Archive of ‘Equestrian’ category

Little baby jumps!

My primary goals for Simon in 2018 are these:

  1. Walk, trot and canter off leg
  2. Correct leads when asked
  3. Open and close gates/sidepass to and from solid objects like fences
  4. Steering
  5. Go in contact
  6. Get out and about as much as possible

#1 is coming along nicely. #2 is a bit of a challenge to the right. As with many former racehorses, the left lead is easy but the right lead is SO HARD (American racetracks run in a circle that is counterclockwise so the horses turn left around the track). When we practice getting the right lead and he gets the left lead time after time, he has to keep working. As soon as he gets the right lead he gets lots and lots of pats and then gets to walk for a bit.

Last night we were working on cantering and getting leads and I got a wild hair to pop him over a couple of the crossrail jumps I have set up in my arena. When Sterling was starting out and we had trouble getting the canter, I would pop him over a small jump and land in the canter. So I wanted to try that with Simon. He felt SO good over the jumps so I begged Boot City to come take some video so I could see if he looks as cute as he feels over jumps.

(Enjoy the super cheesy music on the videos. I couldn’t help myself.)

He is SO CUTE over these teeny tiny jumps! SO. CUTE.

And every time we went over the jump to the right he landed on the right lead. I think we may be onto something here!

He’s only four years old and I promised myself that I won’t even try to get him jumping a full course until he’s five. Even after a short track career, and some known issues with one of his knees, I want him to have lots of time to grow and mature before his body gets worked very hard. Plus I really do need him as my hunt horse, so that is his first priority!

I am LOVING this horse and the fact that, as of today, he’s the youngest in my string and hands down the easiest!

MARES???!!!!

Y’all. Mares. Are. Hard. We had  lots of mares when I was growing up, but only one that was ever “mine” and she wasn’t “mine” for very long because she turned out to not be very good at her job (reining) so she went to the broodmare band (makes sense, right? Notsomuch). I’ve never had a long term relationship with a mare, until now.

Coco has been at the farm for 5 1/2 years as of this September. The first year was pretty easy, but every subsequent year has had challenges of one form or another. When she was a yearling and I switched farriers I learned that she had a club foot which required surgery to fix. She probably should have had the surgery 6-10 months sooner, but that is a post for another day. Few things are as fun (insert sarcasm here) as a yearling on stall rest, but I must admit that she actually behaved quite well considering the circumstances.

Her two-year old year was actually fairly drama free, but her three and four year old years more than made up for it. I opted to breed her as a three-year-old as I’d learned from other breeders that this can be good for the brain of a young mare and it also may help their fertility when they are older if they have already carried a foal to term. Breeding went fine, but she got injured a few months after getting in foal, so we were back to stall rest and hand walking. She was a bit more of a handful this time when being hand walked.

Coco about one week before she foaled.

When she was four was when actually had the foal You can read here about the actual foaling. It was heart wrenching and awful and I don’t ever want to re-live a similar experience.

So here we are today. Coco is six and has been under saddle for exactly two years. And she is a Pain In The Ass. Backing her was uneventful, and I’m grateful for that, but the past year has been challenging. I’ve backed lots and lots of horses. At least 10 before I graduated from high school and a handful since then. Every young horse has it’s challenges, but Coco’s have stumped me more than any other horse.

She sure is pretty, though!

Last fall she started a thing with pinning her ears and kicking up when I asked her to move forward with my leg. She had been going really really well and it kind of came out of the blue, so I thought perhaps she was in pain. I had a chiropractor/acupuncturist out and she was diagnosed with ulcers. I treated the ulcers, but the behavior didn’t change. This spring I had her back and hocks x-rayed. Nothing there either (thank GOODNESS!).

I’ve learned that she needs to walk around for about 5-10 minutes before you ask her to work. If you get on and immediately ask for a trot she will pin her ears and kick out. It’s like she needs a few minutes to get her head into the game, nothing wrong with that. I’ve found that letting her stretch out and walk nearly eliminates the crankiness at leg pressure. She’s been doing lots of lead changes over a log and even gotten a few that I’ve just asked for on the flat. We have been doing some cavalletti work as well as small jump gymnastics. I can’t help but get really excited about her scope and athleticism over even tiny jumps.

