Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MCTA Ride times are up!

Katchi and I have our second attempt at starting the competition season on Sunday (no hind boots this time!), and ride times are up -

Dressage - 12:54
Show Jumping - 3:12
Cross Country - 3:32

Check out the Live Scoring site!
The MCTA Horse Trials are located at Shawan Downs in Cockeysville, MD.

In an effort to polish off our 3 phases, Katchi and I picked up a show jumping lesson with Sharon White last week. It was really productive, because all the icky stuff that happens to us on course happened during the lesson, and we had to deal with it! Sharon was also really helpful in focusing me on applying the perfection I enjoy in my dressage work to the show jumping ring. Using some of her ideas, Katchi and I had a really good jump school at home on Monday, and will do one more quick school on Friday. I'm hoping that will be enough to at least let us be a little more polished in show jumping on Sunday.

We also had the good fortune of getting a lesson with Silva this afternoon. Was able to ride in her saddle again (mine is shipping from France on Friday - yea!). I really had a good laugh when I pulled down the stirrups to see what I should do about the stirrup length - no joke - the stirrups were just about down to Katchi's knees!!!! Apparently Boyd had ridden in the saddle last! WOW! Once again, Silva and Boyd's talent must have rubbed off on my butt, because I had a great ride today. Hopefully we can reproduce the effect on Sunday! Heres a little video from today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rolex at the Greene Turtle!

Last year, I made my first trip to watch Rolex in person - funny because I'd been to both Burghley and Badminton, but never made it just down the road to our own American 4-star. I honestly hadn't realized what an easy drive Lexington is from DC. This year, my mom and I have tickets to go to the WEG this fall, so I decided to skip out on Rolex this spring (saving my shopping dollars!). Man did I miss being there! I think I spent as much time watching Eventing Nation's live blog and Universal Sport's coverage - I might as well have gone to the event! But, Katchi and I had our own little tribute to Rolex XC day yesterday - I took him over to Rosaryville Park to do some galloping work on their hills. Katchi was super easy galloping and it was a great prep for our re-attempt (no hind boots this time!) at starting the competition season next weekend at MCTA!

So, today, I decided to venture out to the Greene Turtle in Columbia to watch the live showing of Rolex SJ on the big screen, in a sportsbar, with a beer, and french fries!!!! Lori B posted on the COTH Forum that she was organizing a viewing party, so I thought, what the heck! When will I ever have this kind of opportunity again?? What we lacked in numbers, we made up for with enthusiasm for the horses and riders. I really thought Phillip might win as other rider's rails fell, and fell, and fell! I wore my hat from last year's Dutton Academy to show my "team" support - although, it was lost on the other bar patrons, who had no idea why there were horses on the big screen, and definitely thought we were an odd group! The Turtle's manager came over at the end, and he said they actually watched the event a bit - they managed to figure out that it was bad when rails fell down, and when that grey horse (Kim Severson) ran into the fence - no good. They were excited that the super tall guy had won - they figured he must be a basketball player in his real job, because he surely can't do that horse thing all the time! I just smiled and thanked them profusely for the beer and big screen tv!

That's Boyd on the big screen - having a fantastic ride on Neville! How happy are we to have the Aussies flocking to the US?! Wow, those boys are looking good!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lucinda Green - Day Two (WONDERFUL!)

Too tired to write tonight, so pictures now and words tomorrow. Today was one of those days when you know exactly why you get up every morning to bust your butt trying to perfect everything - because when it comes together, it is the most amazing feeling in the world! I love my horse!

Thursday addition - after some sleep! I'm not even sure where to start, because I'm still a little overwhelmed. How do you explain to someone (a normal person, who doesn't understand horses - or even someone who rides, but doesn't event) - how do you explain to them why you are an eventer? I love the perfection of dressage. Show jumping is okay (maybe this is the reason it's always been my weakest phase). But the emotion of cross country is overwhelming. And I don't think you really can describe it. The eventers reading this know what I mean. How do you describe the feeling of turning a flight animal into a tiger? A tiger that pounces here, and leaps there, and fearlessly gallops ahead charging at the next challenge with bravery, skill, and perfect balance - and they graciously take you along for the ride. But more than that, this tiger talks to you. He's not panicked or flailing. He's keenly attuned to your every movement. And yet, this horse is a tiger. He's attacking, yet if you told him to stop - he'd do it in a second. How do you explain that feeling? And that synergy doesn't just happen to anyone - not just to any horse or to any rider. It takes developing a partnership. It takes hours and hours in the saddle and on the ground - developing mutual trust and respect. It also takes skill - the rider must have the balance, catlike reflexes, lower leg and core strength, focus.... to keep up with the tiger beneath them. It's why eventers cannot force their horses into submission in dressage. Because event horses save our lives - and they love doing it. And there is nothing in the world like it.
Yesterday's clinic was one of those days. I often wonder if professional riders, who ride horse after horse around course after course - do they still have that XC glow? Do they know how lucky they are? I think they do. Well, obviously, where I'm going with all this is that yesterday, working with Lucinda, was one of those days when you feel like the luckiest person in the world for having discovered this amazing sport, and to be sharing it with an amazing partner!

