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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Monday, April 27, 2009

Modern Eventing - For Daun

Well I always said I'd do it, and due to the huge number of responses on my last little snarky blurb I thought I'd really get my facts straight and make a real post about modern eventing, and the dangers behind it.

And also Daun... what's malware, and what is this about it? I've never heard of it and even when signed out it's not flagging anything on my computer. So... I dunno! What exactly are you seeing?


Everyone knows the basics of the origins of eventing. The military man and his cavalry horse were once valued and crucial members of a country's war machine. A military charger needed to show elegance, precision and obedience on the parade ground as well at out executing maneuvers in the field (dressage); he needed courage and great stamina while headed to battle, often needing to cross lengthy and difficult terrain and any number of obstacles to get there (cross-country); he needed to be responsive and fit once he arrived at the battle, still able to perform accurately and swiftly when needed at the end of a long and exhausting journey (stadium). The military routinely tested their officers and mounts in order to ensure their fitness and ability, and it was from this that the sport of "Militaire" was born. It was the complete test for the officer and his mount, and at its first Olympics, only active-duty officers on cavalry chargers were allowed to compete. In Paris at the 1924 Olympics, the "long format" as we know it now was essentially born, and it was open to civilians as well - dressage on the first day, endurance on the second day (which included Phase A, Roads and Tracks, which was followed by Phase B, Steeplechase, and Phase C, a longer Roads and Tracks; a compulsory halt for veterinary inspection followed these three phases, after which Phase D, cross country, began, The compulsory halt later morphed into a compulsory 10-minute vetbox), and stadium jumping on the third and final day. The English effectively coined the term "Three-Day Eventing," and the name stuck.

Eventing has never, EVER been without deaths and major injuries, both equine and human. As I said before, at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, only fifteen of forty-eight horses competing in the eventing made it through the water obstacle without harm. Twenty-eight horses fell, and three completely refused it. The obstacle injured three horses so badly they had to be destroyed on the scene. The water obstacle ended up being incredibly deep in the center, and full of soft mud on the bottom. In the 'olden days,' it was not uncommon for a horse to finish an event in a state of near-collapse - it was rather impressive if the horse finished at all. One of the horses at the Berlin games that was on the US team was badly injured in the shoulder at the water jump, but the rider remounted and continued on anyway. One of the members from the German team broke his collarbone when he fell off in the steeplechase, but remounted - and the next day, he AND his horse fell in the showjumping, the horse LANDING on the guy, but they both got up and went on to win gold for Germany. Incredible to think about. Here's a wild picture from the 1952 Olympics:

The beginnings of a rotational fall caught on film. 68 horses fell on this particular cross-country course at the Melbourne Olympics, and 20 other riders were tossed. At the 1960 Games, two horses were killed in competition. At the 1968 Games, two more died, collapsing on course due to extreme heat and the stress of competition. (As a side note, look at the high-tech cooling devices used in Beijing - pretty sweet.) How many other deaths can we count in these earlier courses? Dozens, and many rider deaths too. Eventing is, and always has been, an extreme and very dangerous sport.

But what of modern eventing? In 2004 and 2005, a new format was introduced for eventing - the modified or "short" format, which eliminated all of the stamina and endurance sections of cross-country (Phases A-C). I was fortunate enough to see the very last Rolex that was run in the long format in 2005 (my first Rolex ever), and I remember feeling teary-eyed while watching those horses gallop their hearts out on steeplechase. It was amazing. They were simultaneously running a short-format course, to "prepare the Olympic riders and horses" because Athens was running the short format, but nobody paid attention or cared - didn't count in our books. And then, the gavel fell - all around the world, the long format was dying. Why did this happen? Massive pressure from the FEI? Venues not having enough time and space to run the long format? Breeders (the Germans and their German event horses, said my German instructor at the time!!) wanting to push the heavier, warmblood types on eventing? Any way you look at it, it was politics. The Olympic committee was threatening to pull eventing from the Games, and the FEI made a swift change. The classic three-day, as we now call it, is enjoying a bit of a renaissance here in the States at the moment, but it wasn't that way at first. Riders and spectators from all over clamored for the return of the long format for many reasons. A lot of people, myself included, believe it is the "true test of horse and rider", and that it teaches horsemanship - the preparation, the hours put in, the blood and sweat and tears needed to condition the horse and human and the care required after takes years to prepare for. The short format, unfortunately, is the springboard for what this post is really all about - what's changing in modern eventing, and why it's just not helping these dangers.