Her behavior has improved in general (the kicking at leg pressure had gone away almost entirely) so this past weekend I took her to a little horse show not far from home. She needs more time off property and they offered flat classes as well as some small jumping classes. I let the show organizers talk me into doing a showmanship class, which I think contributed to her developing crankiness during the day, and she was OK but definitely irritated. By the second flat class she would NOT canter. She would only buck. Not hard and she never got me out of the tack, but she was MAD!

SO pretty!

I didn’t want to continue to fight with her in front of a crowd (they were extremely accommodating and the show was really delightful) so I scratched the over fences classes and took her home to see what was the deal. We got home, I tacked her back up (added a sheepskin Thinline pad in case it was a pain issue) and headed out to my arena to see if she would do the same thing. She didn’t. She was a perfect angel. Cantered off my leg from a walk, even did a couple flying changes over a log.

I think a few things contributed to her badittude on Saturday:

  1. She hasn’t been off property very much
  2. The other horses in the ring really jazzed her up and got her more “up” than usual
  3. I forgot to put in ear plugs before I got on and I think the loud music and announcer  contributed to her irritation
  4. She is going to try to do what SHE wants to do until I make it clear that the final answer is NO
  5. She is very smart, very athletic and young

Coco is challenging me more than any horse has before and I really think it is going to be a good thing for both of us. She’s not bad and she’s not mean, and I’m also not convinced that she doesn’t have some pain from her heat cycle that I’m hoping to get treated this week with some hormones. I plan to get her out a bunch this summer and fall to lots of local shows and venues. Time on the trailer and around new places will (hopefully) convince her that as long as we are together she will be just fine. We don’t have the trust established between us yet that we need to be successful. I feel like right now we coexist and my goal for the rest of the year is to develop an actual partnership.

Have you had a mare? Have you had similar issues? I’d love to hear from other mare owners, especially warmblood mare owners.

Justify’s Uncle

I’m still riding the high of Justify’s Triple Crown win this weekend so wanted to a post about his uncle!

Photo credit to Barbara Livingston. This is by far my favorite race photo from Justify’s bid for the Triple Crown. This one is from the Preakness.

 

Justify is by Scat Daddy out of a mare named Stage Magic who is by Ghostzapper. As you may recall from my previous post, Simon is by Ghostzapper. Which means that Simon is Justify’s uncle! This relation has strongly contributed to my obsession with Justify. I’ve also been closely following McCraken’s racing career, but it has not proved to be quite as illustrious as Justify’s (McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper and contested the Kentucky Derby last year, coming in 8th).

 

I’ve owned Simon for a little over a year now. I purchased him in January of 2017 and after his vet check and communication with his last race trainer I opted to give him a very easy 12 months. His race trainer indicated he had some issues with one of his knees and he came to me with some injuries from a run-in with some mares in the pasture he had been living. I’ve had off the track Quarter Horses, but never a thoroughbred and everything I read about OTTBs (off the track thoroughbred) indicated that time off would cure most ailments horses have from their track life. Plus I had two other horses to ride and show so it worked out better for my schedule.

I rode Simon maybe a dozen times in all of 2017 and he was always a lazy plug. ALWAYS. I took him on a couple trail rides and you’d have never known he had been a six figure yearling race prospect and was only three years old. He crossed bridges, didn’t spook at wildlife and seemed to really not care if he was in front, in the middle or at the back of the group of horses we were with. Basically he was a dream trail horse, albeit a very tall one (most trail riding horses are closer to 15hh and he is nearly 16.2hh).

One thing you cannot deny about Simon is that he is very handsome. I love that he has the big blaze on his face, but nary a white hair on the rest of his body.

 

I opted to not use him for foxhunting last season (his intended job when I purchased him) to let him grow up some more plus I rode another member’s horse for the season to give that horse some much needed miles. It was a win-win for us all.

 

Well, now it is time for Simon to have a job. I’ve committed to getting at least 3 rides on him every week and building his skills to make him a pleasant hunt horse. He needs to stand quietly for mounting, move off leg quickly, stand still when necessary, sidepass to open and close gates and (most importantly) tolerate hounds around his legs. As I write this post he stands great for mounting and has started moving off leg nicely. He will sidepass in the open, but he thinks I’m nuts when I ask him to sidepass towards solid obstacles like trees, fences and gates. He hasn’t been around hounds yet, but he does fine with my dogs around him.

