Getting the Shows on the Road

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I signed up for the first PVDA show of the season once I figured out to how to edit our freestyle music.  It was being held at our old barn, so I looking forward to having friends around to laugh with me rather than at me if we had some bobbles working through the dressage-to-music thing.  But Cally was so wonderfully perfect in our lesson on Wednesday, jumping everything easily and feeling super relaxed and like she was totally back on her game, I asked Holly if she thought we’d be OK to go do some little jumpers at BEST on Saturday.  She said she thought that would be great, so I did a quick entry for the 2’6″ OTTB jumpers.

Naturally, after a perfect week of weather, it poured down rain Friday night and was looking ominous again on Saturday morning, kind of misty and drizzly.  Fortunately jumpers go in the covered ring, so other than tacking up and warming up, we were under shelter.  Cally was nice and quiet in warmup, did about 3 fences really nice and easy, and then we headed over to the show ring.  They had open-carded all the 2’6 divisions, and we had gotten lucky and gotten in 3rd in the order.  I watched the last couple 2’3 rounds finish up, which was very helpful from a course memorization perspective, though not so much from a horsemanship perspective.

Our goal for the day was not, as some obviously were doing, going for the win.  The goal was to go in and have a couple of steady, rideable, equitation-ish trips around.  The courses were actually perfect for that, since there were nice bending lines and a lot of options for inside or outside turns.  Too many outside turns and you’d end up with time faults, but I wasn’t worried about that, and made a plan to do the outside turns the first round, unless she was being perfect, then do the last turn inside.

First three fences were great, a single oxer to a bending line, then Cally got a little confused where we were going when I asked her to make the outside turn and few in a few extra lead changes until we got sorted out around the corner, meaning we were a little discombobulated getting into the triple line.  First fence was OK, but I picked where I should have legged, and we ended up at a half-stride to the middle fence and we pulled a rail there, then seemed to get back on track from there to get nicely down the big gallopy diagonal line, and come back politely to make the inside turn to the final fence.  Not our best round, but she was listening, and I was happy with that.

Second round, I watched the two rides before me pull the rail at the first fence on course, so I was determined not to do that.  We had a great distance there, and did the inside turn to the outside triple line, much better this time than the first.  I was a little worried she’d look at the final fence of the Power phase, a white skinny off a bending line, but she didn’t bat an eye, and happily made the inside turn after to start the Speed phase, where naturally we pulled the first rail.  I think because it was a fence you were jumping basically directly into another fence you had to decide if you were going inside or outside of to make the turn, so the horses were busy looking at that other fence, and not at what they were jumping.  But she finished out the speed phase very tidily, did all of the inside turns neatly, and basically put in exactly the trip I wanted from her.  Lots of pats, and I hopped off and we headed back to the trailer.  She was untacked and back in the trailer munching hay before the rain started doing much, so that was good.  Not so good was waiting around for another hour and a half for the 2’6 divisions to all finish up so they could pin the classes.  I seriously should have taken Cally home and come back later to find out where I finished, or asked Holly to get the ribbons the next day when Liz was showing.

We ended up finishing 6th and 4th for our trips, which wasn’t bad, especially considering that I had rails and we weren’t trying to win, just to have tidy trips.  Very pleased with that, and I think we’ll be back to do more OTTB jumpers there, as it’s good for us and pretty fun, other than the waiting around.

It wasn’t very nice weather til we got back home, so Cally just got tucked in her stall with some hay, and hopefully had a nice nap to rest up for the next day’s adventures.  I swapped out our jumper gear for sidesaddle tack, and headed home to get some rest myself.

I got out to the barn early on Sunday, since someone was coming to look at my old trailer I have up for sale, and ended up having a bit of extra time to kill before we had to load up, so I tossed a few quick dressage braids in Cally’s mane, figuring that it wouldn’t take much time and make her look extra fancy and sidesaddle proper.  Then we headed over to Southwind, aiming to get there during the lunch break so we could do a quick soundcheck.  Easy drive in what was turning out to be a beautiful day, not the rain that had been threatened in the early forecast.  Parked, checked in, and got to chat with old friends as we waited around.

Cally was a little curious as we unloaded, as she obviously recognized somewhere she spent almost 8 years living.  But she seemed to go with the flow, and was very chill as we got ready and dressed.  I was both excited and nervous, but she felt good in warmup, with some nice perfect forward trot and a nice canter with a few 15 meter circles thrown in for good measure.  I was feeling pretty confident at that point, and we had once nice last bit of trot as we got to trot around inside the arena before our test started.  I went out to A, gave a little wave, the music started, and we did a circle and headed down the centerline.  We halted at X pretty well in time with our music, then as I’m getting ready to salute, I see Cally’s head go up and sort of cock to one side, then there’s a huge ruckus, and a little white horse comes galloping down from the trailers, past the end of the warmup area of the ring, and at least is dumb enough to go into one of the fields.  Horse still had a saddle on, and a bridle that was partially wrapped around his neck and didn’t last long, as he went galloping around.  I just sort of looked up to the judge and was like, what do I do now?  Obviously, that would be a do-over.

