for a little handwalk/graze around, which was pretty uneventful because at least half our yearly showing is at PGEC, so Cally knows it well and doesn’t bat an eye at being there.  If anything, she was probably confused as to why she was staying there and not coming home, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand the economics of cost of stabling versus cost of time & gas to haul back and forth for 3 days straight.

I did our braiding for Friday and Saturday, and decided to use green yarn, since we rarely get to have fun with that, as all of our braiding for appointments is boringly mane-colored.  I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and how they looked with my green coat.  And Cally does look so gorgeous all braided up!

Warmup for the Open Eq, which had 34 people in it, was more than a little chaotic, which is not Cally’s thing, and frankly, not mine either.  We had a couple of good fences and called it and headed down to the ring.  She knows her job, and we just needed to make sure my eye was working and she was warmed up, not drilled to death.  I am always perplexed by those folks needing an entire lesson in the warmup ring, because your time for homework is at home, not 3 minutes before your trip, but that’s probably a whole ‘nother post.

Cally obviously remembered how the big coliseum works and marched right down to the ring to get her toes painted and my boots wiped and go over the course one more time.  I was incredibly easy, very hunter courses of single-diagonal-outside single etc rather than a particularly equitation course at all.  But it was the first day, and we saw a lot of issues just in the time we were waiting to go in, because this was most horses and riders first time in that big ring.  Cally, however, went in like a pro and we put in a trip I was really happy with, aside from one close fence going into the 4 stride line by the judges.

But with a class of 34, that was enough to keep us out of the ribbons, even if it was a round I was really happy with as a first go of the weekend.

Then we waited around under a cooler for what felt like forever to do the Open Flat, since they managed to schedule it in the covered at the same time all the 2’6″ fences stuff was running in the indoor.  I honestly should have just skipped it, since flat eq is not our strong suit because Cally hates flat classes because they’re boring, and this had like 30 people in it.  When it did eventually run, I was actually really happy with how she went–it was maybe one of our better flat classes, I think helped by the fact that they just had us trot and reverse and separated us in halves to canter, so she didn’t get to anticipate the second canter on the reverse.  No ribbon, but solid performance from which we marched straight back to the coliseum to put in our M&S round.

I think our M&S round was actually our weakest all weekend–I overshot one turn at the far end of the ring and was just off the track coming in to the diagonal line and got a funky spot that left us with a crooked add down the line.  Yet by virtue of number of entries (9), that ended up being the one class we pinned.  I’m going to call that the compensatory pink ribbon for all the great rounds we had that went unrewarded all weekend.

Day 2 started off with more ulcerguard and hand grazing, and an opportunity to sit and watch some rounds and see how our course rode before getting ready.  Where I expected things to ramp up a bit on the second day, they stayed really huntery.  I mean, this is a hunter course, not an eq one.

But since it was very simple, it did give me a lot of time on course to think about my plan an execute it.  Other than chipping in to the first fence of course one, we actually did a great job of going in and doing just that.  The line from 5 to 6 was actually the trickiest, because while it looks bending, it actually had to be ridden straight, and that was coming right out of a short turn at the end of the ring.  Cally totally nailed it both times.  Our second round actually felt really fantastic, and Holly and I were both pretty sure I’d get a nice ribbon for it, since we just nailed everything.  Unfortunately, we went next to last in the division, which is a tough spot to be in with 29 horses, and it really worked to our disadvantage there, as we were surprised that I didn’t place.  I was starting to wish I’d done the Intermediate with Liz, which had half as many riders and the same courses, which we were more than capable of.

Saturday night was the big Costume Class.  Since we were a team all mounted on OTTBs, Holly had the brilliant idea of us dressing up as racehorses and jockeys.  I took care of ordering a bunch of the racing gear and the girls did their “silks” and it turned out amazing.

Liz was on Cally, since her mount was not stabling, and I figured the girls should have the fun of actually riding in the class, where as I would “ride” the bouncy horse, which was the timed portion of the class.  For as sharp as our costumes looked, they were super  horse-friendly and easy to ride in (duh), whereas some of them were so over the top and like local-theatre-production-level-outfits.  I think it was a bit much for some of the horses to handle during the costume parade, including Cally, who was lowkey freaking out during the parade lineup.  She seemed to settle OK while we were waiting our turn to go back in, but you could tell both she and the other horse on our team were just a bit rattled from the whole experience, and that they’d both prefer to be back in their stalls sleeping at 9PM, rather than cantering around in silly costumes.  So not the best equine performance there, but I did set a record time on the bouncy horse of 5.3 seconds!  Not enough to get us a ribbon, but my somersault off of it at the end should have gotten me something, is all I’m saying.

Sunday was the big championships.  I splurged and had the pro braider do her for that, including a braided tail, so we looked super sharp.

There was a drawn order of go, and I was in the disadvantageous 3rd spot in my division, which left not a lot of time to watch how the course rode for the Intermediate riders before I had to get ready and warmed up. (There was a lot of trouble there, and I was again wishing I’d done Intermediate.)  Suddenly it was definitely an Equitation course, with opportunities for inside turns and fun lines.  It was our kind of course, and I was looking forward to riding it.

Cally warmed up great, we had like 4 perfect fences and I only got yelled at by Holly’s mother once, and it was for looking down at my lead not anything I did to the fence, so that seemed a good sign.  I watched two rounds ahead of us, which had some issues, and knew we needed to head in and nail it.  And for the most part, we really did.

She got a little confused in the turn from 3 to 4, as her eye caught on fence 8 instead and I didn’t put on enough leg soon enough to straighten her out, so that rail at 4 was counted against me, and was enough to keep us from the callback for the second round, because again, 28 people.

So while we came home with a lone pink ribbon, I feel like it was incredibly successful weekend for us, because I was able to consistently go into the ring with a plan, and execute the plan.  And the few times when things didn’t go to plan, I did not get rattled, I sat up and rode and still managed to finish out strong.  Cally was listening and responsive and on her game and was really having fun with that last course.  It was a good end to our season, and I’m really looking forward to building on that confidence and skill to do even better next year.


Frosty Cool Dressage


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This weekend fall finally arrived here in Maryland, though it felt much more like winter when I woke up on Saturday morning.  I was really glad I’d preloaded most of the stuff in the trailer, and Cally was clean and blanketed and just needed a few braids before we got on the road.  But alas, things did not go that smoothly.

First, the “low tire pressure” light came on while I was on the way out of the neighborhood, which isn’t a big deal, because it’s a Ford, and that happens with my car too if the air temp changes more than 10-15 degrees.  But then as I was heading to the barn a bunch of other lights came on, but then as I was turning off the main road back on to the road to the barn, all of the lights on the dash went off, and all the gauges went dead–no speedometer, no gas level, nothing.  Thankfully, breaks and gas still worked, and I was less than two miles from the barn, and figured my best bet was to get there and see what was up.  Because I work with technology and generally the first approach is to try turning things off and back on again, I decided to try that with the Exp.  I was at least smart enough to park it in a reasonable spot before doing that, because it would not turn on again, just clicky clicky nothing.  Holly’s husband very kindly helped me try to jump it, but that didn’t seem to do anything, so I headed down to their house to thaw out a second before making calls to scratch.  But because my trainer is awesome, her response was, “Take my truck!”  She was coaching kids at IEA shows all weekend and wouldn’t be using it, so with a great deal of relief I agreed.  Hooked up, got ready to roll.