Like I've been saying all along, eventing has ALWAYS been dangerous. So you'd think this short format helps to eliminate some of those serious dangers, yes? Wrong. The idea that the short format saves wear-and-tear on horses is a load of crock. Several recent studies comparing injuries between the long and short format disprove this in an instant. Horses also tend to be far more stressed in the short format due to the shorter warmups, as opposed to the slow, long, methodical warmup leading to Phase D. While it's true that many upper-level riders, especially the old school ones, still prepare and condition their horses in the same way that they used to, it becomes difficult for a horse THAT fit to perform without the miles of Roads and Tracks and Steeplechase to take that bit of edge off. So what do we do? Condition the horse less? It certainly isn't a good idea. Horses coming off cross-country exhausted can and do collapse - one dying already this year, at BEGINNER NOVICE after cross-country. Problem Number One with modern eventing: conditioning, or lack thereof. As riders, are we NOT physically preparing ourselves and our horses for these difficult tasks ahead? Without the push for the long format, the emphases on conditioning becomes way less important, and exhausted horses on cross-country make mistakes. Fatal mistakes. And so do riders. Not to mention that a physically beat horse that DOES make it through cross-country will not perform well in stadium, and may come away with muscle, tendon, ligament, or bone injuries. The emphasis on horsemanship has seen a rebirth in the Training Three-Day, but there'll another post about that later.

In the old days, Phase D was simple - big, gallopy obstacles and a really rhythmic pace. Not so anymore. My personal opinion, shared with many others, is that the Olympic committee, along with the FEI, decided that eventing was not only long and tedious, it wasn't interesting enough now that it was shorter. Solution? Add more questions on course. A lot more. Killer, impossible, wicked questions that sometimes can completely confuse horses. Problem Number Two with modern eventing: changes in the cross-country course to make it 'more exciting.' It was exciting enough, thank you. Now, riders are having to come down out of their rhythmic gallops to these very slow coffin-canters and negotiating obstacles that, let's face it, you're NEVER going to find while galloping off to battle! Jimmy Wofford always talks about jumping out of your gallop rhythm and not needed a rebalancing zone before every fence because you're always balanced, but this no longer applies to modern eventing. You HAVE to slow down before a combination. These seriously complicated questions can and do confuse horses. And all that slowing down, speeding up, slowing down, speeding up, REALLY takes it out of a horse.

Problem Number Three, speculation: is too much emphasis on dressage now, with the conditioning fading? This is not my personal opinion, but I've heard it voiced before. The dressage phase of eventing is becoming violently competitive, especially at the lower levels - why do you think I do so much dressage?? - and at the upper levels, questions are being asked that have never been included before, such as half-passes, flying changes, serpentines, shoulder-ins, counter-canter, and degrees of collection previously unheard of in the upper-level event horse. If you don't score like Bettina did this weekend (a 28.8), you're not going to be competitive. You can't make it up anymore if you get a 50 and your horse jumps around fabulously... those days are long gone. The argument is that this new emphasis on dressage is taking away a horse's ability to think for itself. Which is a load of bull, but I can see how people might think that. If a horse is waiting for you to tell it what to do because it's so obedient, it might not be able to get itself out of a scrap. But I can tell you one thing, you won't see ME riding a horse like that x-country.

Problem Number Four, speculation: there is not enough GOOD riding anymore. Without good horsemanship and conditioning, without excellent position and equitation, a rider is bound to hinder her horse, and sometimes a huge rider error can result in a horse being unable to get itself out of a situation that a rider put it in. I've seen it happen before... I know I make mistakes, and I'm very thankful my horse can get herself out of them.

Problem Number Five, speculation: there is TOO MUCH good riding. If a horse on x-country is ridden perfectly every time, what happens when it makes a mistake and the rider CAN'T help it out? The horse won't know how to get itself out of a bad situation unless it learns how to make mistakes and recover from it. Again, speculation, but I've heard this spin too.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to add on.

So what's being done? What can be done? What should be done? What shouldn't? I'm afraid I'll have to put this in another post, because this is getting freakishly long and I'm freakishly tired.

By the way, here's a PETA-type website about the dangers of eventing - a little over the top, but there's some hard data behind it and some very strong opinions that go with that.