We waited around for a good 20 minutes while they attempted to catch this horse, it galloping around and not having any of it.  Finally someone came over and asked if I was OK going on in to show, since the horse was at least contained.  I said sure, showed Susan how to operate the music for me, and headed back down to the end of the ring.  I could tell Cally was cranky from all the waiting around, and when she gets overcooked in warmup, just doesn’t really go well in the test.  A few extra minutes to re-warmup would have just made it worse, I think, so we went right in and went for it.  It wasn’t perfect, as she was fussy and a bit unfocused, and I think I was a bit unfocused, too.  But we got through it in a fairly workmanlike fashion, and have our first musical freestyle under our girths!

The judge specifically said she liked our trot music, so big thanks go to WBBF, who suggested the second trot music.  She also said she wasn’t sure whether our stretchy circle was stretchy or just a circle, since that is not Cally’s strong point, and was extra not then since she wasn’t feeling it.  So I think I’m going to revise our choreography a bit and put the regular circle first and the stretchy second.  But the judge also said she was “worth her weight in gold” for how good she was when the horse got loose, which is absolutely true, and probably the best compliment anyone could ask for.

Since we were the only ones doing a freestyle, we ended up 1st, even with a 60.7%.  I’m taking that as a ribbon for excellent behavior in the face of adversity, though, because sometimes that’s even more important than having a 10 mover or a cracking jumper.   As silly as she can be sometimes, when it counts, she’s got a good brain, and that’s something that far too often doesn’t get rewarded.

As we were coming back out of the ring, we had several people come up and ask about the sidesaddle thing, how it worked, how I managed to sit up there, and the like.  So I did a little mini-lesson for them on how the saddle worked, how you’re balanced up there, how you dismount, how the apron is designed, and it was pretty fun to be able to explain that to people who’d never seen a sidesaddle in person before.  They were all pretty shocked at how flat the seat was, and how I managed to trot around in it–I explained that the trotting was the hard part, it’s so much nicer to canter!  In a year and a half, I’ve gone from a novice to someone who can share knowledge with others, and that was a really great feeling, too.

Rose Mount: Showing Old School

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After shows that ended up not happening due to divisions not filling or an EHV scare, finally, finally we got to go show in Our Division, Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter.  We’d done a couple of pleasure classes and a dressage class aside, so I figured we’d be good to go.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I should have done our Monday lesson sidesaddle, or at least jumped a line or something.  But I was feeling pretty good, other than pondering my driving options.

Because sidesaddle at Rose Mount runs on a Wednesday, which is just super awkward from both a needing-a-random-weekday-off-work perspective, and from a traffic perspective.  It is about an hour south of DC, and I’m about 30 minutes east of DC.  Which means one major thing stands between us: The Beltway.  I decided I’d try to avoid it, and take the somewhat longer route down the MD side of the Potomac, and come in from the east.  Which seemed like a fine idea as I loaded up my questionably braided horse–the mane looked totally fine, but her tail looked like it had been done by a 4Her doing their first braiding project–and headed out on a beautiful spring morning.

All went well until we got to the bridge across the Potomac, which was both a toll bridge at a ridiculous $18 for my 4-axle rig.  Eeek, there goes any show spending money except for lunch!  And it’s a two-lane bridge.  With one lane closed for construction.  So we sat and sat, and I could feel her getting fussy in the trailer, which she’s normally quite good about.  Then the bridge was super scary to drive across with a trailer, pretty narrow, so I don’t think we’ll be going that route again for anything.  Eventually we got near where we were going, and I could see the showgrounds on the other side of the highway as we went past, Siri sending my on by and making a left farther down, so I assumed it was sending me into the property from the other side.  NOPE.  I ended up going through downtown Spotsylvania Courthouse with my trailer, directed to basically the local elementary school.  Um, no, this won’t work at all.  I ended up calling the show office, and turns out I’m not the only person that morning who was led astray by GPS, and eventually got back to the highway, made a right, and ended up on the showgrounds.  Possibly via the wrong entrance, but I got in there.  I thought I spotted a familiar face as I was making my way cautiously through what I was feeling sure was the Wrong Way In, but ended up parked on a gorgeous grassy hill overlooking both rings.

The office staff were super friendly when I went to check in, happy I’d managed to get there despite getting lost and being very kind about the fact that my Horseshowsonline entries had my old address on them, and everything go straightened out and orderly, and I was told sidesaddle was not before 3, so I had about 3 hours to relax, eat, and get ready.  Perfect!