It was so cold that I could barely feel my fingers to braid, and to say it was not my best braiding work, especially as Cally had a minor freakout as her own forelock tickled her ears.  But she was braided, got tucked back into her hooded blanket, and onto the trailer.  We were down to PGEC by 8:30 ahead of a 9:45 test, and it was COLD.  Like, even the fancy fiber footing there was frozen like cement.  There was one ring that they’d sort of been able to drag, so everyone was warming up there.  Totally across the showgrounds from the ring I was showing in.  I was also trying to wrangle her cooler, and my puffy vest (thank goodness for down, and the fact that I still own wool show coats!).  It was definitely a difficult balancing act, trying to warm up enough and then get over to the ring and not cool down too much, but not being able to do much more than walk before going in there.

Thankfully, Cally Is A Good Egg has basically been the theme of our year.  Despite other horses being a bit frisky, she was calm and listening.  Because it was cold, and I felt like we weren’t really able to warm up the way I’d have liked to, I didn’t quite ride up to the level, and really put in a Training level performance in a First level test.  But it was accurate and steady and Cally was listening, so I’m happy with our performance there.  Could I have asked for a little more?  Maybe, but I also felt that was unfair given the conditions, so I rode more conservatively that I know we’re capable of.  Given the day, I’m OK with the 58% that left us in a losing tiebreak for 5th place there.

I debated busting out the sidesaddle for the Freestyle, given how very very good she’d been for the First level test (and how nice all that wool would be!), but figured the whole point of this was to get into the indoor at PGEC and get her used to that ahead of MAEF next weekend.  And going in astride would give me a bit more control over her if she was a little spooky or squirrelly going in there.  So with icy trembling fingers, I tacked her up and headed over to do a little warmup again, where she felt great.

There was some spookiness heading into the indoor, where a lump that you have to walk over was cause for Serious Concern, but we got in OK after making a few circles.  She watched the prior test with great focus, then we went in ourselves to walk around the ring.  She didn’t do anything bad, but didn’t feel too relaxed either.  Just a little tense and on alert.  It had been a while since I’d ridden the freestyle, and I’d never done it in my dressage saddle, only in the sidesaddle.  So I found it interesting that something was different about our tempo, because the music cues didn’t quite line up the way they usually did, so I had to do a bit of improvising along with the music.  It worked out OK though, and I wasn’t unhappy with the test, just knew it could have been better.

We ended up with a very pretty pair of ribbons, 4th and 5th for the day, and I was feeling optimistic about the next day.  I did scratch my early morning Training test, since it was at 8:30, and my Freestyle wasn’t til 2:15, and I didn’t want to have to haul back and forth with Holly’s truck, and it was freezing.  Have I mentioned that?  I touched base with WBBF and asked him to meet me at the barn to see if he could poke around the truck and see what was up, and potentially give me a ride home while we left it there if we couldn’t get it started.  But I hopped in, and turned the key, and it started right up without an issue.  Not even the Low Tire Pressure light on.  Liam followed me on the way home, and there were no issues at all, but I still didn’t feel safe hauling with it until I get it in to get looked at.  WBBF drove it around a bit the next morning, and had no weird lights or problems, so not sure if it was just the first super cold morning, or something else like the voltage regulator; I don’t necessarily need it soon, since I can get a ride to MAEF with the barn, so I think we’ll keep an eye on it and drive it a bit and see if anything crops up and get it in to be looked at after Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t as cold on Sunday morning, and I feel like the braids worked out better and the footing wasn’t frozen, so that was a big plus.

Cally seemed much happier about the 15 degree temperature increase, and Liam came down to watch and help out, which was great, because I was determined to go aside, and that is so so so much easier with a second set of hands to help out.  She warmed up great, mostly did a lot of cantering around, fielded a few questions from fellow competitors, and struggled with the fact that there didn’t seem to be a warmup steward to let us know when we needed to head to the ring, or whether things were running on time, or anything.  Fortunately, I had WBBF, and he kept time for me, and I decided to head down to the indoor at 2, since I hadn’t seen anyone go down in a while and it looked empty from what I could see.  There was someone down at the ring, who let us go on in to walk around, since they’d been in a break, and said if the judge was fine with it, I was welcome to go early.

Cally was much more relaxed walking in than she’d been the day prior, and I could feel her take a deep breath and settle down to walk around on a loose rein.  Judge seemed perfectly happy with us going early, so I trotted around once, and cued the music!

Not quite perfect, but aside from the jiggy walk, I was actually pretty happy with it.  More relaxed than the day prior, and the music cues were working for us again.  I really wish I had videos from both tests to compare.  But I was really quite pleased, as it felt like an exponentially better test to me.

I untacked and packed up and took out her braids, and sort of puttered around killing time, since I was the first person to go for the freestyles.  When I headed over, I ran into a former barnmate from Southwind, who’d seen both our freestyles and noted how much happier she seemed today, and how cool the sidesaddle was.  I was kind of surprised to see our score was exactly the same as the day prior, but different judge, slightly different scoring.  I was happy with it either way, and our pretty 3rd place ribbon, so we at least moved up a placing if not in score.

Showing both days of the dressage show really did what I’d hoped it would do for us, which was mainly remind us How to Horse Show, and get Cally in to the somewhat scary indoor at PGEC.  By Sunday Cally was definitely back in Show Horse mode, and acting like the pro I know she is at horse showing.  So I think that bodes well for us next weekend.  Hopefully I’ll have a lot of fun updates and video from that, but as you can see from the video above, the indoor there kind of sucks for video and pictures, which I think is a function of the phosphorescent lighting.

Horseman’s Paradise, and Home Again


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I’ve been a bit MIA lately, mostly because I was away at a conference/vacation, and then sort of overwhelmed between catching back up on mundane things like laundry, and getting ready for MHSA finals last weekend.  But I can’t just gloss over that trip, because in addition to visiting my college’s barn and seeing some of the new faces along with old friends, part of our trip involved a stop in Lexington, Kentucky!

I guess we technically stopped in Versailles, since that’s where we stayed, and it even started off magnificently, with a drive down past a bunch of big barns, like Coolmore.  Then the next morning, we headed over to the Kentucky Horse Park, which had been on my To Visit list for a long time.  It was bitterly cold and damp, but I was on a mission to see the 10:30AM Hall of Champions show, because one of the champions retired to KHP is Cally’s damsire, Go for Gin!  He won the ’94 KY Derby and was second in the Preakness and Belmont, and stood at stud for many years before retiring to the Horse Park a few years ago.  I’ve been wanting to go since that time, for the chance just to see him.  We walked in to the barn and lo and behold, there he was, first stall on the left, and I made some kind of “oh, there he is!” comment and one of the staff heard me, and assured me he was part of that day’s show.  I said I was very glad, because he was my horse’s damsire, and the whole reason I wanted to visit.  She told me to hang around after the crowd cleared out, and I could probably meet him.