Another by the way, about the whole 'no horse has ever dropped dead during dressage' thing? A horse did do exactly that at the Maui Jim CIC** in 2007, from a pulmonary hemorrhage. Really tragic, and it unfortunately just goes to show that death happens everywhere. A horse died this year after XC at Beginner Novice too. Horses die at combined driving events, while rounding up cattle, trailriding, hopping over small fences, giving birth. I knew of a horse that, while his owner was dismounting after a light hack, seized up and bled out through every hole in his head, dead before he even hit the ground. Horses die, and I hate it.

King Pin, by the way, died of a rare condition that involved massive hemorrhaging of the major vessels in his abdomen - unrelated to jumping or running or trauma. Godspeed...

EDIT: By the way AGAIN, I thought I should metion that there are 115 people competing in Open Novice at King Oak. 115. That's a good five or six while divisions of Open Novice - Novice A through freaking Novice E or F. That's insane. And we still haven't been able to go XC schooling.... heart palpitations.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Shortest Rolex Update Ever

I'm here, Rolex is amazing, the weather is beautiful, The Good Witch got totally screwed on her beautiful dressage test (awarded a 53.0 for a beautiful, fluid test, placed far behind 'big name' riders with multiple blaring errors in their tests), had a great and strong XC run until the Corners and then took off on a half-stride, hung a front leg, helicoptered over the fence and fell. Both she and Jennifer are OK but they loaded both onto vehicles and transported them away. Mike Winter's Olympic mount Kingpin, 5th horse on course in the AM, looked great coming to fence 9, then came to fence 10 with his head hocked, took the fence, came down with both his back legs on it, somersaulted and fell - died on the scene, possibly in midair. A full necropsy is being performed, but it is speculated that he died from a pulmonary embolism. Preliminary necropsy inspection states that there were no broken bones that had been found, but there was bleeding in the abdomen. Mike Winter went to the hospital but they think he's okay.

I hate to say it, but they really 'dumbed down' the XC course this year - much simpler than I ever remember it. Is that what we need though? Is the four-star level unobtainable to the mortal man? SHOULD it be? Have we done all we can do for safety?Everything I saw looked frangible - nothing like the killer flower basket jump last year that claimed Frodo Baggins. And what CAN you do at the very top level when temperatures are in the 80's and you're galloping and jumping for 11 minutes? Horses can and do suffer major body failure when under the influence of such stress. Horses can and do suffer major body failure standing in their pastures too.

I'll tell you something though. Eventing is under violent fire. Everyone is on about how it's a 'killer sport', slaying horses left and right. Last year, there were an alarming number of horse deaths in eventing, no one can deny it. But did anyone look at racing for instance? How come with the tragic deaths of big names like Barbaro and Eight Belles, nobody pointed fingers at the dangers of racing? Nobody flushed out the crooked likes of trainers, jockeys and owners who run their young horses too hard, too fast, too young? A recent study shows that over 5000 racehorses have died at the track since 2003, most due to catastrophic breakdown. That's over 800 a year, most at seedy backwoodsy tracks - and how many deaths DON'T get reported? Does ANYONE else thing that maybe RACING is a more dangerous sport? Are the big, twisted names there paying off people to keep their mouths shut?

Eventing is a honest sport for 99% of it, and the honest people behind it are looking for honest answers to the big safety questions nobody has asked until now. In the 1936 Olympics for eventing, for example, only fifteen of forty-eight horses competing in that event negotiated the number four water obstacle with no difficulty. Twenty-eight horses fell, and three refused to jump it at all. The obstacle injured three horses so badly they had to be destroyed on the scene while dozens of others lost confidence or at a minimum lost time on the course due to the experience. One rider had to chase his horse for several miles before mounting and continuing on. The water obstacle ended up being incredibly deep in the center, and full of soft mud on the bottom - breaking legs as horses landed.

But nobody pointed fingers back then at safety, just at Berlin and Hitler (rightfully so, of course).

Now, if a horse trips over a tiny dent in the grass, everyone is up in arms about the safety of eventing.

There has got to be a better answer than all this. We've come so far towards making everything safer. I've never seen such a massive, collective uprising of people making a move for a better tomorrow. But why do people thing it's STILL not good enough?