Then as I was heading back past Ring 2, I heard the announcement of the horse on course, and sure enough, that possibly familiar face as I’d driven in was who I thought it was–the barn manager from my alma mater, the fabulous Hollins University.  Big pluggity plug plug for them, their wonderful academics and abroad programs, and the immensely educational riding program.  If you/your friends/barnmates/kids are college hunting, check them out.  I said hello, got a big hug, and chatted with her while watching her guy’s two nice trips in the 3′ division.

Since I had time, I actually got lunch, and sat on the beautiful hill by the trailer, and watched the other divisions going in the rings.  It was such a lovely, laid back place, definitely very Old Virginia Horse Show, in the very best way possible.  Adjacent rings surrounded by trees, grassy areas to warm up in addition to the schooling rings, friendly management, and so scenic.  I offloaded Cally to do some hand grazing while we waited, and had decided I was already coming back next year, before we even headed in to the ring.  It just had one of those vibes that makes you feel like it’s an enjoyable place.

We managed to luck out while hand grazing, as I noticed a fellow competitor having her horse braided, and managed to jog over to the braider and ask if she had time to possibly fix (er, totally rebraid!) a tail.  Yes, hallelujah!  So I did what I always do and paid a competent professional to do the tail for me, and it looked world’s better.

Took our time getting ready and tacked up, and then took advantage of the beautiful grassy hill to do some warming up out there.  Since Cally’s been in season, which for her isn’t so much mareishness as a tight back, I decided to dispense with a lot of trotting (also, in a sidesaddle, so trotting less than awesome) and just did a bit of walking then did some big happy canter circles out there.  Honestly, I had to restrain myself because it felt so perfect to be cantering aside out on a big buttercuppy grassy sunny hillside that I’d have just done that all day and worn out the horse.  So we did a couple big circles, then headed back over to the trailers to check on everyone else’s readiness status, and headed over to the show ring.

Then because Horse Show, we waited a while as the 2’6 division before us finished up.  They gave us some time to hack around in the ring first, and even told us which line we’d be jumping and offered us the chance to jump it.  I did not want to revv her up too much, since she was nicely in sunshine nap mode, and did not jump the line.  In retrospect, this was probably my biggest mistake of the day.

I thought our first class went really well, as she flatted really nicely for her.  It was a class with several horses who are consistently top finishers in the undersaddle, so I knew even if she went her best we weren’t winning, because she’s not that fancy of a mover, but for her, she did her best.  I was really happy with her, and we ended up 4th, which was fine by me, as I was just happy with my horse.  One of the other competitors kindly let me put my hunt whip and ribbon in her ringside bucket, and we headed back in to the ring for the hack, walking around on a loose rein while everyone else was swapping tack and getting set.  Since Cally jumps in a pelham anyway, we just keep the same bridle for everything, and it makes life easier.  Til the flat portion of the hack started, she was feeling very relaxed and swingy, and the judge seemed to like a classic loopy-reined hunter, so I decided to let the reins out a little and see what happened.  I knew  weren’t the winner anyway, so I figured I had nothing to loose if she got a little silly.  Turns out she stretched right down in some of the nicest hack work she’s ever done, going on a slightly loopy rein at both the trot and canter, and me grinning like a fool the whole time, so happy that even if we didn’t pin at all I’d have been over the moon at how she was going.

When we lined up to hack, I ended up going second.  I’d been watching people jump the line all day, a nice outside six vertical to oxer, and it should have been very simple.  Except Cally was a little surprised by it when we came out of the corner to it, and looked hard the stride before takeoff, and I also looked down, since when given the choice of what to do I always do the wrong thing, and we got over in sort of a crookedy heap, drifting left.  I managed to salvage it and get down the line in something like a bending 7, jumping out crookedly over the oxer, but getting through.  GOOD PONY!  Despite that effort, we managed to finish 3rd, so I was super proud of her.

Had we been in slightly better shape, or had done any courses at a show astride this year, I probably would have tried the over fences, since they left it at 2’6 and it was pretty inviting.  But we were way out of shape, obviously not jumping at full competence, and I decided to end on a good note.

It was a great day of showing, and a show I’m definitely planning to put on my calendar again next year, despite the bit of a haul it took to get there and back.  Looking forward, we’re entered for our first Musical Freestyle on the 23rd, back at our old barn at Southwind, so that should be a lot of fun.  I’m also looking at both St. Christopher’s and Keswick for sidesaddle, so hopefully the year is back on track for us.

A Busy Week!

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This week has been a very busy one for us, and it feels like we’ve kicked it back into high Show Gear.  We had a really great lesson early in the week, getting us back on track with jumping.  I mean, it did NOT start off that way, as apparently we don’t even remember how to do a simple grid.