The Hall of Champions show itself is pretty simple, no silliness, just a narration on what the horse had done in it’s career, some video race highlights, and the horse got to walk out into a covered pavilion and do a few circles and get a few pictures taken. In addition to Go For Gin, we were also shown Won The West, a standardbred, and Funny Cide, who won the 2003 KY Derby and Preakness.

As you can see from Funny Cide, they’re plump and fuzzy and get to be horses, even though they get all spiffed up for the show.  The barn is incredibly nice, and each of the horses looked to have it’s own paddock with their nameplate on the fence, and apparently in the winter are basically turned out.  Plus they don’t all even do the show each day, they rotate through.  So a pretty good “job” for a retired horse!

We hung around, and the lady I’d spoken to when we walked in introduced me to Go for Gin’s groom, who was so wonderful!  They took me right over to his stall, asked about my horse, gave me treats to feed him (he apparently likes green Lifesavers), and offered to pull him out just for me!  He a bit mouthy, but in a curious, likes to play with things way that Cally can also be sometimes, not in a bitey-shark sort of way.  I told them mine might have inherited a bit of that, as she likes to play with crossties and loves to untie herself from the trailer!  He’s not a huge horse, but is fat and fuzzy and very fond of attention!

His groom was so friendly and I feel like if I hadn’t been freezing to death and wanting to head inside, he would have chatted with us all day.  Before we left, he said to hold on a minute, he had something for me, and disappeared into the feed (?) room.  I thought maybe he was going to give me a win photo from the Derby or something similar.  But no, he came back and handed me a baggie with a big hank of Gin’s hair!  It should be enough to get a nice bracelet made from it, with his name on it, and I seriously teared up a little.  Such a sweet gesture, and I gave him a big hug which he returned, before saying goodbye to Gin and heading back in to the museum.

The museum had a great exhibit on Man ‘o War, since it’s the centennial of his birth.

That even had some great video of his racing, and old log books from the barn when he was born, and a bit about the history of his owners.  Then the main part of the museum had WAY more information and stuff to look at on the history of the horse, it’s evolution, ways different societies have used the horse, key history that the horse has played a role in like the expansion of the West, plus a lot of competition and racing history, an entire area of trophies from Calumet, a whole separate exhibit on the Arabian breed, a room full of carriages… more than anyone could possibly see in one morning.  We simply hadn’t allotted enough time to see everything, and the weather kept us from spending much time outside.  So I definitely need to go back again!

After a quick visit to the gift shop for additional layers (hey, souvenir and warmth, two for one deal!), we headed over Keeneland, where we’d gotten grandstand tickets for seats pretty close to the finish line!  It was cold, but at least up in the grandstand we were out of the wind and damp, and had a great view of the races.

We ate lunch and managed to stay warm by darting in and out of the clubhouse to wager.  The track was sloppy, so the turf races all ran on the dirt track instead, which was a bit of a bummer, because I do love a turf race.  But the whole thing was kind of paradise for a Thoroughbred lover.  Great racing, and WBBF had some great first-timer’s luck and won enough for us to go have a steak dinner on once the races were over for the day!

After we got back from our travels, I had a pretty quick week to squeeze in one lesson and get geared back up for MHSA Regionals, where I qualified for the Low Adult Medal and the Adult Eq finals.  I started out the lesson a bit rusty, and was especially not feeling my eye, but Holly had been riding Cally while I was out of town, so between her and the horse, we got things sharpened up and feeling ready to go, if not quite perfect.

I felt pretty good about our chances of coming home with something, because we’ve been on such a roll this year, and she’s been so great.  But it’s also been two months since she’s been off the farm to a show, and I had a week off and one lesson prior to showing.

And we woke up to the weather looking like this on Sunday.

Not Cally’s favorite weather conditions, and not mine either, frankly.  As those of you who have followed us since our eventing days know, Cally is not a big fan of water or mucky footing, and was incredibly offended by conditions in the warmup ring.  And I think that kind of set the tone for the day, because once you’ve offended her like that, it’s hard to get her back working for you, rather than thinking you hate her and are out to ruin her life by making her dirty.

Plus I left warmup well before our round, in order to clean her up a bit, and I think in many ways that worked against us.  She looked cleaner, but she cooled off a little too much, and then had to deal with the really stressful and cramped entry area getting into the indoor show ring, rather than getting her normal quiet spot to stand and zen before her go.  And I made a strategic error in picking up what I felt was a good strong canter and heading right to the first fence, rather than making a big courtesy circle to make sure she was loosened back up.  So we got and OK distance, but she wasn’t quite clear on what we were doing yet, and pulled the rail, then was mad at that and played through the lead change, so we were still getting ourselves sorted out for fence 2, and got in a bit chippy there.  She was a bit looky at some of the fences, which is not at all like her in the ring, but we got around the rest of the course in pretty good fashion, and I was particularly pleased with our trot fence-bending line- to rollback finish.  Maybe not our best performance, but we ended on a really strong note that I thought boded well for our Adult Eq.

But we had the Junior Eq before us, so back to the trailer we went, in the damp drizzle, where she got tucked up with both a cooler and her rain sheet.  I didn’t even deal with warmup again before heading to the ring, since we were starting on the flat.  Once again, we had to deal with the circus that was the entry area, and for a mare that likes her personal space bubble, not her favorite thing, nor is a crowded flat class. I wasn’t expecting much there, but she seemed to trot around nicely to warmup before the class started, so I was feeling optimistic.  But it was just too crowded and busy, and while she didn’t do anything wrong, was just very tense the whole time, which does not make for a pretty eq picture.

The tension carried over into our over fences trip, which seemed to start strong, but she just pulled me through the down transition to the trot fence and so we landed in a bit of a heap, cross cantered a few steps, then got on our way to the next fence and took ourselves out of the ribbons.  It was a really weird experience, and unlike anything she’s ever done in the ring before.  Usually she knows her job and likes going around, and when she was on, she was perfect, jumped well, found great distances, got all our striding.

As Holly said, it’s just like she kind of forgot How to Horse Show.  So hopefully we just got all of that our communication issues out of the way here, and can put in a stronger showing at MAEF in two weeks.  We’ve also got a dressage show this coming weekend at PGEC, so she’ll get some showing in there before the championships, and will get to happily have the ring to herself, even if she’s doing dressage while she’s in it. Holly’s also bound and determined to have us do well, so we’re on an agenda to get a couple of very intense lessons between now and then, I think!


What Do You Do


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As I mentioned in the previous post, we’re in a bit of a show-light period now, where I’m mostly trying to get tuned up for finals and doing lessons that maximize our readiness.  But obviously, much as I’d like to do 4 lessons a week, I have neither the budget nor the schedule to allow that.  So we’re doing our usual lesson a week, and working another 3-4 days.  I try to be good about giving Cally downtime, and she regularly gets Tuesdays and Thursdays off, and sometimes either Saturday or Sunday, depending on other plans and showing.  But what are we doing on those days that aren’t lessons?

