Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Endurance Ride That Wasn't

I've been planning to go back to the Ron Janzen Memorial Ride and do the LD (25 mile) ride since we did the 12 mile fun ride last year. I follow a bunch of endurance blogs and I think endurance ride recaps are my favourite posts. I was super pumped to be able to write my own. And then since horses are delicate and fickle animals I get to tell you this story instead...

On the fun ride last year.
On Wednesday I noticed Dee had some scratches on her hind leg so I slathered on some Equifit Silver CleanBalm.

Thursday the farrier was out, and when I pulled Dee out of the field, the scratches had exploded into a full on problem. They didn't seem to bother her too much so she got new shoes and another layer of CleanBalm.

Friday morning, they were much worse again. At this point I was suspicious of the CleanBalm, maybe she was reacting to it. I didn't have anything else to put on it so I slathered it in honey. I had a dressage lesson that evening and she was sound on it so I went ahead and drove out to Devon to register for the RJM ride and attend the rider briefing. I spoke with the organizers and since I was going to vet in in the morning they let me know that I should be there for 7.
Still sound at this point
I was up bright and early to head out a as I caught Dee my heart fell. Her back leg was swollen and she was sore on it.

I decided to haul over (it's about an hour) anyways. I figured that I had already payed my entry fee and I might as well utilize the vets on site.

I let the vet know what the story was and that I wasn't planning to ride since she had come up lame this morning but asked to have her looked at and a quick discussion on a path forward. I've never had a horse become lame due to scratches before. the vet said it could be a reaction, or it could just be that the scratches were still getting worse. At this point one of the vets from my normal clinic walked up and told me that she's had really good luck using Virkon on scratches this year.

I hung out for a couple of hours to get the group I was supposed to ride with all organized and ready to go. (They ended up having a pretty shitty day, they got lost on the first loop, one of the horses got kicked and ended up pulled due to swelling on his hip, then another horse stepped in a hole on the second loop and they had to hand-walk him back almost 6 miles)
Pre-ride smiles!

The organizers even refunded my entry fee, which shocked me. I completely expected to just walk away from it (and would not have had any hard feeling about it).

Unfortunately Dee is still lame. It does seem to be getting better, just very slowly. I slather it in honey before I leave for work and then when I get home all the scabs are softened and super easy to pick off. Then I give it a good dousing of Virkon. We had to scratch the event this coming weekend and the rest of our plans are up in the air.
Slowly getting better
None of the other Alberta endurance rides fit into our schedule so I'm going to aim to attend this ride next year! One day I will get to do my very own endurance recap.

Monday, 13 June 2016

New Dressage Saddle!

When I bought Dee it was my first experience with truly challenging saddle fitting. She has a super short back (and I need an 18" seat), a hollow behind her wither, and then she's super flat across her loin. I tried over 15 saddles before finding my fabulous Amerigo. It isn't a perfect fit but it's close enough that with a shimmed up half pad it causes us no problems.
So much love for my expensive Italian bum-candy
I also tried a bunch of dressage saddles. Nothing even came close to fitting. They were all either too long, they bridged or slid back really bad.

Gusseted panels are a complete no-go for her. They always end up sitting way past her last rib. Turns out, most dressage saddles have moved towards gusseted panels.

Add in that I really, really want brown and I spent my entire saddle budget on the Amerigo my saddle search got pushed to the back burner.

Then my dressage instructor put a training ride on Dee (#littleasshole had been a jerk while ponying and I managed to sprain my hand so badly I couldn't close my fingers, not super conducive for a dressage ride). She commented on how I should really look into getting a dressage saddle as my position problems are stemming from doing dressage in a XC saddle.
He can be such a jerk. Thank goodness he's cute
Two days later someone posted an older brown Crosby dressage saddle on our local HT association Facebook group. She was only asking $500 and was willing to have someone bring it up to Beaumont so I could try it.

I put it on Dee and was pleasantly surprised. I couldn't see any major issues. It was a little low in the back but seemed to fit everywhere else. I gave it a quick ride and sent a picture of me in it to my dressage instructor. I messaged the seller and asked if she would take $400.

I also had my previous coach (one of our only local saddle fitters) give the fit a quick look. She was shocked at how well it fit. It seemed like the shape of the saddle was made for Dee's back.

The seller said that $400 was perfect and that's how I ended up with a dressage saddle I wasn't really looking for, but couldn't pass up.

I'm not a fan of the colour though. I love brown dressage saddles, but this shade of brown is just unappealing. I may have to consume many an adult beverages and take a page out of Amanda's book and dye it. (I looked at dyes and there are too many for brown, I'm terrified to commit to one)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Beaumont Horse Trials - Day 2

On Sunday morning I was at the grounds super early to do a quick trial ride in a dressage saddle (Spoiler: I bought it!). I managed to watch a few Prelim rides before I had to go get ready.

