Posts Tagged ‘USEF’

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!

Sterling in a Classic!

After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.

I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.

Fourth place in the 2'6" Hunter Classic!

Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!

The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Resurgence of an Addiction

It has been established on this blog that I grew up in Eastern Montana. I was an extremely fortunate child to have been born into an already horsey family so my love of the equines was developed at a very early age. Both my parents grew up with horses, both for work and for pleasure. When I was born my Mom was into barrel racing and my Dad was into team roping. Not surprisingly, I was on a horse as soon as I could hold my head up and sit up by myself. I definitely had inherited the horse gene and couldn’t get enough of them.

My first foray into organized horse events was as a barrel racer. My parents got me a saintly old Quarter Horse named Casey. I’m confident Casey carried many little girls and boys around the cloverleaf pattern before he came to our house. He wasn’t at all fast, but that was just fine. I didn’t have, and still really don’t have, much of a need for speed. He was safe and kind and put up with the shenanigans that a little girl does to her horse. I put glitter on him. I braided his hair. I brushed and brushed and brushed him. All of the signs were there that I would ultimately not end up being a barrel racer.

When I was old enough my parents signed me (and my brother) up for 4-H. 4-H is a program that teaches kids leadership, humanity, responsibility and a myriad of other life skills. Most importantly, it has a horse program. You couldn’t start the horse program until you were 10 years old and I was counting down the days! In preparation for entering the horse program, my Mom and some of the 4-H moms from our club signed up for a riding clinic conducted by the trainer at Diamond N Ranch outside of Billings, Montana. I have no idea how they found it or why they attended, but the rest is pretty much history. This was our introduction to the Quarter Horse show world and it didn’t take long for me to be hooked.

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

I showed Quarter Horses all through junior high and high school and even a little bit during college. I did all kinds of different show events from Showmanship to Western Pleasure to Hunter Hack and finally Reining. I loved every second of it, and now that I’m an adult and I can appreciate what my parents did (paid for!) to allow me to show.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

As a kid I would voraciously read any and every horse book and magazine I could get my hands on. This is where my obsession with English riding was born. My Mom got me lessons when I was about 10 with a lady in my hometown who had supposedly ridden English at some point and later I did all the English flat classes and some jumping at the Quarter Horse shows. It just wasn’t the same as what I read about in Practical Horseman or Dressage Today. There wasn’t a dedicated jumping trainer anywhere near my hometown, so even though I did do some jumping I know now that I pretty much did so horribly wrong!

So, here I am as a (mostly) self-sufficient adult with the means to combine my love of horse showing with learning how to properly ride a horse over jumps. I posted about going to my first USEF “A” rated show back in February. This spring I was able to make it to four more shows in Tyler, Texas. Originally called the Tyler Four. I felt like I was home again. Granted, when I was showing I felt like a 12 year old kid learning how to do things correctly, but it was so satisfying to be back in the show pen (that was to see if Caitlin reads this, I’m supposed to call it a show ring). Sterling is turning out to be an absolutely delightful partner in the hunter ring. We didn’t clean house with blue ribbons, but we (I) steadily improved and (mostly) didn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You know it's an addiction when you don't mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

You know it’s an addiction when you don’t mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

We have a few weeks off from showing now that it is about to be blazing hot in Texas, but I can hardly wait to start again. In the meantime we are doing lots of work on the flat (no more unsupervised jumping) to make him and me stronger. I even joined a horseback rider focused boot camp for 60 days to make my core and my stringy legs stronger for when we are back in the show ring. This is in addition to torturing poor Jaguar with posting without irons. No pain no gain!

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

Getting our Horse Show on!

Sterling and I got to go to another horse show this past weekend. Most places that host USEF “A” rated horse shows seem to have them for multiple weeks in a row. I’ve only been doing this for a few months so I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read on social media they do this to attract trainers. It is a lot easier to have multiple weeks in a row where the trainer can just camp out for a month or two than to go to place A one week, then drive to place B the next week and then to place C. You get my point. Right now there are about five weeks in a row of horse shows at the Texas Rose Horse Park near Tyler. I’m planning to go to three weekends of shows. Time and budget restraints prevent going to all four weekends of shows.

For non-Texans, April is a very special time of year in North Texas. It is severe-thunderstorm-warning-and-tornado season. When I drove to the horse show I listened to the radio and watched my rear-view mirror and basically outran a severe thunderstorm to get to the stables and get Sterling settled before it hit. Jaguar has done a fantastic job of being the herd boss and making all the horses stand outside during major storms; snow, rain, tornado, it doesn’t matter. This has resulted in horses that aren’t too affected by bad weather. I was able to unload my trailer, get Sterling settled in his stall, and head to the hotel before the wind, thunder and lightning got crazy. I had talked to Boot City earlier and the storm hit our house pretty hard. He was without power for a couple hours, which is pretty unusual for us. The braiders braid the horses’ manes and tails overnight so our braider texted my trainer and said our horses and ponies were all fine during the storm. Sterling was interested, but not crazy. She even got his forelock braided without me there to distract him while she braided it!

When we got to the barn the next morning this is what our wheelbarrow looked like:

That is just rainwater people. No one filled that thing with a hose!

That is just rainwater people. No one filled that thing with a hose!

That was just from rain from the sky, it was also runoff from the roof of the tent where the horses were stabled, but still. That is a LOT of water!

Considering this was only our second “A” show and at a newish place (we had been here a couple times before, but the ambience at an “A” show is completely different than a schooling show), I didn’t exactly know what to expect from Sterling. We did make some progress in figuring out how to best prep and settle him at horse shows.

Here is Sterling’s horse show list:

  1. Don’t ride him right when you get to the show grounds. He’s too busy and crazy looking around to accomplish anything functional.
  2. Generally he doesn’t eat much of his feed, but he will eat every morsel of hay he’s given. This isn’t terrible, at least he eats.
  3. Warmup rings make him crazy. There is way too much to look at and too many horses buzzing around him. Five minutes in it feels like someone hooked him up to an electrical outlet. It is much better to get to the show grounds super early in the morning, before the hunter princesses have woken from their beauty sleep, and get time in the warmup ring all alone.
  4. Use the warmup round for just that, to warm up over fences. I read a Chronicle of the Horse forum post recently asking about people not jumping their horse in the warmup before showing. That seems to be Sterling now. He’s the sweetest boy in the whole wide world and generally (knock on wood) is not at all spooky. He just needs one round to go see all the jumps and he’s good.
  5. Last, but not least, he just might like peppermints as treats. this needs further exploration, but I’m excited that there may be a treat he actually likes!

All in all it was a good show. We had very respectable placings on Saturday; a 2nd and a 6th over fences and 2nd in the flat class. Sunday’s placings weren’t as good, but I felt like I was riding much better. We got a fourth, a fifth and an eighth, all over fences. I’m super excited to do it all again soon. Sterling’s list may be a bit different, but at least we are getting his likes and dislikes figured out which surely makes the whole experience better for him!

Saturday's ribbons and a very sleepy pony.

Saturday’s ribbons and a very sleepy pony.

The “big time”!

I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.

I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.

We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.

The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.

The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!

Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!

Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!