The other day, Holly posted a link to this piece, and it got me to thinking.  What do you do on your own?  I do generally have some kind of plan, and try to have some kind of routine for fitness work.  Ideally, we do one lesson a week where we jump, and one ride out in the fields, to work on both fitness and her topline–I’m sure it can easily look like we’re just tootling around out there, and I’ll admit I do try to give her a little of that too, because it’s fun for both of us, and relaxing and mental downtime is important, too.

That leaves 2-3 other rides.  How to spend them?  I try to do one day of flatwork/dressage, either running through parts of tests, or something we’ve worked on in lessons, like spirals, or figure 8s, or lateral work.  We tend to do a lot of lateral work, because it’s a weak point, as Cally tends to be rather tight through her back and stiffer to her left than her right.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a little leg yield each way at the walk and we’re loosening up.  A little leg yield at the canter really helps to get her back loosened up, so it gets used a lot during warmup, especially in the winter.  Another exercise I really like that’s low impact and great for really hot days where I don’t want to do much that’s too hard on either of us, or when footing isn’t great, is something Carol had us doing in a dressage lesson once–walking squares, alternating a quarter turn on the forehand with a quarter turn on the haunches at each corner.  Really helps get her hind end moving, and me thinking about how each of my aids is effecting how I’m asking her to move.

(Dressage Day is not Cally’s favorite.)

Usually as part of Dressage Day, I’ll do a little bit of no-stirrups time, but this week I did basically a whole day of that.  Mostly because it was almost 90 in October and I didn’t want to do anything too stressful for her.  So I stressed me.  In the lead-up to some eq finals, I’ll probably be trying to do a little more of it.

More often the 3rd & 4th rides are more of a mix of flatwork and a basic, low jump exercise–I’ll work on a long approach to a single fence, or do something like what I did the other day, which was a pole and a small fence (2′) on a circle, so I could just canter them on a circle to work on pace and distance, or make a figure 8 to work on lead changes.  Whenever possible, I like to try to cool out with a little walk, even if it’s just out the driveway, or a loop around an empty pasture.

Other than lesson days, it’s rare that I ride for more than half an hour.  I’ll go a little longer if we’re out in the field specifically doing something for fitness, like our quasi-trot-sets, but Cally is 15, and at this point, is not making any huge advances in her training.  We’re not trying to step up a level, other than maybe actually getting back in the 3′ eq next year, so we’re more working on maintaining what we have, reinforcing what we’re already doing right, and keeping her sound and happy with her job.

Training for Post-Season


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We’re in a quiet bit of a show lull now, which is a nice thing.  The weather’s great, my weekends are a bit freer, and I’m saving money on gas and entries.  Plus it gives me six weeks of no horse showing to get back to missing it again, rather than being grumpy about waking up at 6AM on a Sunday for the 3rd week in a row.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not working hard, though.  Holly’s set some courses for lessons that really challenge us, to get us tuned up for MHSA Regionals and MAEF in November.  The plan is to be jumping big, difficult courses, so that moderately sized difficult courses are no big deal til that rolls around.  Plus I’m out of town for a week and a half at the end of this month, so I’m going to have Holly give her a few rides over the same courses that she’s using for Gittings prep for one of our juniors.  I mean, I’d probably be doing those courses myself if I were there, but with the pro giving her a perfect ride every time, hopefully it will instill some perfection that will shine through even with me in the irons.

Last week one of the lines from the show that had been a steady 4 was modified into a grid line, either 1 to 3 or 3 to 1 depending on which way we came through, as combinations are one of my weaknesses.   I have a feeling we’ll be jumping a lot of these this month, to get me thinking forward through them.

It’s also a nice thing that we can keep low, and low impact for the horse, and still get good results from.  Along those lines, we warmed up to jump with a one stride of poles on the ground, making a figure 8 and swapping leads.  It helped get Cally thinking, and by the time we did it twice, she already had it down and it was feeling good.

We’re also doing a lot of work on bending lines, adjusting our striding and planning our track.  I’m getting better, slowly.

I really liked this exercise, because again we could keep it low and simple, and really just work on pace and step and track.  I know that Cally can jump, it’s all the little finesse things that we need to work on, and we’re slowly but steadily getting those pieces together.

This week we really worked on putting together the forward and finesse with some bigger fences and more interesting bending lines.

That rollback looks like it should be tough, just because it was kind of an odd track, but it actually rode great, which I think it a testament to how we’re coming along.  And that bending line is exactly the type of line that’s caused us problems in the past with locking on to where exactly we’re going.  But we nailed it (even if the 6 got a little tight, like it did here) every time through.


The lines were riding easy and she was jumping great by the end of the lesson.  And you could tell she was having fun with it, rather than the kind of grumpy feeling I was getting during our flat warmup, where she seemed to be thinking “not another leg yield!”  Plus I’m doing a better job of seeing where we’re going–I feel like my eye for a distance is so, so improved and when my brain is on and thinking, can usually make it work for us.  We’re slowly getting to the point where that “make it work” is the default for the brain, rather than the “ack, what are we doing?!” I’d often default to if things weren’t perfect.

I’m so happy with where we are now.  The ulcer treatment and addition of alfalfa has really gotten her back up to the weight we’d like her to be at, and she’s going so so well right now.  Hopefully that means we’re peaking at the right time!

Fall Horse Show Weekend


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Technically the first horse show weekend of the fall, and leaves are coming off my tulip poplars out back at an alarming rate, but it was like 85 degrees and I showed without a coat on Sunday.  Due to cancellations of a lot of the PVDA shows this year, I ended up having to double up on showing this past weekend, because it was the only way I could get the last two scores I needed.

Thankfully the showing on Saturday was a fall iteration of the spring schooling series our barn ran, since Holly had a lot of people asking about fall dates after the other local barn that ran a little series closed.  So no shipping anywhere, and she got to hang out in her own stall under a fan eating alfalfa all day when not in the ring.  The plan was for me to roll in early and get her all cleaned up, then WBBF was going to come do the Adult Leadline class at the start of the day.  That didn’t happen, because either my alarm didn’t go off, or I slept through it (it was a looong and busy week at work last week, and I got home at 3AM and had a 6:30AM alarm set!).  I woke up at 8:04AM–show start time was 8–and panicked, and woke up WBBF and told him he could continue sleeping in, we were going to miss his horse show debut.

Since we missed that, I decided to add in the Cider Class, which is the fall version of the Wine Class we did in the spring. Cally is comfortable, but not the smoothest, and the judge had us pulling some tough maneuvers, like posting on the wrong diagonal so it was bouncier.

PC: Beth!

We made the cut out of the very larger starter group of like 12 into the rideoff class of 6 that actually got to canter around giggling and sloshing cider all over ourselves–please note that I learned from the Wine class this spring, and opted for no gloves and rust breeches. A few of the riders had impressive amounts of cider left, though, and I ended up 5th, missing out on the awesome prize baskets and gorgeous fancy ribbons. Still less disappointing than missing Adult Leadline!