 

I am also trying to get him out on trail rides as much as possible. This serves many purposes. He gets practice loading and riding in the trailer, going out on uneven terrain, riding with other horses, crossing water, seeing wildlife, and afterwards he has to stand tied at the trailer while we have a snack or lunch. We have been out twice this summer and Simon has been perfect in every way. I am astonished at how well he’s taking to his life of leisure, still at only 4 years old!

Our most recent trail ride. That is the Brazos River behind us. Photo cred to Bart Robbins!

 

Suffice it to say that all is going very well with My Man Zapper these days. We hope to get many more trail rides and some play days on our calendar this summer. By November he should be a seasoned trail horse so all he will have to adapt to will be the hounds and riding out alone. I am so lucky to have this special horse!

Do you have an OTTB? I love to hear stories from other OTTB owners, especially those who got their horse right off the track. They are special horses and so often overlooked.

Sterling’s Legs

Sterling’s legs have gotten a LOT of attention over the past week! As I posted previously he was crazy lame last Tuesday evening with what we suspected to be cellulitis. The vet came to see him on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed the cellulitis AND that it was caused by a 3″ deep puncture wound. So that “scrape” was actually 3″ deep and had hit the bone. The vet was concerned that there was damage to the bone, but wanted to wait a few days to see if there were symptoms to indicate bone damage. Sterling got put on a regimen of antibiotics twice a day, steroids with a pain killer for four days, then every other day for eight days, cold hosing twice daily, a furazone/DMSO sweat application and leg wrapping if/when the swelling moved from his forearm down to the cannon bone and finally medication IN the puncture wound.

Sterling’s much improved leg.

His lameness improved within 24 hours of treatment and by Sunday evening the swelling was nearly entirely gone. Hallelujah! He HATES the oral antibiotic, but isn’t a complete jerk about letting me give it to him. He also really hates the powder medication on his feed, but after pawing at it, flipping his feed pan over and pouting in the corner for about an hour, he usually finishes it, too. I combine applesauce with his feed when he gets to powder and, in my head, it helps the meds taste better. By Day 4 he wasn’t going to let me stick anything else in the puncture wound, which was fine because the wound scabbed over entirely by Day 5.

My regular vet had been out of town for the cellulitis/puncture fiasco, but had been scheduled to come over this week to look at some soreness Sterling had in his back at the last horse show. After a full lameness evaluation my vet concluded that Sterling has soreness in his hocks that he is compensating for and is causing the back pain. This isn’t terribly uncommon for a horse of Sterling’s age (11) so I wasn’t surprised that we will now be doing hock injections a couple times a year.

Hock injection number 1.

For these injections the horse is sedated to prevent any unnecessary wiggling while being stabbed in the hock. Each hock gets two injections, one on the inside and one on the outside. It is an intra-articular injection which means it goes directly into the joint to reduce inflammation and pain. Most likely the injections will need to continue for the rest of his life at an interval of about every 6 months, but that may depend on his work load. Most people in the sport horse world will tell you that joint injections are a matter of “when” not “if” they need to happen.

You can see here where the injection was done. The hair is wet and there is some blood.

After the injections my vet recommended that Sterling stay in his stall for the day and he can resume work again after about three days. Considering the puncture wound/cellulitis issue combined with the hock injections I’m probably going to wait to ride him until next week.

The aftermath of injections.

Another one of the joys of having a grey/white horse is that after something like injections you can see the blood, even though there was hardly any. His poor hind legs look like he participated in some weird ritual leaving him with four small blood spots on the same part of each hind leg. He’s so done with me fussing with his legs that I didn’t want to fight with him to wash them off.

Nice legs!

Now that his cellulitis swelling is completely gone and he’s one dose away from finishing his oral antibiotics I’ll get him cleaned up soon. He’s not the best horse patient (that would be Coco), but he isn’t horrible (Jaguar is HORRIBLE to do his teeth. HORRIBLE). I’m looking forward to riding him next week. Daylight Savings PLUS a sound horse make me happy. 🙂

I’ll have an update on Coco’s vet visit later, too. She didn’t want to be left out of all the fun.

 

The L O N G ‘ish Saga of the Tack Trunk

WAY back in December I ordered a custom tack trunk. My first one ever. I was beyond excited. The retailer (Centerline Style, I’m not going to tag them because their customer service was horrible at the end and I don’t want to send them any business) was having a 20% off sale which included custom tack trunks and it was a deal I just could not refuse.