More, and pictures, later.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rolex Bound

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Rolex! As for today, I had another absolutely stunning dressage lesson on Gogo. I widened my hands again when she went to come above the bit during our warmup, and she really seemed to accept that and move into my contact. We had an AMAZING canter near the end, some fabulous transitions, some fancy travers-renvers transitions, and some outstanding moments of sitting way back and taking a nice load of weight onto her hind end during some of our half-halts. We even had a lovely stretchy circle at the end where she came right back to me, how bout that.

She also had her feet done tonight, and they looks beautiful if I do say so myself :D I have a bunch of pictures and I fully intend on writing up a post about them, but as for now, I need to keep packing for tomorrow. I will, however, leave you with a picture of the shirt I made:

We're cheering for The Good Witch!! :D

Tomorrow, Gogo gets a very early morning modified conditioning hack (like the ones we did all winter), and then she'll have three days off. Not really ideal right now, but that's the way it is. I'm not about to let anybody on her at this point, or ever! I still have to work in the AM, so it's going to be a REALLLLLY early morning for me - probably starting at 4AM. Suck.

But it's all worth it!! I'll get a zillion pictures and video, I promise :D I also promise I'll put up some of my pics from the last three times I've gone, cause I have some AWESOME ones!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rain, rain, PLEASE go away

All last week, I had been hoping that I was going to get to go x-country schooling on Monday. It was gorgeous and warm allllllllll week, and Monday was the only day I could have a groundperson, so I was hopeful that it would hold out. And... it did not. Of course. Why would it? Yesterday was dreary, cold, and sleet-y. On top of that, my dog came in from her morning romp absolutely three-legged lame, so we had to go to the vet in the afternoon anyway. (As it turns out, being a greyhound she has a corn on her pad... which I had to diagnose myself, the vet was TOTALLY unhelpful and a waste of money and time!)

So THAT sucks. With this weekend being Rolex and all, I won't be able to do anything until NEXT Monday, if the weather holds, and if the weather doesn't hold? I've got one more Monday (or maybe a Saturday if I can convince Shannon) and that's IT before King Oak. I am reallllllllllllly jittery about that! We NEED to get out and at least get over some jumps in a x-country setting so her brain doesn't explode the first time we do it. Historically, the first course of the year is always a little bit hairy, just because she hasn't done it all winter. Maybe this year will be different. But I'd really rather NOT take that chance, thanks very much! So keep your fingers crossed that the weather holds.

In other news, we had another awesome conditioning hack on Sunday, this time back to the Larkin Bridle Trails where I went for our first 2-hour hack. We're up to 25 minutes of trot now, with the remainder of the two hours walking. She's still having an easy time of it, and didn't break a sweat or hardly breathe at all by the end of it. She did, however, have a total panic attack about the bugs - head flinging, twitching, tossing, obnoxiousness all the way home, unless there was an open area where there was a breeze. At some point, I put her to work and did leg yield zigzags back and forth and back and forth across the trail to try and get her mind on something else, but to no avail. I eventually just gave up and listened to my iPod and ignored it. We passed two horses at some point, and she didn't even slow down or look at them once - just trotted right on by like they didn't exist. But later in the ride? We passed a tiny little farm, and a rooster crowed. CUE FLAMING HEAT. She started screaming uncontrollably and peeing all over the place. And when the rooster crowed again? You bet, more screaming and peeing. Seriously, Gogo? Not even the same species! I could make a very lewd joke right now but I'll refrain.
So that explains why she's been so touchy about the bugs, and a little bit tense through her topline starting out. I'm hoping once her flaming-ness goes away a bit, she'll be a little more tolerant. I hear through the grapevine that King Oak is very buggy. So let's just hope for a 120mph hurricane that morning so all the bugs will blow away.

Yesterday, I was bumming about not going x-country schooling and figured I ought to jump instead, but I was just in a bit of a funk over my poor dog's lameness and all the dreary weather, so I decided that I'd take a bit of a break from our hectic show schedule and just have some fun. I was totally inspired by Daun's post about just going for a nice bareback cruise, so I did too. (One of our boarders came into the tack room after I was done and proclaimed in a very put-out voice that I was clinically insane for doing it. Thanks.) We hacked out through the orchard for a few minutes, then went into the outdoor (which is not fenced in, by the way) and actually did some legitimate bareback dressage. I've had some difficulty in the past with Gogo's relatively bouncy trot (for a bareback ride, that is!) and her very up-type canter while riding bareback, so I figured I'd see what I could do. And lo and behold, when she came round (or, well, roundER than she had been going), I suddenly had a place to sit that was totally comfortable. And when we cantered? Totally balanced, totally comfortable, both ways. I didn't feel like she was dropping out from underneath me during every stride like she tends to want to do, and like I've felt bareback in the past with her. It was lovely. And comfortable. And FUN. I used to ride bareback ALL. THE. TIME. when I had my first horse in his semi-retirement. All winter long before I bought Metro, I never put a saddle on him. I even jumped him 3' bareback a few times (wasn't supposed to be doing that... thank god we didn't get killed!). When I first got Metro, I used to take off his tack after every ride and go lope around bareback... he had THE most rocking horse canter in the entire world and it was so comfortable. I miss those fuzzy boys.