Then I mostly hung out and waited for Open Hunter to run.  Sidesaddle was on the prizelist but I was the only one around to do it, so hopefully it will fill next show.  Our first Open round was also our scored round for the Derby, and we put in a respectable 76 for this trip.

I was happier with this trip than the second one, were we got a little chippy in to the rolltop we didn’t jump in the first round. It was set slightly downhill off the diagonal, so sometimes she builds up a little more step than I realize on that diagonal and we just hit it a little tight. Overall, though, I was thrilled with her rounds, and she flatted nicely too. We ended up with a straight string of thirds for the class, which is a theme I feel like we’re on for the year. Which is progress of a sort, as we’ve moved up from a lot of 4th/5ths to a whole lot of 3rds for the year, just sort of improving our game slightly and working on the little things like turns and track to finesse our rounds, moving us from pastels to low primary colors.  Its a trend I’m hoping holds through til finals in November!

I was not thrilled with our Derby round, because it was a hot afternoon and she was tired and grumpy about bugs (despite like 8 layers of fly spray) and just kind of over it already.  A few sticky lead change issues where she wasn’t quite sure where we were going so wasn’t 100% on board with the lead I was asking for, and a couple of small chips left us with a 65 for our second round.  There were a few absolutely gorgeous trips, so we ended up 4th overall thanks to our solid first round score.  It wasn’t the pretty pumpkin colored 3rd place I was hoping for, but well done nevertheless.

She got a full bath after we were done, and all the carrots in the basket. I was hoping she’d be a little refreshed til morning, so we could go get our dressage scores. Even the show we signed up for was pretty small–ending before 2PM–and was a combination of the JR/YR show and the Senior show that didn’t fill on its own. And they’d changed judges at the last minute to someone I kind of avoid riding under, since they usually score a good point lower than others, in my past experience. But off we went, some of us less enthused than others.

Since that’s the level of horse I was starting off with, and it was warm, I opted to keep warmup pretty simple, since I knew there would be a fine balance between “warmed up enough to put in a respectable test” and “overcooked with zero energy for test two”, plus warmup area at that venue is rather limited, which is yet another reason this show hadn’t been in my plans.

First One was an OK test, not like the one in early August that I went in and rode and knew was one of my best tests ever, but certainly solid. OK stretchy circle, and even the judge commented on our nice lengthenings. First Two was not quite as solid, though for the first time this year, I DIDN’T GET LOST! So that’s a win in my mind, even if my horse was tired and looking to walk in our stretchy circle (she’s usually trying to canter!) and led through the leg yields with her shoulder. Because at least we leg yielded the right way.  And our best move remains the Halt, where she got 7s on both tests, in what is the only move we’ve ever gotten an 8 on.  At least we have that going for us.

We somehow ended up with a slightly better score on the second test than the first, but with two 59%s to finish out our season with the scores we need for PVDA’s Year End awards.

And, guess what, a second and a third! I am completely happy ending our dressage season on that.

We’re going to have a pretty light October.  I’ve just got the other Stellar show on my calendar right now, not sure there’s really much else that will fit into my schedule though I’d really like to pick up one more show somewhere, and focus on lessons.  Then Cally will have a pretty easy end of October while I’m out of town for a conference and vacation combo.  Then the weekend after I get home, we’ll hopefully be showing at MHSA Regionals for the Low Adult Medal and the Adult Eq.  The next weekend I may pick up the PVDA rated show that’s running at the PGEC, just so we can do our freestyle in the indoor there before heading to Mid Atlantic Equitation Festival the next weekend.  It’ll be a quiet October, but November has big things coming for us!

Wrapping up Sidesaddle for the Season


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This week is Maryland Horse & Pony Show, which I have to admit is one of my favorites.  It’s close to the barn, it’s at a great facility, and the new management this year seemed incredibly enthusiastic and welcoming in the leadup.  I arranged the barn’s sponsorship of the Ladies Sidesaddle division for the show, and communication was fabulous–quick, friendly, and efficient.  So I was quite excited to go show there again this year, as it was also our first attempt at the Sidesaddle Over Fences last season, and I was looking for an improved performance this year.

We did a sidesaddle jump lesson with Holly on Saturday, which left me feeling confident in our ability, and optimistic about our chances for the show.  I just need to keep leg on and stop this awful new habit of looking down at the fence.  I have no idea why I’m doing it, and it’s very very bad for balance and jumping.

Weather was a little iffy on Wednesday morning, but til we got all braided and loaded up, the rain had stopped, and even 20 minutes down the road at PGEC, the grounds looked like it hadn’t rained at all.  So I parked on the nice grassy area near the rings for ease of watching and doing some handgrazing later, and watched some of the pro divisions, including the 3′ division Holly was going in.

Cally took one look around the grounds, and took a deep breath like “oh I know this place!” and was totally chill for the day.  We started off our warmup by walking the long way round the showgrounds past the stabling, where as we were walking by we got a “good luck!” from a passing Sandy Ferrell, which is pretty awesome.   Cally handled a kind of busy warmup ring like a pro, warmed up nicely, and got buttered up with some fresh honeycrisp apple from WBBF, who arrived just as we were finishing up warmup.

Since there were ring conflicts between the 3′ USHJA class and the 3’3 class running in the indoor, we bold sidesaddle ladies offered to go ahead and go with our undersaddle and hack while the ring was sitting empty.  Impressively, the show took us up on our offer (BRAVO!!!! to any show willing to be efficient in ring use!), and we went in for the undersaddle.

It is not Cally’s strong suit, either aside or astride, but I was very happy with how she went.

The judges also seemed sympathetic to the fact that the sun had come out and the humidity had kicked up and we’re wearing like 3 layers of clothing, most of which is wool, and kept the undersaddles quick.

We ended up 3rd in the undersaddle, and put in a decent but added line in the hack for a 2nd!

There were a few moments to catch our breaths and have a drink of water as they did the undersaddle before our over fences.  While the fences were not huge height-wise, they were big, full, A-show decorated fences, so even those verticals had lots of fill in front and were built to invite a big jump.

Which as you can see, Cally obliged with in beautiful hunter fashion. Which is, shall we say, not the easiest thing in a sidesaddle. That back crack is hard to stay with, and I was just ending up landing in a heap and not able to recover in time to sort us out down the lines, which was ending up with me needing to circle to get to the out fence properly.  Unfortunately, that led to the dreaded 3rd refusal at the very last fence on course.  So heartbreakingly close, but I feel like we can get there with just a little more work over the winter, because I’ve sorted out the twisting, so that I’m at least landing in a straight heap, which is probably fixable.  Though I have to admit I’m evaluating whether we want to plan on doing full Over Fences next year, because when Cally jumps, she does jump well, and I don’t want to discourage that, just because it’s not the best for sidesaddle.  I can equitate it, astride, and am very happy to keep it there, so it may be a matter of picking my battles.