That was just embarrassingly awful.  But we’re not perfect, and it had been a while, for her even moreso than me, and the two rusty souls together had some trouble. But Holly laughed with/at us, and by the end of the lesson had us back on track and looking and feeling fabulous.

Like a completely different pair. Cally woke up and remembered how fun jumping was after the first time through the grid, and by the end was back to feeling like her old self, so keen and joyful to be jumping.

I was feeling really optimistic about Friday, which was the sidesaddle at the Showplace Spring Festival.  Except I was apparently the only one entered, and though we got emergency gear in place for Holly to fill if necessary, the other rider who’d been considering it had a lameness issue come up, so there was just me.  Naturally, I found this out as I was in the barn aisle discussing with the braider how to to finish off the horse’s tail braid.  So I paid her and pulled out a bunch of lovely, completely unused braids.  Despite the disappointment of not getting to show a gorgeous and ready to go horse, I can’t say I’m too sad about it, because it was absolutely monsooning here on Friday.  Like, my birdbath was overflowing.  Not really the most crushing of days to unhitch the trailer, go home, and burrow back under the blankets to sleep for two more hours, rather than getting drenched and having to ride around in soaking wet wool on a wet, grumpy horse.

Which left me extra thankful I’d made a last-minute decision, at Holly’s prompting, to enter a local dressage show on Sunday.  One of our other riders was going to do a 1st level test, so I figured in the interest of scheduling convenience, I’d just do Training 3, since those things should be close together.  That wasn’t a great decision on my part, because firstly, since we were being entered by our trainer, they’d just schedule us near each other anyway; and secondly, she’s only been back in real work for like 2 weeks and is not really fit or strong behind yet.  Plus I just flat out don’t love the T3 test.

Weather was perfect on Sunday, though, and we had mid-afternoon ride times, which was so totally civil and relaxed in the prep.  Rolled out of bed at my normal time, had breakfast, and had time to get to the barn at a leisurely pace and pack up and get cleaned up.  It’s also only a 5 minute haul over to the barn hosting the show, which was easy.

We warmed up lightly, but she felt good.  Then we went in the big dark spooky indoor, and lost a bit of that goodness–she wasn’t bad, per se, just super tense and more interested in her environment than in me, which led to her being really inconsistent in contact and me riding a bit defensively, and in her also being a bit tired by the end of the test.  Like, I was having to use my (one, itty bitty) spur during the last canter circle.  But we got through the test, and I’ll take it as a first outing of the year to build on.

We finished 5th, which is fine by me, as this outing was decidedly not about the ribbon, just about getting out and getting her back in a dressage ring, but more importantly, getting into a full-sized dressage ring to run through our planned musical freestyle for the upcoming season! And I was able to do that in the outdoor dressage arena set up for warmup! Don’t want to share the whole test yet, and I don’t have all the music together, but here’s just a snippet of the test.

I feel what I have laid out rides really well for us, and I’ve got some fun ideas for the music for us. Now I just have to figure out how to edit it all together. That can’t be that complicated, I edit video as part of my job, so this can’t be much different than that, once I figure out what we’re using and how long each bit needs to be.  Or, failing that, I’ll beg help from one of my coworkers.

Suddenly Back in the Show Ring!

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I did my entries for Showplace Spring Festival and MD National as soon as Cally’s abscess blew out and she was looking sound, but I was reluctant to plan anything before that.  Showplace is usually pretty light entries anyway, and would be fine for a shakeout cruise.  But as I was out cleaning all my tack in the gorgeous sunny weather on Saturday, Holly and a couple of the girls who showed at BEST came back, and were encouraging me to come down with them Sunday.  Well, I had the clean tack, and it would be a good excuse to hook up New-to-Me trailer and give that a test drive, too.  We scoured the prizelist, wanting something that wasn’t much jumping but that I wouldn’t be a ringer in, and found it: Open Pleasure.

“Aside?” I asked.

“Of course!” said Holly.

So I loaded up the trailer, finished clipping my horse’s legs, did a quick online entry via my phone, and headed home to try to find my boot polish.  I still can’t find my boot polish, but they looked reasonably clean, so I threw stuff in the truck and crossed my fingers.

I let the office know I was planning on doing the division aside, and they were totally fine with it, said they didn’t see why anyone would care.  I didn’t either, but figured it was best to let them know.  Then we waited, in what turned out to be a horribly cold damp morning that never warmed up and was the total opposite of the sunny day before, and I wondered why I had let myself be talked in to showing.  I left Cally on the trailer until the (massive) Novice Hunter division before us started, then got ready.  It was so so so fabulous having my own dressing room to work out of, everything organized and being able to go in there and get ready.  I do need to figure out how to mount a little mirror somewhere in there for tying stock ties.  The trailer walls are aluminum, so I don’t think a magnet would work–any ideas, dear readers?