So, yea, clearly the clinic was great. The CDCTA snafu was a single moment in time. It just had to have been those darn hind boots. This year's clinic had a lot of BN riders sign up, and very few for the higher levels. I am SO grateful that they went ahead with smaller groups - and what an amazing opportunity! There were only 2 of us schooling together with Lucinda yesterday, which meant that we got to pick what we wanted to do. Lucinda started us off with a few things, but then we just went on to work on what we needed help with - and Lucinda was there to guide us. If you have never had the opportunity to audit or ride with Lucinda - find a way. She is the most amazing horsewoman, and she is continuously learning. Her clinics are never routine, and you always learn something new. She had 2 key insights that that really resonated for me that I thought others might enjoy.

1. Coffins. We used to consistently have coffins on courses at prelim and above (15 years ago or so) - and it was always the same thing: vertical, down hill 2 strides, ditch, up hill 2 strides, vertical. They were good fun to ride and quite predictable. Then they disappeared for a while. Now they're coming back, but with skinnies, and turns, and various strides - not predictable at all. And no-one seems to know how to ride them. And the 1/2 coffin has emerged at Training level, with a slightly softer version at Novice. So, I talked with Lucinda for a while about riding these. She said the single most important thing is to communicate 2 things to your horse:

1. There is a ditch on the other side of that jump.
2. You have enough room to land between the jump and the ditch.

I've been thinking about the mistakes people make and what it means to the horse - if you do not develop a "coffin canter" and come galloping down to it (trying to be "brave" or "bold" or whatever), you have not communicated to your horse Lucinda's first critical fact: there is a ditch on the other side. And when they get up to the first jump, they will likely either stop (probably) or try to jump everything at once (wow, I hope not!). Lucinda said if your horse stops at he first element, the best thing to do is come around the back of it and pass between the jump and the ditch, so the horse can see that there is room to land, because the stop was more likely an issue with the horse trying to figure out where to put his feet rather than refusing to go over the ditch.
SShe also said that in practice, you need to teach your horse that when you compress him and focus him, he should be aware that something more is there than he can see. You know something he does not - he needs to look, focus, and be ready to be quick on his feet. Easy enough, right!?

2. The whip as an aid for the horse or rider? Lucinda had us trotting a little trakahner, and Katchi just stuck to the ground a bit as he was taking off. So I reached back and gave him a swat, and he leaped off the ground. Second time around, he jumped it perfectly without a swat. Lucinda commented afterwards that I was just like her - that my timing with the bat was impeccable and that's not something you can teach people - it was spot on and an effective aid for the rider and horse. She said that when she was competing, a lot of times the horse probably would have gotten by with a good kick, and some riders do just that. Others, like her, use the bat at that precise moment, because the rider needs the aid as much as the horse does. And I think she's right (I mean, of course Lucinda is always right!). But, when I think about how I feel when I use the bat at that precise moment - there is something in it that just makes your whole body tell the horse that you said GO GO GO! I guess it's sort of like my own transformation into a tiger!

Well, with that said - back to the pictures...

(oh, and P.S. - I have insider information that Jim Wofford is returning to do the commentary on the Rolex hi-lights DVD this year, so after last year's terrible rambling commentary - the DVD will definitely be worth getting your hands on this year! You can pre-order it at The Sport House. Funny enough, this information did not come from Jimmy! I was so upset with last year's DVD that I wrote to the company pleading for them to bring Jimmy back! They just sent me a message yesterday confirming that he would be back!!! Now that is customer service! Gee, I wonder if I should ask Jimmy for a 10% commission as his agent?! HA HA!)

Lucinda was wearing this furry hat when she hopped up on Katchi yesterday - too funny!

Here's my good friend, Kim, playing in the water jump.