However, in spite of a not-what-we-hoped-for over fences round, we still ended up Reserve Champion for the division!

Our first tricolor aside! And we also won a mug!

Nothing better than your trainer getting to be both the sponsor and trainer for the tricolor, and our friend Julie and her lovely mare Sophie were Champion, so it was a great day all around for fabulous Thoroughbred mares.

MDH&P is our last rated sidesaddle show for the season, and I’m happy with it as an ending note for us, though we’ll have two more schooling shows at the barn to go aside before the year really finishes.  We’re in a great place for Zone awards, which is something I never ever though I’d be in contention for, so I couldn’t be happier with our year aside this year!

Stepping Back in Time at Warrenton



Warrenton Horse Show is one of the older horse shows in the country, at a lovely old showground in a little town in the heart of Virginia horse country.  It’s a USEF Heritage Show, and I love that sidesaddle is a great way to go show at some of these lovely, classic old venues.  So I was very excited to send my entries in for Warrenton over labor day weekend.

Holly and I both went, and we looked over the entries online the night before, and since it was Hunt Night, the classes were a little different than usual horse show classes.  But it was something like 10 classes, none of which were showing more than 10 entries.  So we figured we’d go early afternoon, be home late afternoon.  Perfect!  We were braided and rolled out around 8:45, with Holly driving, since I said I felt like I’d done a lot of long hauls to shows this year, I’d be thrilled to pay the pro to do it for a change.

It was an easy drive there, but boy was I glad I’d had her drive, and we were in her big truck with 4WD, because she had to use it to get through the mud into one of the parking areas.  It was also interesting to get parked, because it was like horse trailer tetris in there.  I have never in my life seen so many horse trailers wedged into such a small area.  Even if we’d thrown up our hands in the waiting at some point and wanted out, there was no moving.  But at least we managed to get a nice shady parking spot, out of the mud and away from too much noise.  Every time I checked on the horses during the day, when we’d go to get them off for a walk, they’d be napping, so not too bad.

They napped for quite a while.  The Cleveland Bay classes were finishing up when we checked in, and there were quite a few really lovely horses.  If I was looking for a different breed, that would be the first one I looked up. So we had a seat in the lovely old grandstand and watched some of the Junior Field Hunter class.  It was such an interesting mix of horses, some of who looked like they might not have seen many ring courses, and quite a few who might not be “show horse” fancy but I would totally have snapped up and happily ridden.  I was kind of obsessed with a little cobby chestnut who was just loping around with a poked out nose and totally knew the job and took care of her kid.  And more than a few who looked like they also were show horses, and put in lovely, lovely rounds.

We had lunch, did some shopping, watched some more, refilled haynets and watered and walked our horses, watched some more, got a wildly inaccurate time estimate, chatted with friendly folks in the stands, watched some great rounds, rinse repeat.  It was a lot of waiting around, and if I hadn’t been waiting to show myself, it would have been a blast–the Field Hunter classes were fun to watch, and the Pairs classes were amazing.  There was some fabulous riding, lovely horses, and a whole lot of spectators having fun. I haven’t ever seen that many people having so much fun at a horse show, even at WIHS, and it was wonderful.

What was not so fun was tacking up in the dark, which we basically had to do, because we finally went in the show ring at 10PM.  I would not have minded that if I had realized it was going to happen that way.  Even the other ladies who showed up and were like “this always runs late!  We never go before 6!” didn’t seem to have anticipated it being quite this late.  I am a night person anyway, and would happily have slept in and rolled in to the showgrounds significantly later if only the prize list had clarified start times for things a little better.  Like perhaps “Hack divisions not to start before 4PM” or similar would have been an immense help in planning our day and avoiding our horses sitting around for hours and missing dinner.

Needless to say, mare who’d been at the show all day and had not had dinner at 10PM was perhaps not in the best mood.  She wasn’t being bad, per se, just not particularly enthusiastic about being tacked up and asked to work at a time when she’d normally be out in the field sleeping in her favorite sand pit.  I can’t really blame her.  Those of you who ride mares will know the Mare Is Done feeling.

It was not our best showing effort.  She actually wasn’t phased by being under the lights and wasn’t spooky about all the people around the ring, but was super curious about them, so I tried to keep her on the quarter line rather than on the rail so she didn’t have so many picnics to try to scope out.  We started off pretty nicely, actually, until we missed our first canter lead right in front of the judges, which was just heartbreaking, because the trot was so nice.  Then because I’d had to correct her, she was all fussy and cranky.  We were 7th, but at least purple is pretty.

The flat portion of the hack went significantly better, and I was actually thrilled with how she went.  And we jumped nicely into the line in the hack, I just need to be better at keeping us straight, and not looking down at the fence, because we managed to be super crooked, add, and sort of jump out in a heap.  Not pretty.  Hand gallop to halt was pretty nice, though, and she got lots of pats for not killing me.  5th there, fine.

I was on the fence about even doing the over fences, because I knew she was Done, but I was the 3rd rider to fill the class, so I figured I’d go in and see how we did, because she does love to jump.  We had a great approach to fence 1, saw a great spot, and even Holly thought we were nailing it.  And we once again mangled it and sort of chipped into a heap.  The line at 2-3 was a wobbly, choppy mess, and I just could not get her ahead of my leg and focusing on to fence 4, so after a circle, I pulled up, waved to the judge, patted Cally, and retired.  I probably could have cowgirled around the course, but it would have been hideously ugly and completely unnecessary, and neither of us would have learned a thing.

We untacked and basically threw everything in the dressing room in a heap because we couldn’t see a thing, and were headed out by 11PM.  We got home at 12:30AM, and basically pulled the horses off the trailer, pulled off their shipping wraps, and turned them out.  I was a terrible horseman and just turned my horse out still braided (we took out the tail braid) on the thought that at this point, she just wants out with friends and to sleep.  As did I, even though I’m used to a late night.  I rolled out the next day to unbraid, and sort out the mess that was the trailer.

Cally earned a few days off, and we were planning to do a little sidesaddle jumping lesson because I haven’t had one in ages and obviously sorely need one.  I also want Holly to jump Cally aside a bit, so she can maybe do her over fences at MDHP for me, to give her a good go with perfect distances, and I think she’s jumped her aside exactly once.  Sadly, weather has not cooperated with that plan, because instead of doing that lesson right now, I’m looking out at a very wet yard, and Cally is getting an extra day off.

But Maryland Horse & Pony is next week, and most excitingly, on the drive back from Warrenton, we decided to sponsor the Sidesaddle division there as a barn.  I took care of arranging it, and am very excited to help support the division and hopefully let this become an annual thing for us, since it’s a favorite show.

Things Fall Apart


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That’s not a metaphor for our experience at the Harrisburg National this week, it is an actual statement of what happened to my equipment.  Which led to the show being not quite the experience I’d hoped for, but a fun one nonetheless.