By the time I was on, I was so nervous I was pretty sure I was going to vomit all over the timers at the startbox. Sandra told me that we had a solid plan, to stick to the plan and to talk out loud. She didn't want a repeat of Saturday's inability to breathe.

And then it was my favourite part of an event "5...4...3...2...1..Have a great ride!"

Fence 1 was a small inviting log
We got a crappy distance to fence 1 and Dee popped over it and I was loose in the tack so it sure wasn't pretty.

You can just see fence 3 in the background on the far right
Fence 2 rode pretty nice and then we had to gallop around the alternate startbox, by the finish line and turn towards fence 3.
A decent sized ramp.
Dee was distracted by everyone cooling out at the finish line and never really locked onto fence 3. I didn't do anything about it, I rode backwards to it and when Dee decided that "Nope, not doing it" I just sat there.

I took a deep breath, gave her a quick pat and turned to re-present. I utilized the confidence stick behind my leg and we sailed over it like it was no big deal.
4AB was a 6 stride bending line to the cabin
We jumped into 4AB really nice and the line and distance were just there for B. But Dee made me work for it. She wasn't going to babysit me like she did in SJ. I growled, tapped her with the confidence stick and she decided that jumping it was a good idea.

We planned for the right side as if we have a run out it's always to the left

The multi-functional airplane, the right wing is T, the left wing is P and the body is E/PT (or BN/N)

I've been working really hard to not pull as we come to fences, especially big galloping fences, like the airplane. I still pulled a little but we got over it without chipping.

6 was compulsory flags through the pothole water. The entrance and exit are quite steep
Dee launched herself into the first water. I landed a bit heap-like but thankfully we had a long gallop to get ourselves sorted out.

Pallisade bending to the bench on the left
About 2/3 of the way to 7AB I started asking Dee to come back. Our game plan was to do a circle out in the field if she didn't come back as 7A was super upright. It took a little longer than I'd like but Dee did come back to me and this rode really nice.
Photo by Crystal Hobbs

We even took B at a bit of a left to right angle (which is a big win considering last year a bench caused me to have major anxiety, and angles also stressed me out)
8 was this picnic table
Up and over the hill to the picnic table. We jumped this right out of stride and Dee was towing me to the water.

Off the bank, 3 strides to the log
We jumped off the bank perfectly! It walked as a 3 stride to the log, we planned that the water and the atmosphere here would back them off a little and it would require a bit of leg. Turns out the plan was solid for the rest of our group (one even got 4 strides). Dee did not slow down at all, so our 3 strides had us right at the very base of the log. Thankfully it was small and she's handy.

Too bad I can't seem to remember to look up
Big square train car 
Fence 10 was the fence I was most stressed over. It has no real ground line and it's super upright and quite wide. The original plan was to make sure I kept Dee's wither up and balance her but keep moving towards it. After stressing out over it and being so nervous Sandra and I modified the plan here. I picked a spot on the horizon, didn't take me eyes off of it, grabbed my neck strap and kicked on. Sandra figured I was better off staying out of Dee's way and letting her figure it out, rather than letting my nerves trick me into pulling the whole way there. 

And it worked! We jumped it like it was NBD.

Coffin in the grave yard (set as a 2 to a 2)
 I wasn't too worried about the coffin as we've schooled it a bunch and Dee is not ditchy at all. And true to form we popped through it handily.
This picture doesn't show that this a big bank to a small bank
Next up was the bank to bank. I'e never schooled it here and I've only ever done one with a small gap. Thankfully Dee doesn't care. We galloped up the ramp and then jumped down from the big bank to the small bank, and straight on to the chevron. Sandra stressed that we needed to ride this like the banks weren't there. Just get straight to the chevron and ride to it.

The space is almost 4' wide and the big bank is 3'3" the small is 2'6"
It was a good plan. Dee tried to duck out on the chevron but I was prepared and made sure that door was closed. We jumped it crooked, but we did jump it!

The big trakehner
Another good gallop to the trakehner. I didn't fuss with her at all, I just sat up, added leg and let her do her thing. She will always pat the ground in front of a trakehner. I've made my peace with it. It keeps us safe.

A frame, bending to the truck on the right.
 15AB was set up as a galloping combination. A first for me.A nice inviting A frame with a sharp (but long) bend to the truck. The truck was another fence I was worried about. It had a good ground line to make it a good galloping fence, but I've never schooled it and we all know I struggle with the galloping fences.

The dreaded truck
I didn't need to be worried. I committed to the gallop coming into the combo, sat up, looked and kicked on and Dee was foot perfect. I may or may not have actually shouted "Kick Harder, Think Less" coming at the truck :)

Big galloping oxer to finish
The final fence ended up being my favourite fence of the whole course.It's a big wide table and we actually jumped it out of a gallop stride, without any pulling, hesitation or even use of my neck strap.

We came in 13 seconds under Optimum Time even with the stop! I couldn't have been prouder of us! We got through my first Training without a panic attack, even with some intense nerves. I'm super excited for our next event (which isn't for 5 weeks).

