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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~


6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Groton House XC Video

Thought I'd share a little treat with you: our Groton House XC video!



Now, quite obviously we both had some pretty green moments in this video. She started off very strong over the first fence, was game over the second, and then had a major bobble over the third, mostly because I incorrectly assumed that the visual sight of a downhill landing would back her off a hair, but it did not and I didn't quite have everything together in time to bring her back a hair before she took off with legs flying everywhere! She was definitely game though! She then went barreling down the hill, thankfully no worse for the wear, and we were more conservative and defensive to the fourth. Fifth fence again didn't really have a good spot to it, but thankfully she's talented enough that Novice-sized fences pose no issues for her and she can skip over them without getting ruffled in any way. Sixth fence was a bit hairy due to the major hangtime on the landing side! Off to the seventh, which again wasn't even worth more than cantering over for her, and the eighth rode very nicely after a long hilly gallop. Another flat gallop followed after that to fences nine and ten, both of which rode well. A very strong half-halt down that hill followed, (which you can see) and then it was onto fences eleven and twelve, which you can't see (twelve was the ditch which she took a very hearty and awkward leap over when she saw at the last second that it had a troll in it!). She was a little wary approaching the drop, and that was our obviously most awkward fence, which I did not help her through because I of course leaned and looked down when she hesistated! A pop with the stick and somehow we ended up mostly in one piece on the other side. The water followed, but by this time she had been over two hairy obstacles in a row and was looking around a bit. I wonder if she had her confidence rattled a little bit here and that has been adding to our problems? But at the same time, the final three fences rode so nicely that it seems unlikely. I don't know, really.

All in all there are some, erm, scary moments, and some really awesome ones too. The course was awesome to ride, but it is clear where the homework is. I intend to get out and school XC, hopefully next week, provided she is feeling more like herself. She cruised through a very light gallop today with not all that much left over in the tank, so we kept it light and easy. It was also DOWNPOURING by the time we were done, so it was wise to end a little early anyway. I have videos of the tornadic storm that blew through later in the day, I will have to post those tomorrow cause they are WILD!

Watching videos like this make me feel very excited about the future. Sure, there's a lot of things to work on, but beneath all the bobbles there really is some real potential there. And of course I don't mean her, she's perfect, I mean for ME! If I ever get my act together I think we could really be something special together. She's something else, that Gogomare. She really is.

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....




Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica.
Just some of the crazy awesome wildlife we saw there.... a Poison Dart Frog and a Caimen, just for starters. It was really wild. I'll have to post pictures of the crocodiles... MAN they were HUGE and TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Easy Does It

Poor Gogo has really just not been herself this week. I do feel as though this is the early stage of what really could have been a pretty raging Lyme infection, because she's gone from really really good, to really good and spooky, to okay and irrationally spooky, to okay but pretty blah and dull. The numbers weren't totally conclusive, but it definitely showed a recent infection, and I think we caught this early on, before it spiralled way out of control. Thank god for that too. She was pretty good during our conditioning hack last Sunday, had Monday to just play with me, but these past three days of dressage have been just so-so. She just doesn't really feel like herself. From what I understand of people-type Lyme, you have generalized fatigue, muscle and joint stiffness, and personality changes - most often, anxiety and depression. We obviously can't ask the horses how they're feeling today, but she's acting like you would if you had the flu and you just felt crappy. She's been dull in the aisle for grooming and tacking (usually very alert and perky), has no go under saddle and is just flopping around on her forehand (no amount of transitions, bending, or other routine sharpening work has much effect on it, which it usually does), and has kinks in her body that she just can't seem to iron out (is traveling consistantly crooked with her right haunch in all the time, and was resting that right hind an awful lot yesterday). I went through the usual ruling out of things that I normally do - am I sitting crooked today, is it because it's hot, was she running around in the field, did she work hard yesterday, is she just having a bad mare day, etc - but three days in a row of very consistantly blah work makes it really seem like she's just feeling caca. We've done mostly walk work with a little bit of trot in there, but hardly anything because she just doesn't feel all that up to it. She was a bit better today, thankfully, but she had a preemptive dose of Banamine in her, so that could have easily explained it.

She did start Doxy yesterday, thankfully, and she now has 5 doses in her, 50 pills a dose. She's also been started on Probios, just as a standard protocol to keep that tummy happy while noxious antibiotics are in there eating away at her stomach lining. The good news here is that she's actually eating the pills, provided I wet her grain. I experimented with this a bit and discovered that yes, she will in fact eat the pills whole in her breakfast and dinner if I soak everything a bit before she eats. I tried it dry just for laughs but she just spit everything back out, kind of as expected. I was going to resort to the blender if I had to, and then maybe the oral syringe (THAT would have been fun), but thankfully water is all we need! The other good news is that Doxy tends to have a pretty profound effect on most Lymey horses, with a quick response and turnaround within a week if it's really bothering them. As with all antibiotics, you need to let it run its course (in this case, 30 days of drugs), but she should be feeling WAY better in a much shorter amount of time if this really is bothering her this much.

Poor Mami-mare. She's getting even more lovin' than she usually does (is that even possible?). She had a soothing lavender bath today, wore her Back on Track wraps all afternoon, had an extra hour of the thick grass outside the pastures tonight, and had her mane pulled and coiffed today after I rode. She also has a brand-new bag of Mrs. Pasture's cookies and a new Pony Pop to enjoy. So spoiled. So, so spoiled.


Tomorrow, we're going to do a very modified gallop, mostly just trotwork and a light canter in the field to see how she's feeling... who knows, maybe she just needs to get out and move a bit, and then she'll be feeling better. But I want to give the Doxy the benefit of the doubt. After our gallop, I intend on heading over to the Quinnipiac river and going for a dunk with her. The river is a bit too fast flowing to go for a real swim, but there's a nice sandy area near one of the banks that has plenty of room for a wading horse and her kid. I've also been in attempting to get ub touch with Town Hill, Ethel Walkers, Stoneleigh-Burham, and Mystic Valley in terms of XC schooling our little brains out as soon as we feel better, so that Valinor Farm and the AECs are right as rain for us. My entry for the AECs is going out very, very soon.... yes!!! Opening date was the 28th, so we still have a little bit of time. I am SO, SO excited!

Doxy, do your stuff!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lyme Titer Results, the Honest Scrap Award, and the AECs

Three cheers to just having fun with your horse. Gogo and I are getting ready to ramp up our work schedule in preparation for one final redemption at Huntington Farm H.T. near the end of August, and then the long-awaited AEC in September, but for right now? We're just playing around for a couple of days, mixed in with real work. We had our 2-hour conditioning hack yesterday, and after our 25 minutes of trot, we walk hacked to see Adrian at Dunkin Donuts (and she of course got her Plain Old Fashioned Donut when she got there), and today I had originally planned to jump school as I normally do on Mondays, but you know what? She jumped her little guts out for an hour and a half at 3'6" last Thursday, so I felt no need to pound on her legs any more. A better idea, I felt, was just to grab her bridle and hop on her bareback, and go for a cruise around the orchard. And that's exactly what we did :) She was so quiet and so happy and so chilled out, and at one point I found myself with both my legs off her sides and holding my arms up over my head yelling "NO ARMS!" It was just silly, and so much fun. I really have the best mare in the entire world. We can go one weekend and win an event by a landslide, and the next day go swimming in the pond. That to me is what makes her an amazing horse.

I also got a call today with the Lyme titer and Western blot results. I am struggling to make sense of the numbers (Lyme is a brand-new phenomenon to lil' ol' Midwestern me), but basically the titer was 1;1280, and the Western blot showed a mildly positive response. Meaning basically, she's on the borderline of treatable and we could go either way. Is there an active infection? No way to say really. Are the titer results this way just because she's had previous exposure? No idea. What we are going to do, just for the poops and the giggles, is put her on a 10-day course of Doxycycline, just to see if there's any change. If there is, then awesome! If there's not, then we need to address this as a confidence issue. I wish the results had been more difinitive, but, well, there you are.



And also, I was twice awarded with the Honest Scrap award! Thank you to wolfandterriers and Cathryn!




"When you receive The Honest Scrap award you must stick to some rules:
Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
List 10 honest things about yourself that others might not now.
Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs.
Leave a comment on your recipients' blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award."



10 honest scraps about me that you may not know:

1. I have secret fantasies about life suddenly becoming a musical, and being able to step outside into a huge dance number where everybody I meet falls into line behind me. I also want life to be like a movie where everybody’s shopping bag has a huge loaf of frenh bread sticking out of it.