Times were super vague, and the show start time was pushed back, so I had no real clue what time we needed to get there, since the sidesaddle classes were scheduled for the middle of things.  Since I was working the night before, I decided to pull the Adult Ammy card and pay someone else to braid for me, so I could get 4 hours of sleep instead of 3, and had Liz braid her for me.  Sometimes, the cost of braiding is outweighed by the value of sleep, especially when you have to drive 2 hours to show.  So when I arrived at 7AM, I had a lovely braided horse, and just needed to clean her socks off, shove as much hay on the trailer as possible, and make doubly sure all the tack was loaded, and were on the road by 8AM.  I figured since the show was starting at 8, but numbers didn’t look crazy, that should put us there in good time.  Hit some traffic around Baltimore, but really, it’s a very simple drive up to Harrisburg for us, and the State Farm Show Complex is right off I-83, so very very easy to get to with a trailer, thankfully.  Harrisburg is also close to I-81, so my mom, and one of my aunt and uncles, came up to watch us since they’re retired and have nothing better to do on a weekday that come watch me show.  (Hahaha. Joke’s on them, they spent the day waiting around.)

Julie had come up the day before, so had actually managed to snag us an empty stall across from them, since their aisle was mostly empty.  That ended up being really nice, since the whole place is climate controlled, and I think Cally is now a big fan of A/C.  Sorry, horse, not happening since I didn’t win the Powerball.  I unloaded some stuff, checked in, found family, and then took Cally for a little walk around, since everything there is under the arena and can be a bit intimidating.  Being Cally, and assured of her own awesomeness and place in the universe, she was totally unphased by the whole thing and walked around like she went to big Indoor shows all the time.

Then we heard that the ETA for the sidesaddle was 1:30, so we grabbed some lunch (walking tacos!) from the food stand and watched some ponies go, and got to chat with family for a bit. Then I headed back to the barns as the Children’s Hunters started, to get ready.

Clue #1 that it was going to be a weird day should have been that when I pulled out my stock ties to get dressed, they were moldy. How does that even happen? I guess I put one of them away sweaty and it just festered? I had to just trash one of them, and was going to use the less-horrible one, but went to the bathroom and saw it in the mirror and was just like, no, I absolutely cannot wear that for an Appointments class. I ended up going to the tack shop and buying a brand new one, which did look appropriately sparkling and gorgeous. Pretty sure some bleach and/or oxyclean can salvage that one kind of moldy one though.

Clue #2 was that as I was finally getting ready and tacked up, the overgirth on my saddle snapped as I was tightening it. Fortunately, it snapped just at the clip where it holds the flap down. I was panicked for a moment, then realized that I could sort of jury-rig it to hold in place, and headed down to warmup, where one of the ladies who does a lot of work on saddles was. I chatted with her as soon as we walked into warmup, and was assured that since all our overgirth really does when showing is hold the flap down (odds of a girth actually snapping are low, and you’re un safe circumstances to stop, unlike a hunt field), we’d be perfectly safe to show. So I started warming up in the tiny warmup which was also crowded with ponies getting ready to show, and Cally was being a bit of a nutter, just cantering weird or not wanting to go forward. Then I realized that with the overgirth issue, I’d never tightened the actual girth again, and it was probably shifting too much–sure enough, I could fit my whole hand between the girth and her ribcage. I found a quiet corner to hop off, and had my family help with the holding and readjusting the girthing, because it really took me getting off, readjusting the saddle on her, then hopping back on and tightening the proper girth, then someone on the ground had to rehook the balance girth in place. Managed to get it all sorted out, and she was going much better in warmup.

We all lined up to go in as they were pinning the ponies, and oh my, how thrilling it felt to walk into that huge arena out of a dark entryway, onto perfect footing and ask for a bit of a trot to settle in and feel Cally take one look around and settle in to do her job. She was not at all looky after the initial entrance, and actually went really beautifully. There was a little bit of jigging when we changed directions and they asked for the trot, and she wanted to canter, which unfortunately the judges saw, but overall, she was moving some of the best she ever has in a flat class.

However, sidesaddle is always tough on the flat, because there are a lot of really nice movers who do the division, as I’ve mentioned before. I was quite pleased to finish in 5th, for a lovely ribbon and a rose! I’ve never gotten flowers with our placing before, so that was a fancy touch to the prizes. The ribbons are also slightly different than normal coloring, a bit darker and more jewel toned.

I handed that and my hunt whip off, and she settled in and flatted wonderfully in the hack. Then we ended up first to go in the jumping portion. She cantered right around boldly to the line, and we nailed the in, and I sort of had no idea on striding and completely got to a half stride at the end and chipped out. Oops, sorry Cal. But she then totally nailed the hand gallop to a halt down the other long side, so lots of pats for that, and putting up with my inability to find a distance. We ended up 4th, so again, quite pleased with that.

They actually left the fences at the 3′ spec that they’d been for the Children’s, which is a height I’m not really comfortable jumping aside. Since Julie is, I asked if she wanted to do Cally for me, as she did at St. Christophers, and she agreed to give it a try after she went on her horse. I shortened the stirrup for her, and off they went. They looked good to the first fence, a single on the quarter line, but then landed in a bit of a heap and pulled up in the corner. Turns on my stirrup leather broke! It snapped clean through the fitting at the top, and I walked into the ring to retrieve my entire leather and stirrup iron. Then I noticed that the sandwich case had also broken through at the top. WTF?!? It can’t just be a mold issue, as the sandwich case, stock ties, and saddle are all stored different places, including in my climate-controlled in my house. So bizarre.

BUT, the wonderful lady who does a lot of sidesaddle leather work, Amy, came to the rescue. She says that happens a lot with the leathers, and she actually carries some spare fittings with her, so come see her at the trailer when we were done, and we’d see what we could do. If not, I had the fitting and the iron, and she could probably make me a new one and have it to me before Warrenton next weekend.

That would have to wait though, because we were randomly selected for drug testing! I was actually weirdly excited about it, which the testers seemed to find funny. I explained that I pay a fee for it every show, and had never even seen testers in the flesh before, so I was delighted to see my money actually being used. I asked if we could stop to take a few pictures at the fancy setup first, and they said of course, they just had to come along. They were actually great about it, waving around some gloves to try and get Cally’s ears up for pictures!

Thanks, tester ladies, we got a great picture!

We went back to the stall, and I warned them she was weird about peeing, we might have to put her on the trailer, but she is totally chill with blood draw.  I went about untacking, etc while they chatted with me and Mom, who was stuffing Cally full of more treats, and was also kind enough to get me my lemonade out of the cooler.  Turns out being in a stall is just as good as being in a trailer for Cally, because I barely got back from retrieving bath supplies from my trailer when she peed for them!  I had to sign some forms, they gave me a slip to check, but said odds were I’d never hear from them again.  Great, the only thing the horse got aside from morning feed was a tube of omeprazole, so no worries there.  Just happy to see my drug test dollars at work!