Today, I had a rather fabulous dressage lesson. She started out pretty tight in her back, and I tried something different - when she came above the bit, I widened both hands. When she relaxed and stretched down, I brought my hands back to normal position and relaxed them. She figured out pretty quickly where I wanted her to be! Maybe this is one more tool I can work into my warmups. Our transitions were rather stellar today, and we spent a good deal of time schooling crisp halts - Gogo tends to want to kind of shuffle into them, and cross her front legs over from right to left (escaping through my apparently wide-open left aids!), so we made a real effort to make sure they were PROMPT, SQUARE and STRAIGHT. That REALLY improved the quality of the trot we had too. We also got to school some shallow canter loops, which can be difficult for her due to her rather enormous canter stride. I can play around all I want with exercises to develop collection in the trot, but her canterwork is going to be HARD to try and collect. I haven't really even gone there at this point much, because the quality of her working canter is very imporant to me, especially at these lower levels of eventing, and I want to make sure that it's seriously 100% before we delve into these harder questions. I don't doubt that she's ready to work on some exercises to help develop collection in her canter though, so I imagine we'll start asking her to load those hind legs more and bring the enormity of her stride into a more contained way of going. Her lengthenings/mediums are getting HUGE. I love it.

All the leaves on the trees are starting to explode, giving everything a green fuzzy haze. The grass is growing rapidly, the forsynthias and apple blossoms and daffodils are all in full bloom. The rain smells fresher, the horses' sweat sweeter. Summer is coming, and I can't wait. Aside from all this wicked rain, I love springtime around here. We had thunderstorm roll in today with one ENORMOUS thunderclap - I was bringing the three year-old in from the field, of course, rather hurridly from the suddenly downpour when suddenly lightning flashed. I had about two seconds to register what it was before the thunder, and the little thing jumped on top of me and about trampled me in his panic. Back in the barn, I discovered a bunch of wide-eyed, worriedly nickering horses, and one of the horses that had been in the crossties had broken his halter, left it still hanging in both ties, and had wandered away naked to the garbage can and was eating something out of it. Hmmm...

Twelve days from now, it'll be the five-year anniversary of Quincy's death. I don't think I quite understand where that time has gone.

And two days from now? I'll be in Kentucky screaming for my favorite riders, running pell-mell around the x-country course, shopping 'til I drop, and snuggling with my fiancee. Seriously, could there POSSIBLY be a better way to spend a weekend?

Gogo developing a lengthening across the diagonal. And me posting awkwardly.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Forsynthia A Go-Go

Gogo enjoys a lovely day off...

And I did too.

Friday, April 17, 2009


The title is pretty much Gogo's reaction to springtime, in a nutshell. BUGS! NO, NOT BUGS! SAVE ME FROM THE BUGS! She went out without clothes on for the first time all year (yay!) on Thursday, and less than an hour into her turnout I heard thundering hooves. I looked out - it wasn't anybody in the front two fields. Well, that meant it was Gogo. What was she doing? Running around at full tilt, smashing into the fence, performing back-cracking aerials, and screaming her head off. I went over there to try and comfort her, and she stopped running while I was there, but was still flinging her head around, swishing her tail, stamping her feet, and biting at the bugs. Violently. She had bug spray on! She quieted down and went back to munching hay, so I started to leave. I got about 10 feet away before she started galloping around like a crazy woman again, and I finally had to just bring her in because she was going to run herself into the ground, or hurt herself. She had already adorned her hock with a new wound earlier in the day when she tweaked out at another horse while in the crossties. I didn't see the incident, but I heard the other horse squealing like a pig and a lot of crashing and clambering, and I came out of the tack room to find my horse with one broken crosstie, standing there looking rather terrified. She had a big ol' bloody cut on the back of her hock.... nice.