2. I LOVE Turkish delight. And RJ’s Natural Soft Eating Black Licorice. And Watties. And baked beans on toast, the good kind. And Cadbury, the real Cadbury, the Triple Decker especially.

3. If there is a fountain anywhere near me and it is of a relatively agreeable temperature out, I WILL get into it. I even had sex in a fountain once. IN it. Beat that.

3. The fight scenes between Cato and Inspector Clousea in the original Pink Panther movies CRACK ME UP every single time I see them. The slow-mo NEVER gets old!

4. It’s a life goal of mine to see every national park in the US, and I’m well on my way. I also want to see every national park in every country I ever visit, but that would mean a lot of starting over because places like Canada have an awful lot of them.

5. II am deathly, deathly, deathly, deathly, deathly afraid of needles coming anywhere near me. I can give injections to horses all the live long day though. But needles near ME? Dear god, I’d rather go to jail for killing the doctor coming at me with a needle than actually get the shot. I’d rather gouge out my own eyes with my own fingernails than get a shot. I’d rather die painfully from whatever horrible disease I had than get the shot that would save my life from said horrible disease. It’s that bad.

6. I’ve had a LOT of interesting haircolors. Bleach blonde with red highlights, black with red highlights, black with purple highlights, regular purple, black and bleach blonde, black blonde and red, bright red… and once upon a time I had the sweetest faux hawk ever. I WANT IT BACK.

7. In a 12-hour period, I decapitated a deer AND t-boned a school bus right off the road with my old Jeep, which was bright orange and named Taco, although it also earned the nickname the Murder Machine after this. In honor of the deer, I chained antlers to the front of it. I also rocketed off a cliff, rear-ended another Jeep the same make, model, and color of mine, and did an over rotated 180 on the freeway into an overpass with my sister in the car.

8. I always want to make wishes when the clock turns to 11:11, but sometimes I can’t make myself because of my love/hate relationship with it. I was actually born at 11:11AM; my dad thought they were announcing my weight and length and reportedly said, “Holy crap that’s a big baby!” The day Quincy colicked, I saw that the clock in my car said 11:11 on my way to the barn, and I wished he would be all right. Less than three hours later he was dead. When Metro was lame, every time I saw 11:11 I would wish that he would get better. He did not.

9. I'm disgustingly morbid. I love dead, rotty things, and I like cutting them up and looking inside even more. I love anatomy and the study of how things work, and I like to see it in action even better. Bonus points if there’s lots of blood. At the same time, I can NOT see blood or guts in movies. Only in real life.

10. Life is all right by me.



And, well, since I love ALL your blogs I am going to award this to EVERYBODY. So just take it and run with it! :D



Today is the opening date for the AECs! Unfortunately for me, I will not be sending my entry in on opening day, mostly because I need to secure my entry fee in full before I actually can. It's over $500, and, well, that's a whole butt ton of money. I have plans though, many plans. More on this later!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eric Horgan Dressage/Jumping Clinic 7/22-23

Forgive me, readers! I have been remiss in my blogging this week. In my defense, between getting the facility ready for the clinic and trying to move my entire life back into my newly painted and carpeted room (yes!!!!), there's not been much time at night to sit down and write! Also, since the messy breakup with my fiancee, I've not been particularly interested in other human beings or seeking out what they have to offer, but as fate were to have it, the very attractive tranny that works at the Dunkin Donuts that Gogo and I always ride to (and who also always gives Gogo a donut when we get there) has been hanging out with me quite a bit this week, and we've really hit it off. Unfortunately, he gets off work at 10pm, so I've been doing a lot of staying up til 5am and getting less than an hour of sleep a night. Yeah, I know he's a tranny and I'm gay and that's all complicated, but hey, I'm flexible ;) I intend on getting to bed by midnight tonight, I swear!

I also apologize for my lack of commenting on all my favorite blogs, and for not yet picking up my Honest Scrap award that a couple of you have sent my way. My next post I will, I promise :)



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After the past two weekends of fail, I was feeling pretty lousy and not looking forward to the fact that we were going to host a private clinic at our barn with Eric Horgan that was decided fairly last minute and that I was not going to have the funds for, seeing as I had not known about it far enough in advance to set aside some money for it. Thankfully, one of our boarders came to the rescue, and asked me if I was planning on participating. When I told her I wanted to but just didn't have the money for it, she told me not to worry, and that she'd cover two days worth of lessons for me as a sponsorship. I about fell off my chair. They really are a wonderful bunch of people here.

And man, the clinic was so helpful. Wednesday was my jumping lesson, and while I got on feeling still stressed and miserable (and totally hormonal... seriously, I almost started crying for no reason when he asked me a simple question, who does that?), the lesson went on for over an hour and a half and I got off my horse beaming. She was a superstar. We had to ride in the indoor unfortunately, because it had rained so much that our outdoor was a lake, but it all worked out just fine. Eric had me start over a simple vertical at the trot and canter coming from both directions, just to see what was there, what I knew, and what needed to be addressed. The first thing he addressed was my 2-point. Now, coming from a dressage background, I've really struggled to maintain a half-seat in any way, and my lesson with Kerry helped to address that. Unfortunately for me, my overachiever self took it too far, and I've been unknowingly clamping down with my thighs and calves in order to maintain the position. Eric noted that my right stirrup leather squeaked against my saddle, and when I told him it always does that, he smiled and said "Well, it won't by the end of this lesson." Apparently, that comes from keeping my legs clamped like vices onher side! What he had me do was to think of my stirrups as my base of fluid support, and to keep my legs in contact with her but very relaxed all the way down, so I could easily flow over her back in balance while still allowing her to move underneath me. This had quite the effect on Gogo - her normally ewe-necked self came very round in the canter, rounder than I think she ever has during our jumping work. It felt very much like she felt very unrestricted, and had the ability to really let her energy flow forward through her back from her hindend. It was very cool.
We jumped the single vertical back and forth from both ways, and I had significantly more trouble jumping off the right lead, which is my much weaker way. As a right-side dominant person, I tend to really let her slip through her left shoulder if I'm not paying attention, a fact that isn't helped by the fact that she is also right-side dominant. My position in the air needs some significant addressing, but I already know the issues with that - letting my lower leg slip, ducking, and unfolding too early. Eric thought the bigger problem was in how Gogo and I approach fences. She tends to put her head very high in the air before every fence, and he wanted her to maintain a sense of roundness to each fence, seeing as good bascule comes from a proper approach. While we never stayed totally round to every fence, she did maintain a nice sense of soft self carriage, and jumped very easily out of every spot we found.
At some point Eric mentioned the fact that travel in a straight line for horses is very hard because they instantly want to fall on their forehands, and I asked him how one would counter that in a line. So, he set up a line and said let's find out! I was asked to maintain a more forward canter (which gave us a pretty good spot every time), to stay off her back (struggled with that a bit), to set her up before the fence and then let her find her own way (not riding her right to the base, which I tend to want to do), to tell if the spot to each fence was short, just right, or long, and how many strides I got in the 6-stride line. A lot to remember! By the end, she was jumping 3'6" easily, and I felt no need to push her to anything, which is my natural inclination when the fences go up. In the bigger, rounder canter, she maintained her own energy, and I never felt like I had to help her find a good spot. She found them herself.




While you can clearly see the faults in my jumping position and just how much that hinders her upon landing, you can see how rateable she was and how easy she found the work. And how darn cute she is over fences :D
I came out of the lesson feeling like I really had a lot of homework to keep in mind and a lot of tools to help us both out. Eric seemed impressed with the amount of information I retained, and at one point said, I'm throwing a ton of mud at the wall, and it all seems to be sticking! Which, I assume, is a compliment :). The bigger canter, the position work, the way we ride to each fence... all these things are really going to help us. I felt very satisfied and looked forward to the next day.




The dressage day was also just as helpful. I told him about the lack of brilliance behind, and after we warmed up, he had me really push her forward. There is a definite line with her where you can easily cross into rushing, but it's really fun to get to that brink of brilliance/insanity and try to maintain it for as long as possible without heading one way or the other. He also had me do a similar thing to what I had done the day before - relax my thigh and really let her back move underneath me. When I did that, I felt my leg slip into the most natural and balanced position I think it could ever be in, and her back really started to swing. The other really big thing he pointed out, aside from how crookedly I was sitting in my shoulder-ins (took some work but we got it straightened out, literally!), was that in my sitting trot and canterwork, I am weighting her forehand instead of releasing it by... well, I don't know exactly how to describe it. By riding down instead of up. And there was a definite difference between the two, a definitee lightening of her forehand. I wish I had a better way to describe it, I really do. It's just something in the way I sit and move my body that is very supple. We're going to have to see if this aids in achieving a little more in the way of collection.