A very sad Katchi got tied to the trailer, so I could take out his studs without fighting the temptation of grass. He was the most offended horse ever! I've never tied him before!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lucinda Green - Day One

This is my fourth time riding with Lucinda, and this year, I admit that I gave it some real thought about whether the cost was still worth it. Without a doubt - YES!
I've put Katchi to bed, and gotten myself back to my hotel - showered and fed, and I'm starting to fade. So, I'm sure I will forget lots of things about this wonderful day! Unfortunately, I'm on my own for this clinic, so no video or pictures of me. But I did try to take a few clips of others, because if you haven't ever seen what Lucinda puts us through - words just don't do it justice. I'm pretty sure video doesn't either - maybe next year, I'll get one of those helmet cams!!! That would be too cool!

Lucinda has two main objectives in these clinics - 1) To get riders and horses communicating (fast, clear, and accurate). 2) To make horses (and riders!) faster in their reaction times - quick quick with their feet. And it's amazing how good she is at accomplishing both. I think next year, when I start getting excited about the show season starting - I should take a deep breath, and stick to dressage and jumper shows, and wait to hit the HT season until after Lucinda knocks off our dust - it's the smarter way.

The phrase of the day - "I thought I had it!" And Lucinda's response - "don't think you have it, you better be sure you have it!" My problem of the day - I would get so happy about how well something went that I'd forget to ride the next challenge. Oops, start again. Poor Katchi - he was jumping like a rock star - and I loved it! A little too much, I guess. I kept throwing a party instead of finishing the line. But my very best moment of the entire clinic came during the first two lines. I went down the first line, all good. Came around the corner, and for the first time in 4 years of clinics with Lucinda - I could not find the line she wanted jumped. I was the first one to ride the line, and I stopped and said "which skinny?" - Lucinda pointed - and I said, "which skinny?" She pointed again. This went on about 10 times, until I almost said - that's impossible. I caught my tongue, and just then remembered where I was, and I went and jumped the seriously screwed up line. That Lucinda! Seriously, my students should be so thankful for how generous I am when I make them do stuff like this! Holy Cats.

Katchi is jumping better than ever. And he really has a new style to him, which I need to adjust to. He's coming into the jumps perfectly, but he just needs a bit extra umph support right at the take-off. When I did that - wow! I also really need to tune-up my reaction times. I think I've been thinking so much the past few months about riding the jump - staying up off his back and landing properly - I've forgotten how to DO SOMETHING in the air - like look at my next jump, whoe, turn... We did all that stuff today. And I sure was rusty! I think the hardest thing for me today, you'll see several other riders doing in the video below. It was two logs on a blind turn, downhill. Lucinda described it as a 1'9" fences, with an Advanced question. She was right too. We did 1/2 this exercise last year, sort of coming around the bush to jump just one log off the blind turn. This year's exercise certainly had an added challenge!

And here is the WAY cool news of the day - Lucinda Green rode Katchi!!! She was really curious about my saddle, so at the end of the lesson, she asked if she could hop up and feel it - and Katchi thought he was done! She cantered him around for about 30 seconds, and even though she wasn't riding Katchi, so much as testing out the saddle - I was so excited, I went nuts! And I don't have a video or picture or anything of it! Lucinda is a Devocoux person - and I am not. So, we definitely have different opinions of saddles. But it was good fun to talk to her about my thoughts comparing the two, and hear hers. She made some interesting comments about how I ride in mine, that I think will be really helpful to me as I try to strengthen my position. Damn, I sure wish I had a video of those 30 seconds. Good boy Katchi for not doing anything stupid while Lucinda was up top!

Katchi says Lucinda always brings him the best grass!

That's about all I can think of for tonight - and sleep sounds so good! Will try to report on Day Two just as soon as I can. I'm staying at a Holiday Inn Express tonight, so surely I'll be one hell of a XC rider tomorrow, right!? :)

Marvelous Marlborough

I have lots to share about Day One of the Lucinda Green clinic - but first, I have to talk about the marvelous weekend I spent at the Marlborough HT. First, the weather could not have been better - I think we really deserve this after all that F$*!&*! snow.

I heard they had about 115 horses come out on Saturday to school the XC course - I think 100 of them were on the course at 10:00 when it opened! No joke. A few months ago, my mom went to see my little cousin compete in a surfing contest. Apparently when the "right" wave comes up, a mass of surfers paddle like crazy to get on that wave - they get points for picking the "right" wave as well as for how well they ride that wave. Anyhow, afterwards my mom said she had terrible images of riders out on a XC course, waiting for the right jump to show up (as builders and designers dodge around the course setting up this jump and taking down that jump)... and when the "right" jump shows up - all the riders charge! Saturday was a bit like that! Although, thankfully, the jumps all stayed right where they were placed.