I emailed the store (which turns out was the owner) with my myriad questions before I placed my order. All my questions were answered quickly and succinctly so I felt “safe” in ordering the trunk. To make a very long story somewhat short, the great customer service lasted for a few weeks and then the customer service fell off the planet. I last received a response to my question about a delivery date in mid-January and it wasn’t an answer, it was a “here is a $40 store credit to thank you for your patience”, which frankly made no sense to me. I placed my order on December 17. The website stated a 6-8 week turnaround, which would have my trunk arriving somewhere between January 26 and February 9.

I had a show the first weekend in February and was REALLY hoping I would have it by then, which would have been towards the 6 week end of the timeframe. The days leading up to the show I emailed, called, online chatted and contacted the retailer online to no avail. No one answered the phone ever. No one returned my call. No one responded to my email. Needless to say I was getting angry and a bit worried.

The week after the show I called the trunk’s manufacturer. They were AMAZING! Turns out they hadn’t even gotten my order until January 2, so the 6-8 week window got pushed out two more weeks. Thanks Centerline Style. They gave me the current status of the trunk’s build and finish time and told me to expect it to be ready to ship in a week and a half. That timeframe had the trunk arriving  sometime between February 16 and 23. I had another show the last weekend and February and was super excited to have my trunk. Finally.

The week of the show arrived and I contacted Centerline again. Still no response. No one answered the phone. No one responded to my email. I was starting to get REALLY angry. I contacted the manufacturer again and got some really good and really awful news. My trunk had been done since February 14, but the retailer wasn’t responding to communication from the manufacturer so they couldn’t ship my trunk. Now I was furious. I left a 1 star Google review, contacted the Better Business Bureau, and lastly contacted my credit card that I had used to buy the trunk. You’ll never guess how this ends……….. within 24 hours of contacting my credit card I received this email from Centerline,

“I just wanted to let you know that your tack trunk finally shipped yesterday! Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything at all, we can’t wait for it to arrive!

To be clear, the trunk actually shipped the day after I got this email. I don’t think the retailer was trying to pull a fast one on me, but I do think they are understaffed and have bitten off far more than they can chew. Retail in 2018 is tough. The Dovers and the SmartPaks of the world do a pretty good job of answering their phone and email in a timely manner, especially when you order something that costs more than $1,000. I’m sure many people have horror stories of the big equestrian retailers and I’m not here to start an argument, but to go over a month not responding to a customer’s requests for information on any order is unacceptable.

In happier news, here are my “unboxing” photos from when my trunk finally arrived last week. In March. 10 1/2 weeks after I ordered it. Boot City is highly entertained by online unboxing photos and videos, so these photos are dedicated to him.

The delivery vehicle. For some reason he didn’t want to drive up my driveway. Some people have no sense of adventure.

 

I had to finagle in out of the bed of the pickup to be careful to not drop it! It wasn’t crazy heavy, but it wasn’t light. That is Punky the goat in the background. She was very helpful.

 

My first glimpse….. of Styrofoam……..but I have to admit that it was very well packaged.

 

I had to lay the box on its side to slide the trunk out. I put cardboard under it to be sure to not scratch it at all.

 

Ta da!!!!!!!!!!! It is a beauty! But, of course, Centerline messed up the order. You see, my initials are “TNT”. The coolest initials you could possibly have, so I wanted it on my trunk as “TNT”. The way it is on the trunk now is the “correct” way, but not how I ordered it. I’m not going to send it back, because Lord knows how long it would take for them to fix that. But I will be bringing it to their attention…..(them being Centerline, I know the manufacturer just did what they were told)

 

Last, but not least, the inside. Murtagh approves, but I don’t think there will be room for him in there once it is filled with all my horsey goodies!

 

My advice is to shop at Centerline Style with extreme caution. Kelly at Hunky Hanoverian also had issues with customer service at Centerline and if you read their Google reviews, all of them in the past couple months are pretty terrible. I’m excited to have my trunk and am grateful for the discount, but I’m pretty sure the time I spent trying to wrangle my dang order cost more than I saved. We live and we learn!

Winter Series’ing 2018

February in Texas means time for the Winter Series horse shows in Katy at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center. It is a series of four weeks in a row of hunter/jumper horse shows and for some reason is one of my favorite shows of the year. Possibly because it reminds me of showing at the NILE when I was a kid and probably because I tend to enjoy the precarious weather that February brings to Texas.