All in all, she was fabulous, and I felt like I made a lot of progress myself. We've got our homework cut out for us, that's for sure, but there is always something to learn and always something to work on to better ourselves. We're slated to really get out and do several intense XC schoolings, as well as maybe picking up a few schooling jumper shows, just to get out over some courses and work on our homework in a low-pressure environment. I sent out my entry today for Huntington Farm H.T., in late August, as one final reprieve before the AECs in September. I feel that we will be ready by then, and our little spinning issue will be resolved. The Lyme titer hasn't come back in, but with how marvelous she's been these past few days, I'm not really suspecting it any longer. We shall see, we shall see.

We've back into our heavy training schedule without show interruptions: Sunday 2-hour conditioning hack with 25 mins of trot, Monday jump, Tuesday-Thursday dressage, Friday gallops, Saturday off. We'll adjust for XC schoolings.

I am very, very excited and very refreshed. Bring it on, world! We can take it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Riga Meadow H.T. 7/19/09: Contemplating


It's been the better part of a week since Riga now, and I'm finally breaking my silence and writing about it. In all honesty, rehashing it over and over in my head hasn't done much to make it any clearer. But thankfully, as the week went on, I went from feeling completely miserable to much, much better and way more positive after getting to ride with Eric Horgan for two days (awesome and tough). I'll have more about the clinic later (and videos, yay!).

It all started out just fine at Riga. It was a gorgeous, warm day, not too hot and not too breezy. Gogo warmed up very easily and well for dressage, but as per usual, we were a little pokey (even though it felt like we had plenty of forward... something we'll need to really work on) and were in first after dressage with a 34. The higher score came entirely from the lack of push from behind, which was more laziness on her part and me not wanting to push the envelopen than anything... just wanting to have a good time. We did get an 8 on our freewalk though FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! And she got an 8 on gaits, the cheeky thing :) Once again we were poised to win our fourth one of the year, right? Stadium went well, although it wasn't as smooth as it could have been. My position has been suffering over the course of the summer, and I was trying hard to compensate for it and ended up giving her much less of a smooth ride than I wanted. I have video but I haven't actually looked at it yet, so we shall see what it really looked like. I came off the clear round feeling pretty good, and really looking forward to XC.
And then, of course, we headed out and warmed up for our run. She was dead quiet this time compared to at Old Chatham, which was good, and I was feeling quite positive about the whole ordeal. Over the first eight fences, she was just awesome - had a huge gallop between them, was super game and rhythmic to everything, didn't look at a thing, even the bigger and lookier jumps. I was feeling pretty awesome as we came over fence 8 and approached fence 9, the up bank. Now, Gogo has always been a pro at up banks. Always. It was the first cross-country obstacle I ever introduced her to, and she got it right from the start and never, ever hesitated, not then or since then. She was jumping up and down them before she had ever even put a full stadium course together, before she really was cantering many fences even. She's always been super at them, and I could always count on her to take an up bank. So when we got to the very base of the bank, I was completely shocked when she did exactly the same thing that she did last week, only in the other direction - dropped her shoulder and spun. This time, I had my leg on. This time, I rode her strongly to everything. Was I getting a false sense of security? Did I relax, did I do something to make her lose her confidence? We shall never know. What I do know, however, was when she did the 180 spin, she got a nasty jab in the face from me clinging to whatever I had in order to not get slung off again, and after pitching a small Gogo Fit, I represented her to the fence and rode her no differently to it. She took it. Easily. Which is later why I questioned something like Lyme - why would she bail on something so benign and easy, and then come back around and be like, "oh hey, a bank! I didn't notice that before!" It was like she got to the base of the fence and drew a total blank even though she KNOWS banks like the back of her, well, hoof. We took the up, took the down, took the fence after, and continued to cruise around the rest of the course like it was a piece of crumb cake, no hesitation or bobbles anywhere - combination, ditch, and looky final fence included. It was SO WEIRD. I was totally thrilled with the rest of the course, but geez, wtf happened?

And I still can't figure it out. Was it the way I was riding? Did she see something totally weird? Was she trying to pull crap on purpose? Is she Lymey? Is she fresh/tired/hot/cold/sore/sad/happy/weird? I cannot for the life of me put it together in my head. If it was a spooky fence, yes. If it was a challenging approach or a difficult question, yes. But it was on a straight line and she had a ton of time to look at it, and she knows what needs to be done at a simple question like that. I had my leg on. She went over it totally fine the next time around. I just... don't get it.

We did pull a Lyme titer and a Western blot on Monday, much to my wallet's dismay. But since then, all week she hasn't given me much of a reason to further suspect Lyme or her eyes, except for when she oogled at the pile of jumps in the arena. But she just does that sometimes. So I dunno. We went from first place and another potential blue ribbon to last place in that one totally weird moment. Oh Gogo....



There is much, much work to be done, much work. We shall see what the Lyme titer says, but I am also very aware of the fact that my equitation needs a serious overhaul out on XC. We are going to get out there and SCHOOL LIKE CRAZY over what courses we have available to us - Walkers, Town Hill, Mystic, Riga, whatever we can find. And we're going to try and pick up another event in August, most likely Huntington, just to make sure we can confidently get around a full course before the AECs. The clock is ticking down and the opening date is just days away. I know we are worthy and we've worked so hard all year to get to this point. It's just sad that my level of stress has finally overwhelmed both of us, even if it is just temporary. But after getting my butt kicked by Eric these past two days, I have a new outlook on things and am feeling better than ever. We can do this, we can rebound. That mare skipped around at 3'6" like she was sleeping yesterday, totally quiet and round and lovely, and I did a pretty good job myself. I don't need to win every single event to know that I've got a damn good horse beneath me, and that we're going to go far even if we have plenty of challenges to face along the way.

We have tons of homework, and with my room finally carpeted, painted and with furniture back in it after an entire month of complete misery and half-homelessness, I am putting everything back together, getting some REAL SLEEP, sorting out the plans, and getting us back on our feet. Now, if only the rain would stop....



Winning the dressage.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I will have a longer update later.

I promise to have a longer update later. Right now, I am running a sample of blood to the vet so we can pull a Lyme titer on Gogo, because at Riga we went from first place by a huge gap of points to dead last in the matter of one complete meltdown on XC over a very small, simple upbank, a question she knows and could do backwards and forwards in her sleep - it was like she reached the base of the bank and drew a complete blank, and panicked. She had an enormous fit and it's somewhat of a miracle she didn't flip herself over, because she half tried to throw herself on the ground. With the outrageous, completely uncontrollable spooks she's been doing lately, I question whether or not Lyme is finally to blame - we are, after all, only about 20 miles away from Lyme, CT, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she contracted it. I'll have more about it later.

But it's very clear to me that something is wrong with her. Normal, bold horses don't just start melting down at simple things like staircases, rocks, and up banks. We had this one, it was in the bag... and then she freaked, and it was without explanation. I will write more later, I promise. We're both okay. But, as I said, I question Lyme, or perhaps her eyes. God forbid her eyes. And if those two come up empty, then we had a very weird training issue on our hands. But she's just not that kind of horse. This isn't my horse... she just doesn't do these kinds of things.

We shall see. Off I go.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ready for Riga Redemption!

That's right, tomorrow is close at hand and Gogo and I are ready to step back out and jump right back in the game. We may have had a bobble last weekend, but that's not gonna be the case tomorrow! After Patron's oil change, I hopped on Gogo for about 20 minutes and did some stretchy w/t/c and popped over a very simple gymnastic - just a crossrail to a 2'9" vertical. All I wanted to do was remind her of exactly what we need to do tomorrow, and make sure that, since the last thing we did over fences was fall off at them, that we weren't about to do that again, even though I knew she'd be fine. And of course, she was. She was utterly perfect.

Bathing, braiding, clipping, tack cleaning, packing, and making sure everything was all done and set to go all ensued, and then I headed up to Riga to check out the courses. And boy, they are going to be exactly what we need to bounce right back. The facility itself is quite beautiful, set at the foot of a little mountain, and has some spectacular views:





The stadium course looks straightforward and very fun. There are 10 fences to the course, 9 actual marked obstacles, and it flows very nicely on perfect flat, grassy footing. We ride at 11:14am, and look, we're even channeling Michigan!