Sunday was another amazing day - and especially because my two students rode like stars! I could not have been more proud! Adrianne finished in 2nd and Debi finished in 3rd in the BN division - and both of them (and their horses!) were all smiles! Debi and I spent the winter really addressing some basic training issues with her horse's jumping, and wow - what a difference! Debi has really worked her tail off, and she deserved this ride more than anyone I know! And this was Adrianne's first completed HT, so to bring home a pretty red ribbon sure is a nice way to start her competitive eventing debut!

Debi & Roxanne eating up the XC course!

Marlborough really had a hard time getting entries and volunteers this year. I think they ended up with almost 80 entries (they had about 100 last year). And, if they were short on volunteers, I couldn't tell. In fact, the volunteers were some of the best I've come across in a long time! Everyone was so efficient, accurate, kind, and seemed to be totally enjoying themselves. THANK YOU! Except, to the volunteer jump judges who disappeared (unclear if they went on break, left the show, or what) with their score cards! AGH! We waited for probably close to 2 hours for the jump judges to be tracked down and their scores recorded. That sucked. And, while I'm complaining about volunteers - this one is just shitty. Apparently 8 jump judges didn't show up on Sunday - this was AFTER they had used their volunteer free schooling passes the day before! Anyone with horses knows that emergencies happen. But, 8 emergencies sure seems like a lot to me. I don't know how many jump judges were supposed to be there, but I'll guess they had 20 lined up. 8 out of 20 jump judges - that's a pretty high percentage to find themselves in full-on crisis emergencies that would prevent them from doing the time they had already been paid for! Really folks, that's crappy. I hope Marlborough puts up pictures of these individuals at the fall HT - like bad check writers.

But, that aside - Congratulations to Debi & Adrianne for superb rides and ribbons to match!!

Adrianne & Tori zipping off to the last (there is just something cool about galloping along power lines, isn't there?!)!

Waiting for those rogue jump judges to bring back their score sheets....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A bit of luck - much needed and much appreciated!

I think I've decided that last Saturday just didn't happen. Dressage happened - yea! But, the rest of it, I'm sure it was just a bad dream! Last fall, as I was trying to decide with Dr. Kent Allen, what to do about the rest of my fall competition season - talking with the man who has cared for so many Rolex, Badminton, Burghley and Olympic bound ponies... I felt a bit silly almost crying about my hopes to finish out a full fall season at Training level. And Dr. Allen kindly said, "but that event is just as important to you as Rolex is to them". You know, he was right. And Saturday was important to me. But, it was one day, and now I have good news on all accounts to report. So, I'm putting it behind me and getting excited for the 2010 competition season to start - for real this time!

After mopping around the house Sunday morning, I gave it some good thought. And I decided I needed to see how Katchi felt, and if he felt okay, both of our confidence needed to jump a little. That little monster was rearing to go! I think he knew he was supposed to run XC the day before, and he didn't get to. I jumped him - no hind boots and nothing over about 3 feet - but he was brilliant. There wasn't a darn thing wrong with his jumping. Saturday just had to have been the boots. I definitely get the idiot of the weekend award.

More good news came on Monday with the truck - the mechanic checked out EVERYTHING and couldn't find anything wrong. They said I must have just sucked something into the fuel line and it had made its way out now. $10 for new windshield wipers and I was on my way. wow. When does that ever happen?! Especially with a 1989 beauty of a truck?! Rust and all... I love that truck!

I also ordered the new L'Apogee saddle - SO EXCITED!! I'm not sure if it will make it here before MCTA, but I sure hope so. Isn't waiting just so so unbearable?!

And yesterday, Katchi and I made the trek back to see Dr. Allen for the 6 month check-in. You know, that place is so funny - it's like an English pub. Hang around long enough and you'll run into all your friends! You have regulars. You have addicts. You have tourists (vet school applicants). I think all of Maryland was there yesterday, and I met some really great people! I guess the stress of pending equine and financial crisis makes people bond - sort of like being in a hostage situation and bonding with your fellow hostages! Anyhow... Katchi got all sorted out for the competition season, so we should be good to go. Actually, his legs were the easy part. It was his head that was a disaster!