The series started the first week of February and had four separate shows going until the last weekend of February. In the interest of not abandoning Boot City for multiple weekends in a row we opted to go to the first and last weekends. I drove down and hauled horses with my horsey bestie the first weekend and she picked us up to go down the last weekend. It is way funner to get to go with your best friend on a four hour drive through a really boring part of Texas.

My name is Sterling and I hate baths. Why a horse who was born to turn white has to dislike baths so much is beyond me. He’s gotten better, but he still thinks you are torturing him.

I have been taking lessons at a local jumper barn and was REALLY feeling READY for this horse show. I’ve gotten much better at seeing distances to the jumps and feeling like I’m actually riding rather than passengering. Well, the first weekend of showing didn’t really prove to be my best riding. We are still showing over 2’6″ fences so my mistakes aren’t hugely cumbersome to Sterling, but man they are frustrating for me. The first weekend of the show was smaller so there were only 10-12 in my division and we placed in all our classes so I’m happy about that aspect of the first weekend of showing. I am still not doing a very good job of controlling the consistency of Sterling’s canter around the course which caused a few chips (getting really close to the jump which is then HARD for the horse to get over safely) and a couple of very  L   O   N   G    spots.

I went home and watched a bunch of videos from trainers teaching how to practice to find distances and set up some small cross rail and cavalletti jumps to practice. The weather wasn’t very cooperative towards the end of the month so we didn’t get as much practice as I would have liked, but thankfully I have two other horses I can ride to do the exercises multiple times in one day. Plus Simon and Coco benefit a lot from going over cavalletti. I went into Week IV feeling a bit better about my skillz. Now if I could just keep my brain tuned to the right channel while showing I would be in good shape!

New fab hat from Tom at http://www.equiventuretack.com/. I got my Antares saddle from the same place!

We got to the show a day earlier for Week IV than we had for Week I because horsey bestie was showing on Friday. It was nice to be there and get to settle in before showing. Sterling gets a bit nervous so I felt like the extra day allowed him to settle in more. Plus it was WAY warmer in Katy than in Azle during the two day iceapolooza storm we had. Sorry Boot City for leaving you to blanket-unblanket-blanket-repeat three horses while I basked in the 75 degree temps with my one horse.

Our first schooling ride over fences was fabulous. He was relaxed. I (mostly) made good decisions. We got to school in our show ring without a ton of other horses to distract us. I finally felt good about showing. Hopefully I could keep it together for another 48’ish hours.

Nap time for the Unicorn. He doesn’t lay down often, but I think it is so cute when he does. I imagine this is how parents of real children must feel times 100.

The second weekend of showing definitely went better than the first weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better. Not once did we come out of the ring and trainer ask if I was trying to kill my horse! We had one bad chip the whole weekend. A few close spots and a couple long spots and for some reason I still let him zoom around the ends of the ring. There were nearly 20 in our division and we placed in 3 of 4 trips over fences so I was very happy with those results! We were in very good company (read, competing against horses WAY fancier) and didn’t make fools of ourselves. Plus I had SO much fun. Like SSSOOOO much fun! I love my barn family, my horsey bestie and pretty much everyone I get to hang out with at horse shows. And, of course, I adore my horse. Never would anyone have thought that the ugly steel grey yearling would turn into such a wonderful show pony!

Maybe one of my most favorite horse show pics to date. He just looks SO cute!

Cold Weather Riding

The forecast in the next week or so in north Texas is COLD! Highs will be in the 40s and lows in the 20s, plus it feels colder because the air is humid. Mind you the temps in my hometown in Montana are MUCH colder with highs in the single digits and lows well below zero, but consistently freezing weather in north Texas is pretty cold. At times like this I try to remind myself how miserable it is to ride when it is in the 90s and humid in the summer so I can motivate myself to take advantage of not roasting. It can be difficult.

I wish I had photos from winter rides during my childhood. I can remember helping friends move cattle and 20 minutes into the ride I couldn’t feel my feet. By the time we were done moving the cattle or whatever task we were seeking to accomplish I likely couldn’t feel most of my face, my hands and below my knees! I didn’t ride regularly in the winter as a kid. Usually the winter was when I participated in some school sport like basketball or volleyball. My horses always got the winters off to get fat and hairy and have some down time.