The pro photos haven't been posted yet so I'm super happy that I had so many friends with cameras there. I'm super pumped that Suzi got a photo of us over 10, seeing as it was the reason I was shitting my pants over this move up.

Dee definitely retains her title of BestPony!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Beaumont Horse Trials- Day 1

Alternate Title: Breathe Dammit

The plan was to move up to Training at Beaumont HT as it's generally soft (it's the first Alberta event of the year) and it's our home course.

Despite having a good plan, a great horse and a positive prep run two weeks prior at the Chase Creek back-to-back HT (I still need to post about that trip) I was really, really nervous. Like, I may vomit on my way to the startbox nervous. I don't think I've ever been so nervous for a show.

Our dressage was more relaxed than both of our tests at Chase Creek , which was my only goal. Our scores did not reflect any improvement but I was pleased with it. It was tense and Dee wasn't super consistent but at least I wasn't riding a runaway. So I refuse to dwell on the fact that we were 25th out of 26 going into show jumping.

My SJ warm up was really good. Dee was forward and hunting the fences. A long as I kept my body back, rather than letting her pull me forward, things went really well.

Then I went into the ring. And I've never been more grateful to be sitting on the Best Pony. The course wasn't giant but there were some challenging questions. I had a game plan, but it turns out it's really hard to execute a plan when you aren't breathing.

My lack of breathing resulted in stiffness and pulling. Dee toted me around but we did jump around by Braille (I think there were only 4 out of 12 fences we didn't rub). Miraculously we only had one rail come down.

Fence 1 was a ramped oxer heading away from the gate to a fairly long stretch to another oxer. Fence 3 was set off a left turn that invited drift due to the terrain, I actually did a god job of making sure we got a good line here. Next was a hard left turn to 4AB (a one stride heading towards the bushes). We jumped in from a crawl and I just sat there. It rode like she was going to put in one and half strides, and then at the last moment she took the long. I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. But I really do have the most tolerant pony.

Not my finest moment.
 Fence 5 was a big square oxer jumping towards the in gate and 6 was a tall vertical that required you to hug the rail by the gate to get the right line to it. It came down a lot over the course of the day, but Dee gamely launched over it. It was then a forward bending 7 to a 2 stride combination. My plan was to bend out for a forward 8 to give us a little more wiggle room. I didn't get a good line (and I can't remember how many strides I got) so we ended up jumping from the base of the first fence. Then I didn't add enough any leg, so we put in a tight 3. Somehow Dee got us through it.

The jumps look bigger than I remember them.

Before fence 8 I felt like I was going to fall off. My thought process sounded a little like this: I'm going to fall off. Why do I feel like I'm going to fall off. OH SHIT. BREATHE YOU IDIOT.

The last 3 fences (including the super spooky zebra vertical) rode much better when I actually was breathing, who knew?
Game faces

I was super pumped that Dee had babysat me through our first Training stadium course. This spring we've had a few stops or run outs if I'm not really on it so I couldn't be more proud of her stepping up to the plate when it was important. Now I need to get my shit together and make some hefty deposits into the trust bank.

Monday, 6 June 2016


We did it! I moved up to Training at the Beaumont Horse Trials and finished on a number! Facebook reminded me that it was 5 years to the day of my first completed event.
The weekend was not without it's hiccups but my overwhelming emotion is gratitude.

Photo By Suzi Prokopchuk Stromberg
Gratitude to the fabulous coaches who have helped me get to this point. The ones who I'm no longer riding with, the ones who have stepped in to pinch hit, and especially to Sandra for believing in me and the Bestest Wonder Pony (her words) despite only coaching us sporadically.

Gratitude to my awesome friends, who talked me off the ledge when my nerves were getting the better of me. The barrage of texts from those who couldn't be there made me feel loved and supported.

Gratitude to the awesome team who help me keep my senior performance horse competing at this level. I've never been happier with my vet, farrier and osteopath,

Photo by Crystal Hobbs

Gratitude to the other 3 horses I've had the opportunity to event. Merlin gave me the confidence to gallop at solid obstacles, Riddick taught me to be tactful and humble, Red Mare who taught me how to persevere (and to know when it's time to move on).


Gratitude to my mom. I couldn't do this without her, even though it stresses her out to watch me. There aren't enough words to describe how important she is.

Gratitude to my SO. For being understanding of all the time, money and dedication this crazy sport takes. For supporting me through it all, even though he don't really understand it. For being willing to learn and help out. For keeping me mobile when the Purple Lemon dies on me. For loving the horses almost as much as he loves me.

But overwhelming gratitude to my awesome horse. She was exceptionally forgiving as I made withdrawal after withdrawal from the trust bank. 99% of the time she was right there for me when I wasn't there for her. The one blip was a safe blip that was a necessary wake up call. I wouldn't have wanted to do this with any other partner.
Photo by Crystal Hobbs