You know how plastic bags sometimes warn parents about the risk of suffocation and that children should not be allowed to play with them? Katchi had a little cough a couple of months ago, and a little discharge from his nose the other day, so I asked if they could check out his lungs and see what they thought. Here comes young vet, Joey, with a white kitchen trash bag - Katchi thinks it sounds remarkably like a giant peppermint wrapper. Until Joey proceeds to wrap it around Katchi's nose, so he couldn't breathe. OMG! Katchi's eyes got so big, and he looked right at me - I CAN'T BREATHE!!!!!! I thought I was going to die right there. I guess I have some maternal instincts after all. After maybe 30 seconds (or a lifetime; either way), Joey took the bag off Katchi's nose and he took some really deep breaths so they could hear how his lungs sounded - all perfect. More good news! Angry horse though.

And then it got worse. Last fall, Katchi got a mysterious knot on his face - no idea what happened or how, but after several skull x-rays, we determined that he hadn't actually broken his face, so that was good. The knot is pretty well gone, but his eye has been watering for months. So, the vets wanted to flush his tear duct, suspecting that it was blocked - it was. Have you ever seen a tear duct be flushed? I've spent my whole life around horses, and I'd heard about this "routine" procedure, but I had NO idea what it really meant! Out comes a super thin tube, about 18 inches long. They insert it through a teeny tiny hole in the nostril, which runs all the way up to the eye!! How did I go all the way through the B-level in Pony Club and I never knew this - did I just forget or not care? Well, let me tell you, Katchi cared. They had to drug him like 3 times to keep him quiet for the process. And I took it upon myself to try to hold him up during the process. Good plan. Anyhow, he managed to - just barely - keep himself on 4 feet, and about 4 syringes of saline solution later, all this puss and ick finally came out his eye! The duct was totally blocked right about where the knot on his face is, and it was definitely impacted and infected. So badly that we're probably going to have to repeat this process in another 2 weeks or so, to be sure it's all cleared out. Great. Poor Katchi. He must hate me. But, he should be thankful - Joey was telling me later that with impacted sinuses that run along the same line, if they can't get them to flush - they use a saw... that's when I almost fell over. Really, did he have to say the word "saw"?! Apparently they saw into the horse's head and let everything drain out. He had to do the procedure in vet school once. Please let me never ever experience this.

This weekend, I'm at the Marlborough XC Schooling Day and Unrecognized HT helping some students - I hear they are really desperate for volunteers, so if anyone has a free few hours to volunteer (NO prior experience necessary!) - contact Donna, 301-503-8549, I wish I could coach and volunteer, but I guess I'm not actually a super woman! Hope to see y'all out there!

Katchi goes to the Lucinda clinic on Tuesday & Wednesday of next week, so watch for updates from all that fun!!! I just love Lucinda! :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

If I had entered a dressage show...

But I didn't enter a dressage show. And getting through three phases, just as you dreamed and practiced so hard for, is no easy task.

Yesterday had high highs and low lows. And the day ended abruptly when I retired in show jumping. Katchi never even got to see the XC course. Yesterday, I was stunned and frustrated. Today, I am depressed. I just keep staring. Staring at nothing. I know I need a new plan, but I feel like I'm dealing with so many variables. In goal-setting, they say you have to identify your long-term big goals, as well as all the critical little steps to get you there. I know what yesterday should have been - something went wrong. And lots of little steps are necessary to figure out why. Anyhow, enough depressed ramblings - here's what happened yesterday.

4:04 AM Out of bed (alarms - 3 of them! - set for 4:05. Woke up with one minute to spare.)

5:00 Arrived at barn to find the most wonderful surprise - the barn manager had used the spare set of keys to my truck/trailer to move it out of its parking spot and stage it in the 'ready to load up and head out' spot! Bathed, braided and headed-out just after 6 AM.

7:15 picked up Debi, my groom for the day. Who ended up being an enormous help to me, but not in the ways she expected!

9:15 Arrived at show. L'Apogee saddle rep, Kitty (maybe it's because I love cats, but I love her name!), was to meet us at 9:30 to let me ride my test in one of Silva's saddles. No cell phone coverage at show. Phones manage to work long enough to let us get a voice mail from Kitty - who is at a different land preserve in Culpeper, looking for us! Cannot make phones work to reach her. Give up and tack up.