We never had a horse colic in the wintertime, either. My parents had a very successful program for winter horse management. The horses had plenty of shelter and hay to keep warm and dry plus our stall runs and pastures had access to Ritchie horse waterers which NEVER froze. Horses don’t like to drink freezing cold water and if they don’t drink enough water they can get impactions in their gut which cause colic. It is vital that they have access to clean, not-freezing drinking water at all times.

Now that I live in Texas, winter is my favorite time to ride. It generally doesn’t get much below 40 for most of the season, so with enough clothing it is comfortable to be outside.

Sterling decked out in his winter riding attire.

When it really is “cold” I use some extra horse clothing to keep them warm while I ride. The quarter sheet covers their hind end, which is where some of their largest muscles are located. Quarter sheets are usually made from some type of fleece or wool fabric so when they do get hot it wicks away the moisture. I keep my horses under lights all year (this tricks their body into not knowing when the seasons change so they don’t grow thick winter coats) so they don’t get super woolly. Because of their lack of winter coat they need blankets when many fuzzy horses don’t. It seems cruel to take off their warm blanket to go ride and not cover them up at all, so I use a quarter sheet.

Bundled up rider, but less bundled up horse.

When we really get to working I will remove the quarter sheet so as to not overheat the horse, which can be worse than getting cold. It is much easier to get a horse warm than it is to cool them out in the winter time. At the horse show we went to a couple weeks ago many riders used a quarter sheet right up until they went into the show ring and put it on as soon as they came out. The older the horse is and the harder it is working, the more important it is to keep those muscles warm and prevent cramping and discomfort.

My tack room is heated so my horses also don’t have to deal with freezing cold bits in their mouths. When I go to fox hunts I often put my bridle in the floor board of the pickup under the heater so when we get to the hunt they get a nice warm bit in their mouth.

As far as keeping myself warm, I’m a big fan of layers. Especially in Texas where it often feels really cold when I first go outside, but as I start moving around I get warmer and warmer. Layers allow the removal of extra clothing so I don’t get too hot. And my favorite way to keep my ears warm under my helmet is with “hunter hair”. Hunter hair is accomplished by putting your (long) hair in a ponytail with hair covering your ears and a hairnet over your whole head to keep your hair in place. You flip the ponytail up and put the helmet over your hair. This makes your hair an ear warmer! Brilliant!

You can kind of see my hunter hair covering my ears. It works much better and is far less bulky than any type of headband to cover your ears under a helmet.winter r

If I still lived in Montana I’m pretty sure my horses would still get winters off and I would spend the season gaining the festive fifteen from eating too much and not getting enough exercise. I’m looking forward to lots more winter and spring rides before hot Texas summer returns.

Farm Friday 12.22.2017

Y’all. I have purchased about 4 Christmas gifts and didn’t do cards yet. #christmas2017fail  Oh well. I still love you all and wish you a VERY Merry Christmas!

It rained a couple inches this week so I kept the horses up for a few days to allow the pasture to recover a bit. Simon took full advantage of the mud to pursue a new hair color. Or to become a mud monster.

 

Jaguar came out of his stall quite lame yesterday and scared me half to death that he was foundering. My kind neighbor gave him some bute while I was at work and I packed his feet last night. It seems to be more of a sore feet from the rain issue than founder. This is Jaguar with his hoof pack booties on in festive green. He seemed much better this morning and it’s raining again so all horses are in the barn for a couple more days.

 

The First EVER Winter Frost Fire Horse Show

This past weekend my grey unicorn and I were back in the show ring and it was a GOOD weekend! The Winter Frost Fire show was held at The Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas. This was the first year to hold a show at this venue on this particular weekend. I loved that it was so close to Christmas, but since it was the first year for the show and amidst the holidays it was not a huge show. I don’t love crowds and have yet to attend one of the really big Texas shows so this suited me just fine.

Sterling is still dutifully toting me around as I try to figure out how to properly ride him around a course of 2’6″ jumps and by golly this weekend I made it happen more often than not for the first time ever! I intend for this blog to be interesting to read for my friends and family who don’t ride so I’m not going to go into great detail, but rather give a fun overview of the weekend.

Sterling in his festive braids waiting for his turn in the ring.

 

Since it was a small show I also took this weekend as an opportunity to practice my mane braiding skills. Most ‘A’ show riders hire professional braiders to braid their horse’s mane so that it looks perfect. When I showed Quarter Horses as a kid this wasn’t an option so I always banded my own horse’s mane (this is done for western stock horse events) and when I got the chance I would braid my English horses. I am a self taught braider so my technique was rather rough and inconsistent. My horsey bestie is a fabulous braider and we have practiced together a few times and she gave me pointers so I was able to braid Sterling myself for this show and it wasn’t embarrassing! She put the pom pom in his forelock and a snowflake charm on one of his mane braids, but I did the rest.