We headed over to the ring, and Cally didn’t bat an eye at the show hubub.  She’s such a pro.  Waited around, attracted some attention, and ended up probably over-tightening the girth by a hole.  It was also cold, and I didn’t have a proper cooler, just a cotton sheet, so she was a bit cold and cranky til we went in the ring.  She warmed up OK, and there was a ring hold while we waited on a pony from the other ring to finish up to fill our class, so I worked on doing a bit what I could to get her attention, which was a bit of leg yielding.  That’s a bit harder than usual aside, but at least I know I can do it, at least at a walk, in the sidesaddle.  All we need to do is figure it out at the trot and 1st Level Aside, here we come!

Class finally started, and she was faaaaabulous!  I mean, look at this trot.

I was thrilled with her, and thinking we might actually get a decent ribbon, despite the big class of 11, because she felt great and we looked super elegant. Then I was a giant moron and totally failed to set us up well for the second canter, and blew the right lead. Which is the EASY lead aside. I was so mad at myself.

But the second class was something called Pleasure Park Mount, and I had no idea what to expect.  That was interesting, because I had to figure out how to do an extended trot (like, hunterland extended, not like proper Dressage Extended) aside.  Which resulted in a lot of Cally trying to canter, because she’s been back in work for two and a half weeks and we’ve gotten nowhere near being back to doing any lengthenings.  At least she got the idea of more forward, and I managed it somewhat passably in the sidesaddle.  And both canters this time were perfect and felt like we could go all day.

I was a little less pleased at how she went this class, because she was a bit more revved up by the second trot, and not going as nicely as in the first class. But the judge must have liked how we went well enough, because we ended up 7th! She really doesn’t go like a Pleasure horse–she does much better when you put her together a bit more and ride her like an eq horse and keep her focused rather than looping the reins at her, so I’ll take that as a first ribbon of the year. I wasn’t going in to win, just to get her off the farm for the first time since September, and do something with her before heading to an A show on Friday.


So I’ll take that as a start to the year. We’ve got a very busy couple of weeks coming up, especially because Holly also wrangled me into a little dressage schooling show, where we’ll do T3, then use the warmup arena to run through what I want to do for my musical freestyle and video it, so I can get cracking on music for it.

Big things are coming!

First Cally Lesson of 2017!

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I’ve felt like death warmed over since the end of last week, some kind of horrible sinus infection/sore throat/sleep deprivation thing.  Since it was gorgeous Saturday, I summoned all my energy reserves and made it out to the barn.  Cally was fab, and we jumped a couple of tiny fences for the first time since our last lesson, just before New Year’s.  I confirmed with Holly that we were good to go on my new weekly spring lesson time, noon on Mondays, and then headed back home to vegitate.

So that’s where I was starting from this morning.  I skipped morning pilates, could barely breathe, and when Holly greeted me by asking if I wanted to split lesson time between Cally and Aly, I bluntly told her I’d be lucky to get through half a lesson on my own, much as I might wish otherwise.  She said she’d get her chaps on while I was getting ready, so we could do a lesson that was a split of me riding and her taking over when I ran out of gas.

Fortunately, Cally really confirmed today something I sort of realized after that awful show we had a St. Christopher’s last spring, where she was just not herself and I came down with a horrible 24 hour bug that night–she knows when I’m not feeling well, and adjusts her normal sassy self down to a quiet, no-nonsense slug.  Because I had to kick my horse to get her to trot today, and that is just not her.  I almost hacked up a lung in the walk break between trotting and cantering.  We didn’t do too much with her, just wanted to work on a big, 30M-ish circle and get her moving and listening again, just some easy changes of direction and nothing to abrupt or tightly turning.

We then incorporated a crossrail into the circle, just popping quietly over it and coming back to a trot a few steps after, easy peasy.  Cally woke up a little then, but definitely not quiet full steam ahead.  So Holly had me come around, first at a trot, then twice cantering, over a little vertical.  Nothing crazy, just easing us back into the groove.  And she was so perfect!

After that, I pulled up and told Holly she’d have to get on her, I was cooked, and managed not to collapse when I hopped off.  Holly did a lot with her just trotting quietly around, taking advantage of the little jumps to just work on getting her using her hind end in to the jump, and staying quiet. Which, unlike with me, she didn’t not always do! But it was definitely a gesture of exuberance and happiness to be jumping, and Holly was laughing as she rode her around. Obviously, they were looking perfect!

 

So while I am recuperating from this martian death flu, Cally’s going to get at least one more school with Holly.  For my lesson next week, depending on how I’m feeling, we may do something like this again, and split the lesson a bit between pro tuneup and me riding.  I don’t think it’s going to take a whole lot of pro rides to get her back into shape, but as we figured out today, it’s been quite a while since she’s had any pro rides, due to Holly having a baby!  So Cally’s definitely due for a bit of pro work anyway, and there’s no better way to do it than have her schooled up right while coming back in to work.