10:00 Mount-up, turn around and there's Kitty with Silva's saddle! Get off, switch saddles, get up again. Realize saddle pad looks like small child placed in on a fat pony - straight, it was not. Get off again. By this point, Katchi has decided this whole trip is ridiculous. No horse should be woken up at 5AM for a bath and braiding, 3 hour trailer ride, denied grass while his rider puts on and takes off saddles - gets on and gets off... Seriously, lady - are we going to DO something today!?

Head out to warm-up - with Kitty and Debi lugging along my saddle, just in case I get out there and cannot cope with the saddle change. Katchi feels relaxed, soft in the bridle, and far less stuck in his shoulder and neck than he has been the past few weeks - but also tired. Really hard to get him going. Saddle felt funny - after riding in the same dressage saddle for 15 years, even the lay of the stirrup leathers just didn't feel right. But, after about 5 minutes in the warm up - I'm in love!!! And then we cantered! OH YEA! Do I look as good as I feel? Oh crap, we left the video camera way back at the trailer. Too late now.

I'm up - next in the arena. Start my loops around the outside of the arena... do a little canter - ah yea, this is gonna be good! Do a 10 meter trot circle... whoops. what was that? Oh shit. Panic. Head straight to Debi - shit, does Katchi have a shoe on his right front foot? I think he just pulled off his shoe! Yep, I was right, no shoe. I show Debi about where it happened and she begins the search. Special bar shoe with studs - kinda need that if we're going to compete today. Debi can't find the shoe. There is so much mud and grass. It's lost. I head back to the arena, and the judge says something to me - which probably was like "good morning" - to which I proceed to answer with some panicked maniac response about the tragedy of a lost shoe that we're trying to find in the grass. She asks if I want to go on, and I say, yea, sure, whatever. So, off we go for our dressage test, sans front shoe and in new (wonderful!) saddle I've never ridden in before. Not really the set-up I had hoped for, but it is what it is.

I nearly forgot the test 5 times - I just kept thinking about that lost shoe and how my day was ruined. But we persevered. And, the test felt pretty okay. Some things could have been better. But, overall, it felt pretty darn good. Maybe Silva's saddle transferred some of her knowledge and skill from her behind into mine?!

As I turn to leave the arena, there's Debi, with a big smile on her face and Katchi's shoe in her hand! She said it was a miracle she found it - it was in a deep mud hole, covered with grass. She thought, "gee, that looks awfully deep" and as she investigated it, at the bottom, there was a shoe. Horray for Debi!! Walked straight to the farrier. 5 minutes and $10 later, the shoe and studs were re-attached.

Right, no time for a nap - it's time to jump. As I'm getting myself undressed and redressed, Kitty is working with the saddles - more saddles on and off Katchi. And he thought he was at a show! Get on Katchi's battle gear, including his new hind boots. I rode him on the flat in them on Thursday and Friday. He's jumped once in other hind boots at Loch Moy a couple of weeks ago. Kitty, Debi and I struggle with their fit a bit, but are all happy with how I have them on - and we head out.

Warm-up was not fabulous and Katchi felt really tired. And the worse Katchi jumped, the more nervous I got. Then I got the call to go into the arena. I decided it better to just get it over with than to get more riled up. That's worked for us before. Head in, and to my delight, Katchi looks around for a second, then settles right into listening to me. First jump was excellent. Second jump not fabulous - but okay, and we always struggle on those 4 stride lines. Third jump (oxer), 4 strides to 2-stride in-out (vertical to oxer). Jump up for oxer... what the hell? Katchi's hind end never came up, there were poles everywhere, and we halted in a pile of shock and poles. Here's a rule check for everyone - he didn't stop at the fence. He jumped it. So, it was a knockdown. A total knockdown, but just 4 penalty points. There was some confusion on the edge of the arena about whether the jump should be rebuilt as I would need to jump it again - I didn't. I knew that. Luckily, the judge knew that too, as no bell rang. I also knew that if I could manage to carry on and not cross my path, no more penalties (just time). So, I maneuvered myself to have more than enough room to get started again without crossing my path. We had a good 6 or 7 canter strides to the vertical of the in/out, which he jumped so tentatively that he just quit at the 2nd element, an oxer. This just wasn't right. This horse doesn't stop at show jumps. I retired.

What might I have done differently after crashing through that jump? I might have let the competition go, and cantered all the way around the SJ arena to come back to the in/out. I might also have done that after he stopped. But I was convinced something was wrong, and he clearly scared himself, and trying to get over that fear, with the only jump option being an in/out, just didn't seem like the right answer. As I patted Katchi and walked out the arena, the judge complimented my decision and being fair to my horse. I don't know if it was right or wrong, but it was the right answer for me at that moment. He didn't need to be smacked. And he didn't need to be scared again. He needed to have a "do-over" and start back at #1. But show rings don't work that way. I wanted to cry, but I just took a deep breath and patted Katchi on the neck. Was there anything else I could do? Jeeze, I wish it hadn't ended like that.