My perfect unicorn!

I showed in the Modified Adult Division at this show over fences that are 2’6″. My goal going into the weekend was to keep a consistent canter around the entire course and NOT try to find any distances myself, just leave it to Sterling. I’m so proud to say that I stuck to it about 90% of the time around all 6 jumping courses. There were a few times when I had a brain freeze and threw him away right at an oxer or thought I saw a distance and made him get close to a fence, but they were few and far between. We came home with TWO blue ribbons over fences! I’m riding much more consistently and I think I’m starting to actually be able to feel the proper ride. This has been the hardest part of learning to jump for me is learning the feel. Everything else has come to me so naturally when I ride, it can be maddening that I think I’m doing something right when in reality I’m doing something very wrong.

Sterling has been a saint through my learning process. Not many green horses would put up with the mistakes that I have made over the years as Sterling and I have learned this whole jumping gig together. Thankfully he LOVES his job and while he can be a goofball on the ground, he is nearly always the same horse under saddle. He LOVES to jump and he LOVES to horse show. I am by no means a proficient rider over fences, but I do think I’ve reached a turning point and can finally start working on more of the polished nuances of riding a course rather than just trying to get around without embarrassing myself, my horse and my trainer.

Posing in front of the award winning Christmas stall decorations of JNL Stables.

I even kept it together and had as good of a second day showing as I did first day. I made a mistake in the walk to canter transition in the flat class that probably cost us the blue ribbon, but even that was better than the last show. All in all we won two blue ribbons over fences, three second place ribbons and one third place ribbon in addition to our second place in the flat class. I’m SO happy with this show being our conclusion to the 2017 show year! Hopefully we will be able to move up to the Adult Amateur division in 2018.

The final night of the horse show was a $10,000 1.35 jumper class with a leadline division between the first jumper round and the jump-off. What in the world could be cuter than a little girl on her gray pony with all kinds of Christmas bling AND Santa?

Cutest little leadliner!

Practice Makes Perfect

Sterling and I have been showing at regional and rated shows for about 3 1/2 years now. Pretty much all three years we have been showing over 2’6″ fences because I was basically starting at zero. I REALLY want to move up to bigger fences, but the only way to to do that is to ride better and to ride better I need to jump more. The primary barrier to that has been that the trainer I ride with at horse shows is located about four hours away from me and I really only see her at horse shows. To remedy that I started taking more lessons with a couple of trainers close to me who have similar approaches to riding and jumping to my horse show trainer. I still don’t get lessons as often as I should and now that fox hunting will be starting it will be even harder, but I’m committed to doing it both for me and for my horses. I want to bring Coco along correctly and not put her through the misery of my beginner mistakes that Sterling was such a saint about dealing with.

In that vein I had a lesson on Sterling last Saturday and it was SO FUN! The barn is a primarily jumper barn so the jumps are much wilder looking than hunter fences. Sterling has always been a brave jumper (he isn’t brave in any other aspect of his life, though. Remember trail rides?) so wasn’t phased by the crazy striped poles. He even jumped a liverpool with no hesitation! Most horses freak out the first time they jump a liverpool because they are moats of horse-eating scariness. Not Sterling. Other than me riding like a dufus he was perfect.

This is a liverpool jump. I don’t think we were jumping anywhere near this height, but you get an idea of what it looks like.

I made a ton of mistakes throughout the lesson, but he marched right along and WE JUMPED AROUND OUR FIRST EVER 3′ COURSE! This trainer had given us some lessons when I was first starting to jump Sterling and she commented about how much more forward he is now, so at least I’ve done something right along the way. We got our strides down every line and didn’t have any hard chips. A few close spots and a couple Tara-why-are-you-looking-down-and-not-forward moments, but I did better at keeping him forward and even used too much leg a couple times.

This isn’t from our lesson, but it is a pretty pic of Sterling at the horse show in Katy last weekend. Hopefully we can continue to get more lessons in and move up to bigger fences at the shows sooner rather than later. He’s such a good boy!

Photo by Jerry Mohme. It looks like we are in a forest, but we aren’t.

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