Which means the outlook for the year is a lot more optimistic than I’d been thinking it might be a month ago.  We’ve taken BEST this coming weekend off the table, because she’s just not going to be ready to go jump a course by then, but I have done entries for Ladies Sidesaddle at the two upcoming PGEC spring rated shows, for undersaddle and hack.  If she’s very good at the first show, and the course looks straightforward, we may try to jump at the second of those, which would give us three more weeks of training to get ready.  Not unattainable by any means, and probably a good soft goal to start with.

 

Sidesaddle Gathering & Leg Update!

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This past weekend was the ISSO Gathering (and awards banquet!) out at Frying Pan Park in Virginia.  I’d delayed registering for it in hopes that Cally would be sound in time, but we were getting close and it wasn’t looking hopeful, so I just signed up to audit Saturday’s sessions, and attend the banquet.  For those interested in sidesaddle in the area, it is an annual event, and they do have a “have a go” session on Sunday, which is something to keep in mind for next spring if you’d like to try it.

The morning session was nice, as it started with Yoga for Equestrians, which wasn’t that different than regular yoga classes I’ve done, other than that the instructor rides, too.  Lots of reminders to breathe (which I need to think about more when riding!) and move deliberately through my core.  And open up my chest, which brings back my shoulders and makes me breathe.  There was also a session on apron pattern fitting, which was somewhat useful to me in the fiddly detail bits about fitting and adjusting darts, but was aimed a bit more at those who hadn’t done it before.  I did have a nice chat with Jeannie, who ran the session, afterwards, regarding apron making for children, because there is a wee tiny coat and vest points in my sewing room waiting for me to make an apron for Holly’s daughter.  We decided that less fitting is really better there, since children both grow super quickly and lack the sort of curves (hips!) you’re working with in fitting a lady’s apron.  There was also a great session on cleaning doeskin, which I’m going to have to try with my saddle’s seat, as apparently matches are like the magic secret–who knew!?!  There was a collective gasp in the room when we all saw how well it worked.

After lunch, we headed over to the rings to watch lessons.  I was excited to pick up some pointers, not so excited that the clinic ended up being on the coldest day we’ve had all winter.  I was wearing underarmor, a wool sweater, a down jacket, and a Barbour (with liner!) overtop all that, and was just sort of OK.  Plus a fur hat, because it is the warmest thing ever.  The first two riders were out on the XC course at FPP, and oh, how I wish Cally could have come!  I don’t know that I’d have tried the bigger drop fence, but it would have been exactly what we needed, as they weren’t doing large fences, but were working on just what I needed to hear, which was keeping hips square in the air and releasing to the right to help make that happen.  I wish I had some video to share, but it was too cold to take off gloves to video, plus it wasn’t me riding, or my horse, so it’s not really my place to share anyway.  Other lessons picked up some great pointers, too, including thinking about pressing the right leg into the shoulder to keep the hips where they need to be.  Also, massive value in dropping the stirrup a bit to help open up the left hip and not get bound into bunching oneself up into the leaping head and relying on it instead of balance.

That’s probably plenty wonky about the aside thing for most of you, since there can’t be that many aside folks out there reading this.  (Though if you are a sidesaddler out there reading this, please say hello!)  I got to meet Sue, from whom I bought my fabulous Jo the Mayhew last year, and she was happy to hear that the saddle and Cally and I have all been getting along fabulously and it’s got a good home where it’s being used, which is what her prior owner wanted for it.  She was doing some fittings, so again, super bummer that I couldn’t have Cally there with me to get it perfectly tweaked for her.

Then in the evening, we had the awards banquet.  It was a small affair, as it is sadly not a huge group of us who go aside, countrywide.  Very friendly and encouraging group, though, and I definitely feel like I’ve made a few new friends, and had a lovely time.  The only bummer of the night was not winning the one raffle item I really wanted, which was a hoof pick that was also a corkscrew, because that seems like the most perfect thing ever to have around.  But we made out really well on the actual awards front!  Champion in Dressage, Reserve Champ in Hunters, and 6th Overall!

I’ve never actually won any fancy sparkly awards before, just ribbons and a plaque, so this was just so exciting to me! That might be an even better part of the sidesaddle than the amazing pictures you end up with, because who doesn’t also enjoy awesome awards? They’re so nice that WBBF even let me put one out on the bookshelf in the living room, rather than in the horse room with all the other equine goodies!

In other absolutely awesome (but slightly icky) news, Cally actually WAS sound by Saturday, as on Monday when I took her leg wrap off, there was pus oozing down the back of her leg.  Sure enough, she’d blown an abscess out the back of her leg.  Vet was out Wednesday for shots/coggins/etc and took a look, said to keep it clean and keep it open and unwrapped, and let it drain and see what we have.  We have a very icky looking leg, but she was moving around well on it, and by the weekend it had stopped draining and was healing back up.