Leaving the arena, Debi and Kitty said they thought he was having trouble with his new hind boots. They took them off and I trotted him over the warm-up cross rail a few times on a very loose rein. He was clearly very unsettled and terrified of the poles. I was heartbroken over the competition. Still am. But I'm also worried. I love Katchi and he has the potential to be my horse of a lifetime. I want him to be okay. I have a video of the incident, and he didn't jump with his hind feet - he cleared the oxer in front, and drug his hind legs through all the poles and "brick" wall at the base. So, is it as simple as the hind boots made him so uncomfortable that he forgot to jump? Has he had it with my sitting on his back in the air? Is there something more??

Here's a bit of good news - just got a message from GRC photo that photos are up. We look good over the first 2 fences and I'm thrilled to see my butt in the air over the fences - not sitting on his back! It's not exactly Beezie Madden, but it looks better! That's already making me feel less depressed. (# 50)

And now, here's the HIGH OF THE HIGHS - and the worst insult of the day... after it was all over, I took a look at the scoreboard. Out of 19 riders, Katchi was in FIRST PLACE after dressage!!!! THANK YOU SILVA (and Silva's saddle!)!!!!! We've been working so hard all winter to be able to do just what we accomplished in the dressage ring yesterday! Even without a shoe! Of course, why is it that things like our SJ round never happen on the day that you forget your dressage test, or buck and bolt through your canter, or are securely already sitting in last place?! Nope, this stuff always happens when you have the most to lose. Nice.

To top off the day, right after I dropped off Debi, my truck decided to protest against the demands placed on it all day. It kept stalling every time I would stop at a stop light. The last 45 minutes at the end of the fun 3 hour drive home, poor Katchi was thrown all over the trailer as I tried to balance between neutral, revving the engine, throwing it into drive, slowing down as little as possible for turns and stop signs! Poor Katchi. And another thing to add to my list of unexpected stuff to resolve.

Anyhow, pages ago, at the start of this entry, I mentioned the importance of identifying the critical little steps in reaching your big goals. Right now, part of that is figuring out why things went right and wrong yesterday. This next month has a lot of little steps to get through if we are to have a good ride at MCTA:

- If Katchi seems okay today, I want to jump him a little -without hind boots. His confidence and my confidence need to know we can still jump.
- Order new dressage saddle. He's clearly hurting being ridden in my saddle, and that's not fair.
- Vet appointment on Wednesday - need assessment of any physical issues that might be contributing.
- April 13-14 Lucinda Green Clinic. We always need Lucinda!
- Arrange a couple of show jumping lessons. We just have to get better in this phase if we are to achieve our bigger (and current) goals.
- More conditioning work for both of us. I don't want to go into MCTA feeling so skeptical about whether we can physically get around.
- Keep up with the massage and stretching exercises that Courtney gave us last week - will have her come out again after the new saddle arrives. FYI - that's Courtney with Hands on Horses -

I never stay depressed for long. But I need a few more hours of feeling sorry for myself and worrying about Katchi - then I'll go start the work to make this right. It won't resolve itself and I have bigger ambitions than to sit around feeling sorry for myself for the rest of the competition season - although that sure sounds appealing right now.

Friday, April 2, 2010

CDCTA Course Walk Photos

So tired. Got through almost everything on today's list - except Katchi's bath and braiding! Traffic was TERRIBLE getting out of DC this afternoon - cherry blossom tourists are EVERYWHERE. So, it's going to be an early morning.
I had never been to CDCTA before, and took a few pictures to share with others who haven't been there before either - they've got some BIG hills. Good thing is the biggest ones are at the very beginning of the course, which should help get Katchi settled. First 10 jumps are nice galloping fences. 11-12-13-14 are all combinations! Water, downhill tables, ditch, bank. Then down a big hill to a big table. Then up a big hill to a big rolltop and that's it. Very strange order of jumps. I'm really looking forward to the course design training I signed up for next month - I hope it will help me understand "why", because as a rider, the course sure seems odd to me! But over all very nice and flowing. Only thing I'm a little worried about is the water - it will be the blindest jump in Katchi has ever done - so it will be a real test of whether I can convey "go go go" to him! It looks like a very do-able course, but darn those are some big hills!