She's been a little kooky lately. She just was buggin today about the little gnats flying around her face while I was riding. I adorned her with this stupid thing today:

To no avail really. She was really quite good at the very end of our lesson, but it took 50 minutes to get there, and I ended up riding her for almost an hour and a half, not doing much more than w/t/c and some leg yields. The work was REALLY quality and REALLY good, and our trot-canters especially were amazingly excellent, but thrown into all of that goodness was a lot of bug-related twitching and some flailing too. I know that this happens every spring and once she gets used to them, she'll be fine, but it's a bit annoying for now. My ride on Wednesday was also very good, mostly. I felt though that today's gait quality and transition quality was higher, although the degree of difficulty in the work we did was a lot less. Really, with all the buggy nonsense I felt it wasn't worth it to do beyond w/t/c and some leg yields today. And she agreed.
And then, in the crossties after our ride, I grabbed her halter a little too hastily when I was going to brush her face, and she tweaked, sat back, broke her halter, and walked away. I caught her, brought her back, and put her in the stall to finish grooming. I put another halter on her and was working on groom, groom, put your head down, groom, put your head down, etc, and she was being totally fine. I said, oh mare, what am I going to do with you? and hugged her head. Suddenly, I found myself literally in the rafters - she had freaked about that too and had lifted me like 8 feet off the ground with her head. Chiropractor, anyone? Gogo, WHY? Sometimes, there is no answer.

We also had gallops yesterday, and she was excellent. We upped the ante a little:

Walk hack to field (15 mins)
4 minutes trot
1 minute walk
4 minutes trot
1 minute walk
4 minutes trot
2 minutes walk

4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 470mpm canter
2 minutes walk
1 minute 520 gallop
2 minutes walk
1 minute 470 canter
Walk hack home (10 minutes)

She was superb. Absolutely superb. Unfortunately, she remained gallop-y during our lesson today - hence why it took 50 minutes to just chill out - but there you have it, I suppose. She was totally happy to just book around the field like a wild woman. And tonight I ordered a GPS watch off of Ebay! It's a decent quality one that I found for CHEAP, so it might be caca after all, but here's hoping we'll be able to at least gauge our speed.

The Novice tests are simple. 20 meter circles, w/t/c, serpentines at the trot, and going across the diagonal. It's really no more complicated than the BN tests. So at this point, while I'll keep gymnasticizing her laterally and longitudinally through all our sideways and forward-and-back movement, the main focus for the beginning of summer is quality of gaits and transitions. As long as we can keep our relaxation, we'll sail through those tests like they're a piece of crumb cake. (Although now that I think about it, how DO you sail through a crumb cake?)

And we MIGHT get to go x-country schooling on Monday!! Although we actually might not... it might rain on Monday. We are running out of time here... I can only school when Shannon can go with me, and I can only school when the weather cooperates. Between the two of those things, we've not been able to get out for a single schooling yet this year. We won't be able to go next weekend because of Rolex (YAY ROLEX), and then after that, we'll have less than two weeks to get a schooling in. So cross your fingers, or else King Oak might be a little... erm.... wild.


ROLEX!!!!!!!!!!!! Rolex is in FIVE DAYS!!!! I am so excited to go, you don't even KNOW! It's SO much fun and if you've never been, take the time to do it next year because it's WORTH IT. I'm gathering up a laundry list of things to shop for while there, and so far we have at least a new schooling dressage pad and some rad polos, and since I have money from the saddle that I sold, I can actually GET that stuff! Although that being said, Ebay's got some great deals... but getting them at Rolex is way more fun anyway.

I'm rooting for The Good Witch at Rolex. She is an incredible mare - was actually USEA's Mare of the Year for 2008, and was short listed for the Olympics - and had a great showing last year at Rolex, where I fell in love with her.

Here's the best part - she looks just like Gogo!

MARE POWER! I'm totally making a shirt.

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's photo Adventure Friday...

Grand Canyon, 2006.
It's really like nothing else in the world. Everybody says it, and everybody says it because it's totally true. It looks fake... it looks like a painted movie backdrop. It's so utterly vast that it's almost impossible to comprehend... like outerspace. Amazing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And the decision is....

Daun just asked about which decision I had made for my only June activity, either Groton House or the Heidi White clinic. I literally had just made the choice about half an hour before she asked about it! And the winner is....

Groton House!