Gross, but amazing progress.  Plus, I have to assume all of you reading are horsepeople, and I know horsepeople all love a good freaky injury. Leg is looking good, so I hopped back on her, and while she was a spooky nutter due to lack of work and high winds, when she settled down and actually trotted like a horse, she felt great. We’d hoped to try a little half-hour flat minilesson today, but it just never warmed up enough. I did go out and hack her around lightly, and wow, was she feeling good!

Naturally, since she’s sound again we’re getting the only major snowstorm of the winter tonight, so she’ll probably have off most of this week.  Fingers crossed, we’ll do our first light lesson on Monday and she’ll get a school by Holly at some point next week as well.  I think we’re finally back on track, much to my relief.  I was really worried there for a while, since it was such an odd issue that seemed to have plateaued.  But with one oozy week, we’re back and feeling good, if a little weak from time off.  That we can fix, with good correct work, and I wanted to start back in with some dressage anyway, so we’ll have the right target to get her going well.

Delays and Dressage

Cally has been doing OK.  Her leg was starting to look a little funky from being wrapped with moist Surpass, and loosing some hair, so I made a mistake and decided to try her with it off for 24 hours last weekend.  Naturally, it puffed back up and she was very lame again.  Since then, I’ve been keeping it wrapped, but dry, and she’s been improving in soundness, and the swelling is gone again.  Having to keep it wrapped forever is probably not ideal, but it’s keeping her on the right course for now, so we’ll go along with it, and have a chat with the vet when he’s out next week for the spring shots/coggins/checkup festival.  At this point, she’s sound on a straight line, and to the right, but just a bit off going on a circle to the left at the trot.  I did try just a bit of canter to see how she’d be about her left lead, and she felt totally fine there, so I think we’re probably going to be sound for flatwork in another month, which means, fingers crossed, she can at least flat for the sidesaddle at the two spring shows the beginning of April!

While she’s been out of real commission, Holly’s generously been letting me hop on some of the barn horses to lesson and hack.  Aside from the fabulous jumping lesson on Aly the other week, I got to go along with Holly to her dressage lesson on Aly, and last week, her dressage trainer, Aviva, came to our barn and did lessons with a few of us.  I got to ride Hitch, who is one of Holly’s wonderful lesson horses.  He does a lot of adult beginners, so he mostly goes about how you’d expect a horse to go for them–easy, slow, steady, and comfortable.  But if you start to ask for more (and put on spurs!), he’s more than capable.  Dressage trainer said that since he’s basically worth his weight in gold the way he is, we don’t want to try and fuss to much with him (no need to spend an hour on lateral work he doesn’t do as his “day job”), just work on me, which would get him carrying himself better.

Never can the lessoners say “he’s so slow!” about him, because he’s more than capable of lovely, forward work when you ask him.  Not so easy as Cally to get there, but he had some great trot, and when he’s really using his back, he’s so so comfortable.  He’s just the totally opposite ride of Cally, so figuring out the aids I need with him, versus the aids I’m used to, was a bit of a struggle.  Like, it’s Hitch, he’s totally chill and not going to go anywhere, don’t be afraid to ask big, the worst he’s going to do is take one big step.  Maybe two.  And once I got over that a bit, we felt really great.

Then mostly, I’ve puttered with Cally.  I’m hoping the visiting dressage lessons keep on as a monthly thing, because they make a nice supplement to our jumping training.  And while Holly can do a great flat lesson, sometimes hearing things in a slightly different way every so often is helpful.  I think we can probably count on doing a lot of dressage this year, anyway, since it’s going to be a while til she’s ready to jump again.  I’m looking at our spring calendar, seeing if maybe we can make some dressage targets this spring for ourselves.  If she’s sound enough to do basic flat by beginning of April, by the end of the month, she should be good to go out at Training a bit, and possibly get back on track with working out a freestyle. In line with Spring Preps, WBBF came along to the barn this weekend, and did a bit of cleaning on the NewToMe Trailer, which did have a bit of rust on the hubcaps and some decals on the back I wanted removed.

It’s looking sparkling now, ready for a bit of paint on the hubcaps, and a new bale of shavings for inside, and we’ll be ready to hit the road as soon as Cally is feeling good.  Well, she’s actually feeling good, and happy to work, now.  No reluctance to go forward, wants to stretch down into contact and stretch out her muscles, bright eyed and eager.  So as soon as she’s feeling 100%, we’ll be ready to tentatively kick it into gear.