Looking from the bottom of the "mountain" way up to jump #4

The "water" jump on my first course walk - DRY!

The water jump on my second walk - The water truck has arrived!

The landing really is dry, but Katchi won't see that until we're right there.

A very nice drop down, bending 4 strides, and little bench.

If we can just keep breathing and make it up/down those hills, it should be a good ride. More to come tomorrow... Fingers and hooves crossed for a good start to the season!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's Show Time!

I have lots of tidbits to share, but have to make this as quick as possible as I have to polish my boots and get to bed, because Katchi's show season starts this weekend!!

This Saturday, we will be at the CDCTA Horse Trials in Culpeper, VA at the Locust Hill Preserve. Info at
Ride Times: Dressage 10:38, Show Jumping 11:38, Cross Country at 12:08
If you're in the neighborhood, come on by! Sorry mom, no live scoring on this one.

It's supposed to be about 80 degrees on Saturday, and despite his trace clip, Katchi is still pretty furry. I've got some pretty rational concerns about our fitness level - especially mine! And, to top it all off - we only have an hour between our dressage and jumping times - for everyone who knows me, you will know that I am just about panicking over this! Luckily I have my great friend and student, Debi, coming with me to groom. She's going to have a busy hour helping me untack, undress, water, un-braid, stud-up, boot-up, re-tack, re-dress, and warm-up... what did I miss?? And Katchi and I won't even get our much loved nap before jumping! So, it should be an interesting day! I didn't recognize too many names in my division, so I did a little searching using the USEA horse search (LOVE THAT!) and I was really shocked to see that about 1/3 of the division just competed at Morven Park last weekend. Only one appeared to have gone south and had several other 2010 score postings, including Morven. Given all this snow and terrible winter - how are people fit enough to run back-to-back weekends? Am I missing something?

To get ready for all this, here's the rundown of my plans for tomorrow:
4:45 out of bed to head to barn for the normal early morning ride
8:00 start the fight against traffic to get to work
1:00 leave work, to hopefully avoid traffic while driving to Culpeper
3:00 walk jumping courses - I sure hope the courses are ready at 3:00 like they promise!
4:00 head back to barn (hum, maybe a 2.5-3 hour drive??)
clean tack, bathe Katchi, and get braids started (I'll tuck them up when we get to the show on Saturday).
Sleep, sometime?

Fitness and winter fur aside (Katchi's, not mine!) I am feeling pretty okay going into Saturday. 2 weeks ago, I convinced 2 students to head out with me & Katchi to have a school around Loch Moy's schooling course. We had such a brilliant time! Katchi was so naughty on the little jumps, but he jumped the big stuff like an old pro. And we spent a long time playing over ditches, banks and water - in the Lucinda Green fashion of long rein, no big deal, over and over again. Also let Katchi do a little galloping over their beautiful rolling hills - I am thinking I need to start thinking about a new bit. I had taken him out for a little gallop earlier in the week at home, and I won't say he ran off with me, but close. I could just barely hold his pace but was so glad I didn't have to pull up for a long time - I could have stopped him if I'd needed to, but I was really glad I didn't need to, because it wouldn't have been easy. I had much the same feeling galloping around Loch Moy. Luckily, after this weekend, we've got the Lucinda Green clinic April 13-14, and she is the master of bits. So, whatever we need now, she'll sort us out!

Katchi turned 9 years old on Tuesday, and I bought him a massage! He loved it! I was cracking up, because he was full of razy faces letting us know just what he liked and didn't like! The really great news is that I jumped him a bit the next day, and wow! He felt SUPER! That's a great feeling to have going into the first show of the season.

And now a couple of quick follow-up notes...

I think I've sorted out the trailer door! Katchi was not successful in opening it during the last trailer ride, so that's some progress!

The Chronicle of the Horse had a nice article on the WEG long-listed show jumpers, including pictures of each one. I noticed that not a single one of the other riders looked anything like Beezie Madden. She is in a class of her own. I have her picture up on my office wall and in my tack locker at the barn - and I'm definitely trying to figure out how to look more like her - but I do feel a bit better about myself now!

The black eye is no longer black! There's still a knot on my cheek, and my cheekbone hurts like heck. But, after 3 weeks, at least I'm not looking quite so much like an abused horse rider.

If I can manage it, I'll try to take a few pictures of the XC course tomorrow to post. But, no promises. Remember, I have to sleep sometime!?!