And XC? Totally awesome! It's all very flat and straightforward, which is exactly what she needs to make sure her confidence is all still intact. It starts off small and simple, in a straight line right out of the startbox:




And continues to roll right along to a bigger brush at 3. Fence 4 is on the TINIEST downhill slope, and is a very small log, which is uncomplicated and nice, and fence 5 is around a corner and very attractive:



On to fences 6 and 7, we come up to what I would consider our first sort-of question, but it's not hard at all. The two are fairly close together on somewhat of a bending line, but it's simple to get from point A to point B. The fences are larger, and she should jump them very well.



It's hard to see in that picture, but you can make out 7 on the far right of the picture, to the left of the other obstacle. Fence 8 is beautiful!




That is totally sweet. And onto fences 9 through 11, which is easily the toughest thing on course and it's not tough at all:





Totally gorgeous. She hasn't done an up bank in awhile, but it was the first ever XC element I ever introduced to her and she's loved them every since. The drop down is very small, and the red barn is a good long way away from the drop even though it is a hair offset. If she takes any large leaps off the downbank it will be very easy to get her back in time long before that fence ever comes up. Fences 12 and 13 are simple and well-constructed, even though they are on small turns and are harder to see until you are close to them, and fences 14a and 14b are big brushes:




Fence 15 is the ditch, which is enclosed but fairly shallow and small, and fence 16 is a big cordwood going off to the left. Fence 17 is a simple set of logs framed in by really tall telephone poles (with weird nest things on top of them!), and fence 18 curves back off to your right:




And the course finishes over 19, a beautiful set of logs frames in by lincoln log type towers. Beautiful!

As stated before, this is the perfect show to attend right after last weekend. I would have loved to go to Stuart, but I have to say, at this point I'm glad I'm doing Riga, for more than just money reasons. If I am still out east next year, I will hit the big shows more - Stuart, Groton House, Millbrook, Fitch's, GMHA - but this year, money was just too tight to travel, stable, and book places to stay. Riga was a good choice. Tomorrow should be a BLAST!

We sorted ourselves all out this week and we are ready. Life is looking as though it is about to return to normal - my room is painted and everything!! - and tomorrow is going to be great fun. Tomorrow's forecast is for sun, sun, and more sun, with a light breeze. Sounds perfect to be!

We ride at 9:04am, 11:14am, and 11:58am. Therefore, tomorrow comes early, and I need some SLEEP!

Wish us luck!!!!!!!!!!!


ENYDCTA Dressage Video

Here's the dressage video from ENYDCTA! There are some obvious faults - notably my old slumpy habit resurfacing and that she's a little heavy in the bridle which tends to bring her behind the vertical a bit, and our caca freewalk - but all in all I felt it flowed well and was worth a slightly better score than a 34!



Onward and upward!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!

((Anybody catch the Sufjan Stevens reference in the title? No?))


Well! I have had two amazingly crazy days, and I have to say that compared to what happened last night, NOTHING seems stressful anymore! This is quite a story, so sit back and enjoy!

So yesterday was incredibly stressful. I pinpointed the origin of my stress: I have no safe haven to retreat to at the end of the day. With the apartment in shambles, and my stuff all in great messy heaps while the demolition happens, I feel completely out of sorts and unable to relax at the end of the day after work, or in the morning when I get up, or ever. Clutter is the very definition of stress, and being on the couch for over a month now has increased it two-fold. (I am not complaining/whining about this, just stating the facts! I've come to terms with it, it's just life right now!) Hopefully this will be all remedied next week, so I will be able to get back to NORMAL LIFE HOORAY! But anyway, I digress. Yesterday was ridiculously stressful, and Shannon and I were planning on attending a community play that one of our old boarders was in (a teen and her ex-hunter-turned-dressage-horse who then went very lame and is now retired and living somewhere else), and Vicki wanted to squeeze in a later lesson at 4:30. But between PM chores, another groom to do, and the prospect of not having enough time to get ready for the play, my stress level increased. And increased. And increased. For whatever reason, I was on mental overload yesterday, and I realized at around 3 that getting on Gogo was THE worst idea, especially so near a show where I NEED to be relaxed and focused, for her sake as well as mine. When I'm that tense and jittery, it just isn't fair to get on her and expect her to get over my mixed signals. She's not that kind of mare, and it's not fair to her. A day off right before a show is not ideal, but it's better than a bad ride because my brain was exploding! I definitely made the right choice, and felt myself relax over it. I gave her a good snuggle, and promised I wouldn't be so crazy tomorrow, and that we'd have a quality dressage ride on Friday, and a very light jump school on Saturday before kicking some major butt on Sunday. We fed the ponies, asked Colleen to do night check for us, kissed Gogo goodnight, prepped for the play, and then headed out at around 6:45.

The play was adorable!! It was a community production of The Wizard of Oz, and the kids were all just adorable and great. However, it was out on a lawn in the middle of a big park, and as the sun set, clouds began to gather on the horizon. And gather. And gather. At intermission, the thunder had already started to rumble, and the lightning began. We nervously waited for the play to start, but kept a very wary eye on the weather. It got uglier and uglier, and about 15 minutes into the second act, the director came on stage and told us essentially that a huge storm was coming and to run for our lives!! We did exactly as he told us to, and booked it back to Patron just in time to avoid THE DELUGE. It POURED and POURED and POURED and hailed and thundered and flashed ridiculous amounts of terrifying lightning! We crawled home (could hardly see out the windshield) and found, back at the barn, this was what was hitting us:



The red area of the storm was at least 70 miles long. THAT'S HUGE. Most of the entire state got totally pummeled. So what would any normal person do, you ask? That's right, hunker down at home. So Shannon and I were quite startled to find Hermione's owners hanging around in the barn at 9:30 at night, all the lights ablaze. Now, Hermione is the event pony who is currently recovering from a high suspensory in her left hind, and her owners are a 14 year-old pony clubber and her mother. Very, very nice people, but they have a tendancy to show up late at night... like at 9:30. We don't have barn hours, but I mean really people. In a giant storm? 9:30 at night? Shannon and I went into the house and hunkered down to weather out the worst of the storm.

Well. 10:30 rolls around and we get a knock on the door. It's the mother, who then comes in and says, "Can you guys come help? Hermione is getting attacked by bees." Bees? What do you mean, bees? It's 10:30 at night in a giant thunderstorm, which is still raging outside. We were getting ready for bed you know. Grumbling, we went down to Hermione's stall, the very last one in the aisle, wondering what the heck these people were talking about. And lo, when we got down there, what did we find? That's right, a full-fledged bee attack on Hermione. A bee WAR. And these were not just bees, these were hornets. VERY ANGRY HORNETS. Hermione was frantic, going completely ballistic, getting stung all over and throwing herself against the walls, on the floor, trying to scramble under her stallgate, leaping into the air and twisting like she was made of rubber, wheeling around, biting herself, smashing her head into the wall, kicking frantically, completely out of her mind. Shannon yelled at me to shut all the barn doors, and I sprinted off and did that. She then threw open Hermione's stallgate, and the pony bolted out, blasting down the aisle with a cloud of angry bees in tow. She had been stung all over, and the kid and Shannon also got stung, Shannon on her head and hand (which then BLEW UP and became ENORMOUSLY swollen and red!). When the pony reached the end of the aisle, she then turned around and ran back. Shannon used her Mighty Barn Manager powers and stood in the middle of the aisle, blocking the stampeding pony's path and yelling "STOP." And the pony skidded to a stop right in front of her and let her put her halter on, how about that. The pony was trembling all over, but was not going into shock thankfully, so we told the kid to go walk her. The mother, however, was not going to allow this for whatever reason, so we left the kid and pony in the washstall while we went back down to battle the hornets. Shannon sprayed poison furiously, while I ran around trying to calm the other horses who were also getting stung, all the while trying to avoid divebombing bees. It was utter chaos. Upon returning to the washstall, we found that the pony was breathing hard still and sweating, so Shannon grabbed a hose and sprayed her down, sending her and the kid out into the indoor to go walk for a good long while. There were hornets EVERYWHERE, coating the barn aisle lights and buzzing angrily in swarms. Chaos. Complete chaos. At some point I just stopped and looked at the stamping and sneezing horses and angry hornets and went, wow, is this really happening right now? Crazy. Where did they come from? Why did they come pouring out randomly? One thing is clear... this probably wouldn't have happened if the kid and her mother hadn't been banging around and keeping the lights on late so the hornets had a place they were attracted to. Seriously, chaos.