After talking to Anne, the woman whose friend is actually hosting the clinic and who wanted me to do the clinic in the first place, I decided that Groton House would be a better choice. Anne actually prompted me to chose it. The Heidi clinic sounded great, it really did and I'd love to work with her sometime in the future, but the fact still remains that Groton House is amazing, from everything I've heard, and that since I won't be in Area 1 forever and I will be point chasing anyway, the horse trial would be the ideal June activity. I'm really excited - and nervous!! Groton House is no cakewalk, I can tell you that much!

Also on the showing front, I might not have a single show in August... not one. I MIGHT do GMHA at the VERY end of July/start of August, but that's still up in the air because even though I've heard great things about the event, that would be three heavy showing weekends in a row for Gogo, and that's just too much to ask of her, I think. So I dunno what we're doing in August, if anything at all. We'll just have to see.

Today's dressage went fairly well... actually, at the end we had what I would actually be willing to call a collected trot. No, really. She was very light in front, had quite a bit of cadence and a lot of articulation in her hind end joints (as per Vicki who was watching), she had a very light and honest contact, and I felt like I was holding it and maintaining it with my seat and legs alone. She gave me a totally comfortable place to sit, and we moved so easily. It was great, but it took 50 minutes to get to that point. Sigh Gogo! We also practiced our Novice B test, which we are doing at both King Oak and at Mystic. It was going quite well until little Mojo and his mother came into the ring and got in our way. Then our canters weren't quiet so awesome, but oh well. I'll have to really go through and work on what it is exactly that we need to improve upon in this particular test. Making sure we come back after the free walk (which is very early on in the test), right lead canter, and trot-canter transitions... all are important and need a bit more spit and polish. But we're getting there!

I said goodbye to my old saddle today :( But hellooooooooo to $900 bucks! It's helpful, that's for sure! It's time to re-start our Adequan, and switch Gogo back to Gro N' Win cause I hate the Purina ration balancer, but I have no idea where I'm going to find a Buckeye dealer around here. Hmmmm!

Again, with the sleep at the end of the post....

EDIT: I also have one more request of everyone (although now it's 4:00am and I'm trying to wake up...). The number of people following my blog has taken a dramatic upturn, which is awesome! But it also means I haven't been able to visit all the new blogs that belong to all these new followers, because there are so many! So if you frequent this blog a lot, leave a comment with the name of your blog too, if I'm not already following it. I love reading about other people's adventures!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hacks, Jumps, Water and Rain

I am lucky to have very mild flexibility in Gogo's schedule on the weekends. Over the course of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I have a choice as to the best way to rearrange these three things: conditioning hack, jump, and a day off. I had planned this weekend to hack early on Saturday morning, but I let myself sleep in til 8am (YES), and when I went out to the barn with my dog I found that they had already turned her out. I wanted her to stay out for her full turnout, so I went back in the house until she came in. And then, it started raining. And raining. And raining. And it rained allllllllllllllll day. At 5:30pm when it finally stopped, I had long given up on the idea of going on a very unpleasant downpour-y hack and had decided to give her the day off instead. She got a good grooming and a 20-minute handwalk instead. I like to give her two 20-minute handwalks on her days off, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but that didn't happen due to me thinking I was going to get to hack!

I had to work on Easter Sunday (not that I celebrate it anyway, so it didn't bother me). The other girl that works Sundays also doesn't have any family here, so we were invited to go to her hairdresser's house for dinner... I know, how totally random and sweet of him. Because we were planning to book out as early as we could, I decided that instead of hacking, I would jump instead, and I wanted to keep it simple and playful. Due to the deluge we had gotten the day before, the outdoor was a lake. Hmmm, lake you say? Well, I've got an idea...

Yep, let's make a water obstacle since we haven't been able to do any real x-country schooling yet! Thankfully Gogo is sane enough not to associate dressage arena with craziness if I do any jumping in there. Gogo's been through tons of water, and she takes to it very easily, but at BN every water crossing is just that, a lope through some water. She's jumping in and out of water off of and onto banks, but she hasn't ever done any JUMPS in or out technically. So, I wanted to ask that question of her and see what she did. And what do you know, she took to it with ease. I knew she would :) She was almost lazy loping around to the jump too, it was very nice. I kept it at around 2'6", just small and simple, and let her do the rest. I focused on my position too, and I found that when I do that, I can manage to actually have a pretty nice position over fences AND do a passable automatic release too. My position is better when I do the auto release for whatever reason... I like that. Yay mare!