After giving Cally a bath and tucking her in with water and hay, I headed out to Amy’s trailer, forlorn stirrup leather in hand.  She had a whole old leather, and showed me how she took it apart, and stitched it back on to my fitting/stirrup iron.  I’ve never really gotten to watch a lot of leatherwork up close, and it was neat to learn how to put things together again.  Maybe a bit above my sewing abilities, but she got things back together like magic!  I’m going to hop on with it this weekend to make sure it’ll work for us for Warrenton next weekend, and get measurements to have her make us a proper new one that she can assemble for us at Maryland Horse & Pony next month.  I knew I’d need to replace that leather at some point, as it was super stiff but not something you can really oil, and also a bit of an odd length for me, so this will just accomplish that a bit sooner.  And then hopefully after MDHP, or maybe after the second show at Stellar, I can send the whole thing up to Amy, and have her do the panel work we’d discussed in the spring, since while she has them off she can also replace the overgirth strap for me.  I’ll plan that for a day off, since it’s a bit of a drive up to PA but should be totally fascinating.  There is always something new to learn with horses, and especially with sidesaddle.  And luckily in sidesaddle, there are wonderful ladies who are happy to share their knowledge and skills.

An Overdue Awesomeness Update!


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Cally and I have been busy busy bees in the showring lately!  Last weekend we headed back in to the dressage ring, attending a very convenient show that was less than 5 minutes from my house.  Which was a little trippy, because I drove to the barn, packed up my trailer, and drove…back home, basically.  But, the location was a very nice facility that was close enough that I could wrangle WBBF into coming and cheering us on, even though he finds the dressage stuff even more boring than Cally does.  (He likes ride times almost as much as I do, though.)

It was super humid and hot, so I tried to keep warmup to the bare minimum to get her where we needed to be.  Warmup was in a big outdoor, and I basically got her nice and relaxed, and then we did a lot of walking around, since they had lanes between all their paddocks, so we just moseyed to stay loose and chill before our tests.

I was really happy with our warmup, and that’s pretty much how she went for our tests. There is video, but it’s pretty much unwatchable, due to the light/shadow in their indoor, which led to hilariously awful irising and bluriness. Suffice to say, we were in more of a Training frame than a First frame, but put in good steady tests and the judge seemed to like Cally very much. Our leg yields in 1-2 weren’t perfect, and she was a bit more on the forehand than the judge wanted (unsurprising, since Cally is 75% forehand), but those are things we know, and are working on improving. I was very pleased with two quite consistent scores at 60% and 59%, to finish 4th in both classes.

It was a bigger and more competitive show than the prior week, and I’ve shown under the judge before and know her to be tough but correct and fair, so I’m really very pleased with those results. We now have 5 of the 7 scores we need for a PVDA Year End award at 1st level, and plans for one more show to get those last two scores. We’re not getting earth-shattering scores, but on a horse that’s a 7 mover on her good days, we’re getting solid, consistent scores and I am happy with that, because we’re now working at levels where movement really matters, and I’m not stepping into the ring with a 90% like some of the fancier movers are, and that’s OK.

We’ve also continued to have really great lessons. Cally has really been on a roll, and you can tell she’s so happy to be jumping and working, and feels great.

But Holly and I did have a conversation about her weight and condition, because while we took some weight off of her over the winter at the vet’s advice while the Weird Leg Thing was going on, as she’s come back in to work, she’s put on muscle and topline nicely, but hasn’t quite plumped back up the way she did before. She’s sort of stalled out at Eventer, rather than getting that extra 50# back up to Hunter weight. She’s been shipping a lot, and working hard to put condition back on, and showing a good bit, so our first course of action is a round of omaprazole, for ulcer treatment. She’s a Type A kind of horse, and while she ships well and is great at shows, she’s been shipping longer distances this year, and that’s stressful, even if she’s not seeming especially cranky about it. So we’ve started on a round of that, and added a bit of alfalfa in with her lunch haying. I think a lot of it is her stamping the calories off being angry about bugs, but it tends to be bugs on her legs, and those fly boot things look like disasters waiting to happen, so I’d rather up feed and add more flyspray and food.

Then this weekend, we headed down to the final BEST show of the year. Since it’s super close to our barn, I just hauled back and forth each day, because I think doing that and getting to come home and be turned out for the night with her friends is less stress than a 20 minute trailer ride each day. Saturday, we did the OTTB Jumpers, which is sort of our Fun Class for the year. I was delighted with our first round, where she felt so perfectly rideable and did some really nice rollback turns (the dressage is paying off!) in the jumpoff phase, and I knew we’d be in top ribbon contention for that class. The second round, she fell asleep a bit more than I would have liked before going in, so I put on a bit too much leg and overcompensated with too much gallop to fence 1, and she just got flat and tipped the top rail out. So bummer, we only got through the Power phase of Power & Speed, but she nailed the lines there, and I was pleased though wasn’t expecting much. Turns out we finished with a 2nd and a 3rd for the day, which might be enough for a low Year End ribbon in the division!

Sunday we headed back down to do the MHSA Low Adult Medal and the Adult Eq. I already told Holly that I want to make a real run at a Year End championship in the Adult Eq next year, and she’s totally on board with that plan. Holly and Liz, who won the Gittings in the morning (YAY!!) were already back and unpacked til I got to the barn, so I figured I should get rolling as soon as I was done bathing etc, since it didn’t look like huge numbers in the divisions before the medal. Hahahahahahaha. No, we were there for like 3 hours before I even needed to tack up, because there was a Junior Classic thing going on that created all kinds of ring conflicts, and they didn’t open card stuff the way they did last time. So, at least I had time to eat lunch?

Our Medal round was OK, I was a little chippy to the first fence because it was on a quarter line and Cally just wasn’t quite sure which fence of the like 3 in her line of vision we were heading at for a few strides, and then we got kind of a long spot out in the judge’s line, but we still managed to finish a very consistent 3rd. I mean, we’ve done that medal 3 times now, and been 3rd every time!  Consistency seems to be our new theme, and it’s not a bad one to have.

But it helped a lot that I’d gone in and made a few mistakes, because I’d ridden the course and knew what I needed to fix for the Adult Eq over fences, which would be over the same course. They flatted us first, and that was fine, it’s not our strongest, but we finished 2nd. Then we went in first for the over fences, and I knew exactly how I needed to ride to fix what went wrong before, and we just went in and nailed it. Cally is smart, and if you do a course, then the second time through she knows where you’re headed, so she was on it too, and we put in a really great round that I knew would be tough to beat.

Turns out that it was hard to beat, because we finished 1st in the class, to end up Champion in the division!

I sadly do not have any pix or video of the rounds, but I want you to know we did it in rust breeches.  Because if you’re going to wear those, you really need to ride up to it, and we managed to do it.  I may wear them a bit this fall, just because I feel like I can stand out a little now, because we’re finally putting in consistently solid trips.  Maybe not always the winning trip, but good solid trips to be proud of, and I am feeling so much more confident in my ability to go do that.  It’s a really fantastic feeling to be halfway around the course and know you’re winning it, and able to carry through on that.  That leaves me feeling optimistic about MHSA Regionals, and about MidAtlantic Equitation Finals, both of which are on the calendar for November.