We got the situation sorted and moved the pony to a different stall, and I am happy to report that with a shot of Dex on board she is feeling just fine today. Everyone else has made a full recovery too, except for poor Shannon, who now has a tomato for a hand. Gogo did not recieve any stings, and neither did I, thank god.


After that whole mess, today's complete chaos seemed totally easy. I think there has never been a more messed up schedule than today, and I didn't end up riding until 2:15 or so, which messed up all the rest of my grooms and afternoon chores, seeing as the other girl who worked today left at 2pm. Still, I was in a remarkably chilled out state of mind, so when I got on my horse, the ride was fabulous. She started out very heavy in the contact, but a whole slew of transitions brought her shoulders up and her butt underneath her. She became extremely responsive to every little move I made, and the contact became very vibrant and alive instead of heavy and dead. We only did walk-trot work and simple figures, but that was all we needed to do. Trot, halt, reinback, trot off, walk, trot off, halt, trot off, walk, trot off, halt, reinback, halt, reinback, walk, halt, reinback, trot off. Mix and match, keep her ready for anything. She was focused and she was ready. She was just fabulous, and I got off feeling completely positive about Sunday. It's gonna be a Riga Redemption, and I'm heading out there tomorrow to get a good look at the course. It was pointed out to me that while I analyze courses in great depth (which is good), I tend to look at certain obstacles and say "well, she's going to pop her shoulder here, and spook at this, so I'll need to do X to prevent that," instead of going, "Oh she can handle this, we'll be FINE!" I'm not trying to be negative at all, just proactive, but when you do that you tend to psych yourself out. I'll have more about this later.


Seriously though? If I can deal with a massive swarm of angry hornets without losing my marbles, what CAN'T I do this weekend? This course is going to be a great confidence builder. I'll have more on it after I walk it!




BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lessons Learned and Peace Made

I've come away from Old Chatham with a refreshed outlook on the way things currently are, and with some take-home lessons I will integrate into our daily work. First off, to those who asked if I was mad or disappointed in Gogo, how could I be? She's still the Ultra-Supermare, and I couldn't even be upset with her immediately after the fact at the showgrounds (not that that is effective at all, there was no way she would have understood why mommy was so freaked out!). Secondly, I have video of dressage and the fall but I'm not about the post video of the fall until my embarrassment has receded a little bit! I am only human, after all! I will get the dressage video up here shortly.

As for what exactly happened, it isn't clear on video, but I think I understand what may have occurred. The approach to fence four was very, very looky - you had just come out into the spooky water complex field, with a ton of people up on the hill (which worried her in the warmup) and the rest of the complex spreading out below you. However, you couldn't see the complex until the base of fence four. I was trying to do the whole sit chilly to every fence thing, but in doing so I think I just didn't instill enough confidence in her, or I didn't have my leg on (well I mean that is obvious... my velco butt NEVER falls off when stuff like this happens, so obviously my leg wasn't on!). What I needed to do was ride her strongly to the base of the fence and say yes, THIS is what we are going over and we ARE going over! Unfortunately, I did not, and I think she took that as a hesitation on my part instead of me trying to be quiet, and bailed herself. Which I don't think I can blame her for, but unfortuntely at this point I was feeling pretty good about her bravery and her ability to negotiate fences without strong direction from me (i.e. setting her up 96 miles away and riding her firmly to every fence). She's been jumping around so quietly when you just sit chilly and go, but I think with the combination of spooky surroundings and not being able to see the water jump til the base of fence four, she just needed her hand held more and I wasn't there for her.

This brings up a couple of points. One, early in the course I think I do still need to hold her hand. She might get rolling later on, but I still need to REALLY be there for her until she gets confident halfway around. She is very brave, certainly, but sometimes it's very easy to forget that she still is very green XC, and some of these things she's never really seen before. She relies on me for confidence more than I thought she still needed to. Secondly, due to her greenness, I think our goal of running one Training after the AECs might not happen. I certainly am not jumping that big step up without feeling like she is bored going at Novice, and I think it's still a huge learning process for her, and she just needs more time. This year is about building her XC confidence, and this weekend at Riga is a good opportunity to take her over an easy, confidence building course that I think will really be good for the both of us. I just need to be there for her still, that's all.

And speaking of which, I learned another lesson about that today: there is a fine line being being supportive without smothering, not being there enough, and being there too much. Today we hacked out to Dunkin Donuts again (which was awesome, and we had TONS of people flocking over to say hi!), and she spooked at a storm drain. I put my leg on her and turned to face it. She stopped dead and snorted. I put my leg on again, and she went backwards. I put my leg on harder, and popped her with my whip. She reared, kicked out with both hind legs several times, twisted her body in midair, and took off in the opposite direction. Hmmmmm. She was having nothing to do with the storm drain. Now, when I got back to the drain and we stopped in front of it, I found that both our hearts were pounding. Why? It's just a dumb storm drain. We got past it again, but had similar troubles at the next storm drain, where I also found my heart pounding in anticipation of holding on for another rodeo session, and what do you know, she stood there wildeyed and snorting, refusing to get near it. Gee, I wonder if she feeds off of me at all? I finally just let it all go and laughed for a minute, and we passed the storm drain. Next storm drain came around, and she eyeballed it horribly, but I didn't do a thing except laze about in the saddle on the buckle, refusing to acknowledge the fact that there was any drain there at all. And what do you know, we passed by without incident. Same thing at the next one. Before you knew it, it was like the stormdrains didn't exist at all.

What's the lesson here? My sensitive mare with a strong sense of self-preservation feeds off of me like no horse I've ever met before. We know each other very well, and she's quick to react if anything is up with me. Last week was completely horrible, and I know she could feel my tension all week long. My heart was all over the place instead of ready to jump XC, and she could tell. I am certain I went into that XC course feeling nervous and jumpy, and she translated that into "wow, she's worried so I really should be too!" Coupled with my lack of a confident, we-are-going-over-no-matter-what-you-see-over-there ride, voila! Refusal. She felt my tension and became tense herself, and when I didn't give her a reason NOT to be tense, she did what any mare with a serious sense of self-preservation would do. She decided there was a reason for all the worry and she wanted no part in finding out why.


I really am excited for Riga. There is no pressure here except to give her a confident-but-cool ride around XC... that's all I want to do here. I want us both to come off of that course feeling like a million bucks.

Life comes down on you hard sometimes, but you learn from it and you move on. I've had my chance to dwell on it, mope about it, and figure out what to do about it, and now we're moving upward and onward. Everything might suck right now, but you know what? I'll be damned if I give my horse another bad ride this weekend. She deserves my all and by god I am going to give it to her. And when she feels me throwing my heart over every XC fence, then she will go over too, and feel proud.

Lots to do this week, lots to do. With a little Dunkin on board (specifically, a strawberry Coolata for me and a plain donut for her, because they stuffed one into her mouth and she decided she LOVED it!), we're refreshed and we're ready. Facts noted, lessons learned, peace made with the past and excitement building for the future.

Don't you worry mare, I won't let you down again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

ENYDCTA/Old Chatham H.T. 7/12/09

Well... it all had to come crashing down spectacularly at SOME point, didn't it? I had the very negative thought perpetually nagging me that how on EARTH could this good luck hold? Well, it couldn't. Today ended our winning streak with a very bruised ego and a broken finger (the middle one, ironically). I was denied my Area Championship for the SECOND year in a row due to an early complete fail on XC. Just like last year. I shoulda known!

So last year at Areas, our winning streak ALSO came to an end when we had a really wild runout to the left on XC, right? Of course I had that thought nagging me this entire time, and who knows? Maybe I had that negative energy in me and she picked up on it. I've been feeling horrible all week, totally unprepared for this and unable to focus. Nothing about it felt right... that should have been my first clue. I tried as hard as I could to stay positive, but I just felt weird all week. The day began this morning with a 4am start, and I should have known something was amiss when we didn't even make it out of the driveway without hearing a large CRACK! coming from the trailer. As it turned out, the chains suspending one of my swaybars from the hitch SNAPPED on the right side... no really, one of the steel links popped like they it was made of paper. So weird. And that also meant we had to trailer there without my swaybars, something I've never done long distance. I didn't like it one bit. When we got there at 6:30am, we re-walked half of the XC, but didn't really go look at fences one through four again. I felt that once we got to fence five and beyond, we'd probably have trouble, so I prepared myself for it. (This will come into play later). We had a LOVELY dressage test - perhaps the best one all season - but our judge was a notorious I-only-like-unnaturally-forward-tests kind of guy, so he scored my completely rhythmic and relaxed test poorly. Now, remember the video from the other day when Gogo was just lazing around? She was at least twice that forward in this test. I felt pretty good about it. He did not, and we were in 4th out of 23 with a 34.7. Okay, I suppose, but not the score I expected. I was sure we'd break 30, and I am certain that under another judge we would have.