Diagnostics and Prescriptions

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I feel like a slacker for not updating this too often, but really, not a lot has been going on with Cally.  Dr. Stott came out again the other week, and found her less reactive to palpation and flexion, but we did some x-rays just to be safe, since the soft tissue seemed to be really out of line with how a tendon injury actually presents.  X-rays looked great for a 15 year old horse, and she jogged significantly sounder than she did when he initially saw her.  So she’s been cleared to have small paddock turnout when the ground is good, and to walk for 15 minutes or so under saddle!

It’s not much, but it’s something, and she seems to much happier and brighter out of her stall.  I was partly worried so much because she just seemed so bummed, in a way she hadn’t as much when she’d been on stall rest on prior occasions.  She’s definitely happier, and I could feel her perk up right away as soon as I hopped on her, too.  Granted, we’re just walking, but since it basically seems to be the equine equivalent of a sprained ankle, we’ve been doing a bit of real work at the walk.  Asking her to carry herself, walking squares (with turns on the haunches, not the forehand), a little bit of shoulder in/haunches in, even a bit of leg yield.  She wasn’t thrilled, but hopefully it’ll help keep her hind end and topline muscles up so that when she’s able to go back to full work, she’ll be in a good place to start from.  We even walked over two poles the other day, because that’s at least more interesting than plain footing.

In the meantime, as long as the weather holds, I’m going to try to do lessons on Aly, another horse in the barn who’s an experienced 3′ hunter/eq horse. He’s massive, and one of those quintessential natural hunters who feels like he’s going nowhere even though he’s rocking a 14′ step.  So it’s taking some adjusting my eye on him, because the first few jumps we did I felt like I saw nothing coming in.  I also have to adjust to doing less, because he totally knows his job and will cart me around while I flail like a drunk monkey, but will go amazingly when I sit up and ride well and allow him to do his job like the pro he is.

Hopefully that will keep me riding-fit until Cally’s ready to go again.  The vet seemed optimistic that another month of resting it should do it, so I am hopeful that at least we can aim for the undersaddle and hack at Showplace Spring Festival on March 31.  It wouldn’t take much fitting up to get her ready for a flat and one line of jumps, presuming she’s sound.  Fingers crossed my timex of a horse keeps on ticking along!

Soundness Update: Holding Pattern

When Dr. Stott came out to see Cally, it had been a week since she’d done whatever it was she did to her leg.  She’d been horrifically lame on Friday, but was just really lame when he was out.  Since it was fairly recent, and she’d shown some improvement with rest, he wanted us to rest her another week and try to get the swelling in her leg down before we decided on the next step, since pretty much no matter what she’d injured, the treatment was stall rest, so nothing harmed there.

She showed some marked improvement there, with a few days application of Animalintex pads, and the swelling came down quite a bit, not fully normal, but better.  And she’s sound at the walk, which is a big plus.

I jogged her for Holly Monday, and there was definite improvement over how she’d looked for Dr. Stott, so we decided to give it a few more days before touching base again to see if there was more change.  More regular poultice, rest, and jogged her today, to see her pretty much exactly as sound as she was Monday.  Like maybe a 1.5, not quite to grade 2.  So we’re setting up some diagnostics for early next week, starting with some x-rays of her ankle, since that’s where he found the most stiffness last time, and the encompassing nature of the swelling doesn’t present at all like a suspensory type injury. Holly’s mother, a very old-school horse lady/trainer/judge, has guessed osslets, which actually sounds super plausible, once I started doing some reading. And would be good, actually, because it’s treatable and should allow her to return to turnout and light work fairly soon. Fingers crossed!

The Best Puffy Knee Ever

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Just a quick Good News update on Cally’s leg/soundness situation.  Before I could even get out to the barn Sunday, Holly had brought her out long enough to unwrap/cold hose/repoultice, and saw that that swelling had clearly moved up to include the knee as well.  This, plus lack of response to even stacked NSAIDs (bute/banamine) led to infection, not soft tissue, suddenly becoming the likely culprit.  I have never been so happy to receive a text that my horse’s knee was swollen as I was on Sunday.  Apparently just super-weird coincidence that it coincided with slippy footing?  Leave it to Cally.

Call went in to vet this morning; his office is closed for the holiday, so we’re keeping her on the SMZs we started with over the weekend until he gets out to us with something stronger tomorrow, and she’s allowed to go out again.  I left the barn Friday close to tears over how three-legged she was, but even just a little cold hosing and walking around in the field today has her much sounder, and while the SMZs haven’t eliminated the swelling, it’s definitely going down.

These are all things that left me feeling very good today, good enough to have a bit of a chat with Holly about some of our dressage goals, which are a bit out of line with the main focus of the barn.  If Cally continues improving, I think we’re on the right track and I’ll be sharing them soon, and if nothing else, I’m making plans to tag along with Holly on some of the dressage lessons she’s going to be doing this winter with an area trainer.  Fingers crossed that eventually includes some lessons for me on Cally!