On to XC. Old Chatham is a spooky place. I mean, seriously spooky. I watched maybe nine horses go through the water yesterday and only one of them went through without any penalties. The rest had stops or falls. I saw other riders falling left and right... I don't know what it was about this place, but EVERYONE had trouble. The warmup for XC is below a big hill where everyone goes to sit and watch, and the water complex spreads out below that. Gogo was unbelievably looky the entire warmup, and I was concerned about it. She's not normally that spooky, but there was so much to look at. She jumped all our warmup fences perfectly though, so I figured that she'd be super spooky on course but we could manage. I was anticipating a rough ride, and that's exactly what I had.

Fence one got a good look but we went over it, and she wiggled like crazy to fence two but went again. Fence three was big and looky, and holy CRAP she launched from well over a stride out, leaving a huge amount of space between her and the fence and landing very hard on the other side. We recovered, I told her she was a good girl and we cantered up out of the woods into the big spooky field. We approached fence four, a kind of weird looking wooden thing with some potted plants. We locked on to fence four. We cantered up on our left lead to the base of fence four. We were at the base of fence four, right at the perfect takeoff spot. And suddenly, with absolutely ZERO warning, Gogo did something she's never, ever, ever, ever, ever even REMOTELY suggested that she's had in her before - in an instant, she swapped from her left lead to her right, dropped her shoulder and head down to the dirt, slammed her hind end underneath her, and pivoted 180 degrees on one hind foot in the other direction. THE DIRTIEST STOP EVER. She's never STOPPED before at ALL! Me being COMPLETELY 100 percent off-guard (because I had NO idea she had it in her), was slung off over her left shoulder by sheer inertia, and landed on my feet, right hand still holding the reins. She dragged me a good few steps on my knees before I stopped her (I think she was completly panicked to see me on the ground), and backed her up hard a few steps. And that was that.... elimination. My first elimination at an event... ever. My first fall at an event.... ever. Her first dirty stop..... ever. We didn't even make it to any of the challenges on course at all. All I can say with this new rule of one-and-you're-done is that I hope she didn't learn that she can dump me and then get to go back to the trailer, because that's what happened. I don't think she's that kind of horse though. But then again, I didn't think she was the kind of horse who had a stop in her, much less a filthy dirty one. Wow.

Somewhere between trying to catch myself on her neck and grabbing the reins with my right hand, I broke my middle finger on my right hand. Yep, broke it. Not confirmed by x-rays, but confirmed by the blinding pain and inability to bend it... and the unnatural purple color. It's just the very tip of my finger, perhaps the knuckle (not sure) but that sucks a lot too. It had a big ugly metal splint on it now. At least when people ask me how I did I can flip them off without getting a reprimand for it. Irony has a cruel sense of humor, if you ask me.




So now what? Riga is next week, so I'm hoping she can redeem herself. I feel a very rare sense of it-wasn't-me-it-was-her for this one. I am very quick to blame myself, but as far as I can tell I did nothing wrong. She was very, very naughty and I am very dissapointed. Now, unfortunately, my trust in her has been rattled and I KNOW I'm going to override everything next weekend and for sure at the AECs. I don't know that I can trust her right now to do it on her own anymore. I never expected this. But I can tell you one thing... a horse with sore hocks does NOT put their hind legs that hard underneath themselves. So at least I feel better about that part of it. I feel completely robbed on our dressage test too... it really was a nice test, the nicest I've had this year really.

I felt the tiniest (and I mean tiniest) bit better to find that both of my fellow Novice Championship competitors parked on either side of my trailer were BOTH eliminated on course also, for nasty falls. One of them got pitched into the ditch (the horse actually almost fell into the ditch too) and the other's horse fell on course, studs and all. The ground WAS very turfed and wet, and Gogo scrambled down the hills to the warmup and to the actual course, so perhaps she was worried about the footing herself. She's very weird about those kinds of things... always knows where she's putting her feet. So I dunno. Perhaps the horses knew more than we did.


Honestly? I'm not sure what to think. My hope is that there is redemption at Riga this coming weekend, and I'm sort of glad it's coming up to quick because a) it's a nice, easy, confidence building course and b) it's immediately after this poor performance so it'll be fresh in both our heads, and we can hopefully soothe this horrible insult to our relationship. I was really starting to trust her on course too. Apparently, she still needs her hand held pretty strongly. She is still very green on course, after all, though it's easy to forget. Still, I can't see any reason to have such a horrible, filthy spin like that.


Except for maybe this: she always keeps me completely humble, reminding me every day that she's not doing this because I want her to, but because SHE wants to do it with me. She's a mare, and I can't argue with that, I suppose. Last year at Areas and the AECs, this year at Areas... man. She sure picks the big time shows to really bring out the best of my humility, that's for sure.


Mares.

Seriously. Mares.

MARES.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

TOMORROW!




Oh man tomorrow comes EXTRA early. As expected, once I got up to Old Chatham all my worries dissolved. No more mold worries, no more hock worries (I really do think it's just my stress level being OUT OF CONTROL and just worrying about ONE MORE THING when it very well could have been that she was just lazy yesterday... we will be addressing this in more detail shortly), no more Alex worries.... just dressage, stadium and cross-country. I felt my heart lift as I watched the Training division run XC, and as I walked my own courses. There is nothing on this course I don't think she can handle. Granted, it's relatively challenging, and going at a good clip for Novice (400mpm), but even though there are some tricks everything is completely and totally fair for the level. I've heard that the water complex is very, very tricky and I saw a lot of stops there today, so that's my biggest concern, along with the offset downbank combination (I KNEW there would be one on course!!!!!).

Fences 1, 2 and 3 are all in one small field in a loop. Fence 1 is a simple set of logs, fence 2 is a brush, and fence 3 is a VERY BIG bright looking table. From there, you run up a wooded path out into the water complex field, where you find fence 4:



What's complicated about that you ask? Well, Gogo has a tendancy to look at fences we aren't jumping. Dunno why, but she gives everything the serious once-over if we're going around it, so I know she's going to be focused on the training fence instead of our fence. While it won't be a problem to get over that fence, she'll have started the look-around at this point. Which then leads us down a large hill (where we'll try NOT to gain speed) to fences 5a and 5b, and fence 6:




If we have speed coming down the hill to 5, we will need to REALLY sit back and prepare for this. The water complex is VERY spooky, so I will have to probably give her a pop or two with my super awesome star bat. She's not been spooky at water ever before until Groton House, so I'm not sure how this one will go, but I've heard (and now seen) that this water is very, very tricky, so I'll ride hard to it and out of it, up the bank. She's done up banks out of water before, so that won't be a problem.
Fence 7 is a big palisade, with a sharp turn up a hill (and around more spooky fences!) to fence 8, a simple set of logs on a difficult turn. Fence 9 is on the complicated approach again:



Down a hill, on to fence 10... and then comes the other big question on course, fences 11a and 11b, the down bank to an offset hayfeeder. Now, the downbank is small, and the feeder is small, and I think it's not going to be an issue at all, especially if we trot it. Still, it's pretty complicated, so it'll be a very good learning experience for her. (AKA... don't launch banks anymore you crazy woman!)




Weave back around the trees to fence 12, the big ditch (hopefully this one goes a hair smoother than the last), and fence 13, THE BIGGEST PILE OF CORDWOOD EVER! No seriously, it's enormous. I hope the photographer is over there cause we'll be soaring! It's not the easiest approach, so I'll have to really set up for it though. But from there on out? Totally easy. The next three are all BN sized (they all look MIDGET sized compared to fence 13), and it's a very easy and confidence building way to end the course. We'll have to keep up a good clip so we can cruise across that finish line with time to spare.


Stadium looks way fun too, but I only got one picture of one fence so far. The rest of the property? Totally gorgeous.





Gorgeous.


And... Colleen made shirts.



Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh yea.


It's really the big time now kids... we're playing with the big, big boys now. We're in it to win it, but as long as we finish on a good dressage score I'll be happy no matter how we place. It's going to be tough, tough competition, but this is what we've been working so hard for. We're rolling with the punches this week had brought and we've overcome them all.

We're ready.
It's time to show them what we're made of.


Wish us luck!!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tarsus Catharsis.

That was a clever title wasn't it?

Well, today was a try-again from yesterday's not-so-hot lesson where my emotions all finally caved in on me after several weeks worth of poor sleep, a demolished apartment, and a messed up relationship. Today I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with her, but I ended up having a lesson at 2 with Vicki. She definitely was holding on to some residual tension from yesterday, as expected, but for the most part she worked out of it. She did have some explode-y moments in right lead canter when a butterfly flew into her face (oh god say it ain't so!!) and she flung her head into my lap and took off, but we got another successful right lead canter shortly thereafter:



There was nothing special or flashy about this ride. We did some lengthenings and some leg yields, but my only goal was to get relaxation, no matter what it looked like. And in that way, I think it was successful.

But. When I watched the video, I was rather upset to finally see what the judges have all been nailing me on in our trotwork - that lack of push from behind. There can be no impulsion without that extra push, and there can be no collection without impulsion. She just has nothing behind at all. Was she being lazy? Was I just taking the relaxation thing too far? One thing is for sure - she didn't move like that last year. There was much more movement in her hocks. She's moving incredibly even at the moment, jumping fabulously, galloping great, and hacking out tirelessly. But she has been having trouble with changes, and just... isn't as flashy as she was. Does that mean she hurts? Uncomfortable? Lazy? I don't know.

I just... don't think I'm going to be able to avoid injections anymore. I was hoping I could hold off til next spring, but I feel as though doing them after Riga, before the AECs, is probably a better idea. I just want to make sure she's comfortable and happy, that's all.


And as for me? I'm a freaking trainwreck right now. Something is going on in my left leg where all the muscles in my lower leg (calf and extensors muscle) are constantly cramped and tense, and while they do tend to improve on and off during the day, whenever I get on a horse my leg cramps again, and I have to unzip my boot and take my foot out of the stirrup. My toe points straight down whenever I do this, and I can't flex my heel back down until it relaxes a little. It's incredibly painful, and it's been making me sit a little bit crooked, which isn't helping the whole situation. I'm going to go the whole Ben-Gay and painkillers route... maybe this will work itself out on its own. I can't figure out what's causing it, and why it's only in this leg if it's a whole body problem (like lack of protein, dehydration, etc).


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But we're working hard. We're prepped and primed, even if this week hasn't really been the best. Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches and forge onward, even if everything around you is in total and utter collapse. She's still one incredible mare, and I'm not a half bad jock. We're still forging ever onward, and we can do this. Against everything that's been going all awry, we can overcome it all. I'm going up there tomorrow to have a good look at the course, and see exactly what we're up against. But there's nothing we can't handle, nothing we can't do if we do it together.

And we're going to kick bootie patootie this weekend and show everyone the mettle we're made of.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UNDA PRESSHA!

Area Championships are three - almost two - days away now, and the pressure is at a fever pitch. This week has been a complete nuclear meltdown of my life, and I am now out in the living room with Shannon, each sleeping on our respective couches because both of our rooms have been totally gutted, and we have no other place to live/sleep except right here. All our stuff is either out here or in a rental pod outside the apartment. It's a disaster.

And there is plenty to stress about concerning Areas. First, HOW tough is this course going to be? Last year's Area 8 Novice Championships at South Farm were CRAZY hard - I remember seeing a down bank to an offset coop three strides out... not sure Gogo could do something like that in three days. Secondly, Areas was where we blew it big time last year, where we were first after dressage with a 28.5 but had Gogo's first ever XC runout at fence 6 - the smallest, most boring, most pathetic log on course, where we just lost all steering and brakes and went rocketing by for no reason at all except to keep me humble. Thirdly, the people I'm up against are GOOD. I mean really, really GOOD. A lot of them have been winning and some of them have gotten better scores than I have. I mean, I do think we're right up there in top contention but seriously, wow. The cmpetition is really going to be fierce.

And the Alex drama and the apartment drama on top of all that? Yes, I think I'm giving myself ulcers. I'm not the type to get nervous-scared about events, but I do get very ants-in-my-pants sometimes, and this is definitely the time to pull out all the stops we have. And the pressure is outrageous, now that we've won things and people have been noticing what we're doing. While I had an amazingly lovely dressage lesson yesterday, complete with plenty of transitions, lengthenings, shoulder-ins, 10m circles, reinbacks, and serious moments of collection between all these things (and dare I say.. during as well?), today I was completely frazzled when I went to get on, and immeditely got up in her face for essentually no reason at all. Bless her, she was pissed but didn't do anything ridiculous to retaleate against me, even though I deserved it. Eventually, I just ended up going back to the walk, and did walk-halt-reinback-walk-halt-walk-halt-reinback etc. for a very long time. It chilled us both out, and we got some pretty relaxed work in the end, but wow, I really need to CHILL OUT. I am not riding on Saturday for sure, but tomorrow I'd still like another dressage sesson. Maybe it's not a good idea... maybe a hack is. Or maybe another day off, althogh I think she'll be spazzy on Sunday if I do that.

CHILL OUT ANDREA. JUST CHILL. You're going to be just fine because you have the Supermare and she can do anything.

Let's get ready to show everyone what we're made of.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Countdown to Old Chatham: Five Days!!

Oh man. Area Championships are just five days away. FIVE DAYS PEOPLE. That's completely insane... wasn't it just January like five seconds ago?

On a totally unrelated note, you guys HAVE to check out these pictures from Grand Strides Photo, particularly this one, which is my favorite. ISN'T SHE GORGEOUS. There were a ton of professional photographers at this event, but wow, these are by far my favorite. These ones are going to get ordered for sure!

While large parts of my life are all under major construction, karma has been very apologetic and helpful when it comes to Gogo. She's been punky as all hell this week, and I love it because it means she's feeling great. After a nice day off on Friday, we went for an early morning two-hour conditioning hack on Saturday, and spent our 25 minute trot in the orchard cruising. She stretched out to the contact and took it on her own, and was POWER TROTTING around. Now that's what I like to see! THAT trot will build stamina and muscle! We then headed off, as is our custom, to Dunkin Donuts for a nice Strawberry Coolata. Of course, when we arrived, the entire Dunkin crew came out to take pictures of us, and they said they're sending them to the bosses with that great "America Runs on Dunkin" caption. Now that's marketing!
Of course, then punky lady decided on the way home that the bugs were outrageous, and she head-tossed the entire way home. It was so bad that I actually went into the dressage arena and cantered around for a few minutes to get her to focus on something else when I got home, but she had other ideas and danced around on her hind legs for a few minutes before settling down. Punky, punky, punky.

Sunday was a riot. It was HOT and GORGEOUS out, and I had just gotten word that my gallop field had FINALLY been mowed and was being baled (more good karma!!), but it wasn't ready for use yet, so instead I waited for the temperature to cool down in the evening and set this weird little thing up in the orchard:



Two haybales = XC schooling? Well, not really but you know. It simulated a very skinny fence AND it was something we could practice at varying speeds. She did awesome with it! We got a pretty good clip going and she jumped right out of stride, something she'll really need for Training when we move up. And she never once hesitated even though it would have been very easy to run out. Nope, it was lock and go baby! After we finished, I hacked up to the big gallop field and discovered that the hay was all baled and gone. YES!

Gallop city!! Yesterday, after it cooled down in the evening, we hacked up and began our gallop sets again in our big field. The sets went as such:

15 minute walk hack to the field
5 minutes trot
1 minute walk
5 minutes trot
1 minute walk
5 minutes trot
1 minute walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
1 minute walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
5 minutes 470mpm gallop
15 minute walk hack home

The footing was beautiful, and she was on fire. My GPS, however, was not. It continually gave me faulty reading, and I spent so much time looking at it during my 5 minutes of 470mpm that I didn't pay any attention to how she actually felt. It took me awhile to realize my GPS was totally faulty, so I spent a fair amount of time booting her onward when I probably didn't really need to. As a result, she had an ENORMOUS adrenaline rush at the end, and came out of that field prancing and pop-eyed. SPOOK at the rock! SPOOK at the jogger! SPOOK at the mailbox! And then she saw Lynnie's stone stairs. And she turned on her heel and BOLTED. She obviously didn't get all that far, but I made the mistake of turning her around and booting her forward. Oh great, NOW she thinks it bit her! Now she REALLY won't go near it! She wouldn't get ANYWHERE near the staircase, and was trembling all over.. she really was that terrified of it! I had to dismount and lead her over to the stairs, where I then stood on them and convinced her that they were not, in fact, horse-eating stairs. It took at least 10 minutes though. I finally mounted back up, and the stairs were no longer scary. Gogo... you are a punky little critter.

Today was a giant collapse of... well, life. I was utterly exhausted after a horrible night's sleep, and couldn't manage to get up at 4am, which I needed to do in order for my 8am lesson. As it turned out, I did not end up having a lesson at all, but went out for a walk hack because she tends to be SO gallop-y during our dressage lessons if she's galloped the day before... not what I want the week before a show! As I was thinking about tacking, I happened to check the radar, and noticed we were under a severe thunderstorm watch, and that a huge storm system was moving across New York right at us. I though, well, I've got time, and tacked up. I checked the radar right before I left, and WOW, it had gotten a lot closer. No worries, it wasn't predicted to get anywhere near us anytime soon. Well, I was wrong, and it was almost a very bad and very dangerous judgement call on my part. The storm ended up picking up dramatic speed across Connecticut, and halfway through my walk hack loop, the sky turned black. BLACK. The wind started to pick up, and thunder started to rumble. I was getting close to home when an ENORMOUS bolt of lightning made contact with the ground only a few miles away, right in front of me, and I decided we needed to haul our way back to the barn. It had been my plan to have a nice relaxing walk hack, with no trotting at all, but the situation was quickly becoming dangerous and I had to move. We FLEW down the road at a park trot unrivaled by anything, Standardbred style!! Man we had some serious suspension going, I tell you. It was like Motor City Dragway in the driveway. She felt fresh as a daisy - maybe it was the adrenaline again - and showed no signs of being tired AT ALL from yesterday's gallop. I dismounted and we ran back into the barn just as the sky opened on us. We missed the worst of the hail, but I hear there was some damage not too far from us. It was pretty scary... and thrilling at the same time. Not safe at all, but thrilling. Won't be making THAT bad call again.


Tomorrow.... dressage. Thursday.... dressage. Friday.... dressage. Saturday.... off. Sunday.... WE KICK BUTT AT AREAS.

Oh yea. And Colleen gave us this to use:



Awesome.

Monday, July 6, 2009

DEATH!

I swear I'll have a real post for you tomorrow. It's been utter chaos here, with the mold guys and the insurance dudes and the impossible task of packing up EVERYTHING I own (pictures and posters on the wall included), shoving it into boxes, and putting it into a pod (which isn't here yet), and pretty much being homeless for the next two weeks even though I don't actually have a room right now and am crashing on the couch with all my moldy stuff in heaps around me, on top of getting ready for Areas AND Riga Meadow on the 19th. Couple that with lack of real sleep and serious mold allergy, and you've got one hell of a mess.

But Gogo is amazing. And even though I don't even really have time to breathe, eat, sleep or think right now (and it's midnight and I still have to shower and sleep and be up at 4am because I have a lesson at 8), she's keeping me sane... even if everything that isn't here is spiralling out of control.

And she's crazy. But we love her just the same.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure was actually today, and not so much an adventure as an experience:








If you notice, not only was there an enormous rainbow with the huge passing storm, but there was also a wispy horse made out of clouds in the last picture. I'm pretty sure that this is the gods' way of telling me that I have good karma, and everything is going to be okay.

Plugged!

Yay! Another plug for the Eventing-A-Gogo blog, this time from the Eventing Radio Show. My only minor correction to the shout-out (besides not actually being in NZ for a year, only six months, lol) would be that her feet were not so horrible that she CAN'T wear shoes, but that her feet are so AMAZING that I WON'T put shoes on her by choice! :D

Thank you SO MUCH to Glenn the Geek and Chris Stafford for their kind words and their encouragement. We all love your show, you guys are the best!!!





I really can't believe how this blog has taken off. It's only about eight months old, and I can't believe the following it has. From being plugged on the COTH forms to the Eventing Radio Show to being asked to write for the offical USEA blog, my little mare seems to be getting a widespread following. I have 65 official followers on Blogger, but I have a TON of other people who don't officially follow and just read, as evidence by the ton of e-mails I get, all filled with encouragement. It really is amazing, and I feel like I'm a part of something much bigger than myself. A lot of people write about how I've given them hope for their crazies or for their less-than-ideal situations or for their barefoot horses, and that thrills me. Making people happy is better than anything else in the world.

Except maybe a good ride on Gogo. Or Mountain Dew. Or hot chicks in bikinis. Wait, did I say that last one out loud?

Happy Almost 4th of July, everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

End of June Analysis

It's been some hell of a week kids. Gogo is the only thing in the world going well at the moment. But she is oh-so-satisfying to just get on and forget about the rest of the world.


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June Goals:

1) Complete our AEC qualification requirements (one more event, obtaining a completion with no XC jump penalties)
SUCCESS!!! I consider this the greatest success of them all. Not only did we complete our AEC qualifications, but we went above and beyond by winning our last event at Groton House. I really can't believe our luck so far. I keep not wanting to say that because I'll jinx myself!!! The opening date for the AECs is at the end of this month, and we're all set to enter now that we have all our scores. SO. EXCITED.

2) Start to introduce new dressage concepts to her, and continue to ask for more moments of collection
Success!! While I'm not quite at the point of asking for more collection within a gait just by asking for it, I can do certain exercises and movements that develop it on its own, and it comes to us in increasingly long moments. She's getting stronger and more supple in both directions, and we really are getting some amazing moments. I've also reintroduced the concept of reinback to her, as well as walk pirouettes, which are difficult so far but she's starting to get the idea more and more. She's done it all before, of course, when I introduced it all to her as a youngster, but now it's time for finesse. And when the crazy trainer got to her, things like reinback became enormous sources of fear for her. Any backwards pressure on the reins - any contact at all really - sent her into a rearing panic. Now, we work on it a little bit every day and praise her lavishly, and she's come SO far.

3) Start fine-tuning our gallop speed and fitness via GPS
We've done the best we could with this. I've really only been able to use the GPS twice now, and once, it couldn't keep a signal. The other time that we did get to use it - and just barely, because it's been raining so much - I was interested to find that I was spot on for my 470mpm, but I was WAY slow for my 350mpm. Weird! I sped up a little bit, and have a better feel for it now. You'd think I could rate a regular canter by now, seriously!

4) Continue ironing out the kinks in our Novice test - transitions, freewalk
Working on it, always working on it! Our transitions have really sharpened up, and our freewalk isn't quite there yet but it's coming. It will take a long time, that's for sure!

5) Continue to strengthen and improve my position over fences, on the flat, and during gallops - there is always more to work on!
As I sai, there is always more to work on! But I think I've improved tremendously in my gallop position. However, my position over fences has faded a bit. I've been ducking and letting my leg swing, something that I thought I had eliminated. Apparently, I just haven't been practicing enough. More dilligent work is in order, I feel!




July Goals:

1) Place Top 5 at the Area I Novice Championships (my real goal is to WIN them, of course, but I know that that is a pompous goal to make and that I'll jinx it if I do!)
2) REALLY focus on my position over fences - stop that leg swinging and upper body ducking!
3) Continue to fine-tune our gallop speed and fitness via GPS, and, if possible, work at higher speeds over XC fences (not really a goal for this month, but definitely for next)
4) Continue ironing out the kinks in our Novice test - transitions, freewalk - and continue to work on more complicated Second Level movements (and develop collection further!)
5) Figure out exactly what I want from the month of August, our last large span of time before the AECs in September



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Boy I am exhausted. The mold guys came and found that there is a significant amount of damage to the apartment, so they need to gut it, tear up all the carpet, and completely replace a wall. Which sucks, because now Shannon and I are not going to have a place to live for a little while. We're thinking about borrowing someone's camper and live in that for two weeks, but man that SUCKS! Stupid handyman, flooding the house! My mold allergies are OUT OF CONTROL, and I've been sleeping on the couch (VERY poorly), and am completely mentally and physically exhausted. Couple all that with Alex problems, and my entire life is pretty much crap at the moment, except for Gogo. She's an excellent way to stay happy and sane in a trying time like this.

But life is still beautiful, no matter what happens to us all.