And today, of course, was the conditioning hack. We're up to 20 minutes of trotting now and 1:40 of walking. She's still wearing her feet faster than I'd like, especially her LH. I know it's all a bunch of crap that white feet are weaker than dark feet, but that's her only white foot and she wears it faster on the bottom. Weird. I tried putting some duct tape around the edge of each foot, but as expected, that didn't last all that long. I'll be using a crapload of duct tape and vetwrap next time. I hope to get back to the Larkin Bridle trails now that the trotting is about to be amped up to 25 minutes. That's a loooooooooong way to go on neighborhood roads. She was a hair balky when it came to going away from the barn, but only in a crooked kind of way. I put some bute in her dinner and added a splash of oil to try and mix it in enough so that she would eat it, but of course, she turned up her nose. Princess.
I didn't get to go running today sadly, due to my hack and it being dark by the time I got back, but I did get to do my situps and pushing. Now they're doing a new one - 200 Squats! I did my initial test: 30 squats. I'm sure I could have done more, but I didn't. Ah well, on Wednesday.
Tomorrow and Wednesday.... dressage!! The weather will hopefully hold for our gallops on Thursday, then more dressage, and then MAYBE we'll get to go schooling x-country at Mystic Valley!!

In other news - the BEST news - I sold my old saddle on Ebay. Yep, that saddle I was hoping I MIGHT be able to get $500 for? Yeah, it went for $900. AMAZING. There's my entry fee for the AECs right there! I'm so pumped! I'll miss the saddle but I'm so in love with my new Prestige that I'm just glad it's going to a good new home. $900.... can you BELIEVE that? Amazing!

Also, our entry for Mystic Valley H.T. went out today. YES.

Wow I'm exhausted.

Happy 100th Post!

Yes, it's true! Eventing-A-Gogo! has reached its 100th post! In honor of that, all I wanted to do was just put up some of my favorite pictures of Quincy, Metro and Gogo. (Another horse named Sunny makes a brief appearance here too; he's the lanky bay with the cribbing collar on way too tight that's laying down, touching noses with Quincy. They were BFFs/lovers. I almost leased Sunny right before I got Quincy actually.)

So enjoy, and Happy 100th post to us :)

Love my boys and my girl.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We're Counting Down

The clock is ticking down. One month to go before our first horse trial at King Oak. We're amping up our conditioning, we're honing in on our weaknesses in our dressage tests, we're settling our over fences work, we're perfecting our our strong points and bolstering our weak points. We had some excellent dressage work Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, and some blisteringly fast gallop work yesterday. Our trot-canter-gallop work was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself, partially because during our 420mpm 4-minute work, she rocketed off after a series of joyful dolphin-back bucky-humps into an all out sprint for a good lap around the field and I just let her go to get some steam off. I've been on a lot of horses going at full tilt and I've NEVER gone that fast before. Tears were pouring out of my eyes and I just had to hope we were going in the right direction because I could no longer see clearly, we were going THAT fast. It was awesome. Sometimes, you just gotta fly. She settled into a more appropriate 450-470mpm pace again, and we cruised our last three or so minutes at that speed. Since we missed a week of galloping last week, we essentially started back at square one, which goes like this:

Walk hack to field (15 mins, because every child within 20 miles stopped us to pet her)
4 minutes trot
2 minutes walk
4 minutes trot
2 minutes walk
4 minutes trot
2 minutes walk

4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 470mpm canter
Walk hack home (10 minutes)

As I said last time, if you're trying this schedule make sure your horse is sound and fit BEFORE you begin these sets! They are designed to push a horse fitted up for aggressive Novice/passive Training courses, and progress over time to a fitness level that would have a horse ready to run a Training 3-Day. We're obviously not going to do THAT this year (but next year we will!) so we're going to back off before we hit that high point. Like last time, she was HOT and FIT and ready to roll, and it felt great to have so much horse under me. She is so easy when it comes to fast work like this. She makes my job very easy - I give her a pace, then just sort of float there in my 2-point forever while she maintains that exact same tempo for as long as I want, no speeding up or slowing down required. She's always been like that, even as a freshly-broke 5 year-old who couldn't steer. We never had tempo issues, ever. I've never been on a young horse who didn't have some trouble with balance and keeping the same rhythm going when they lost it, but that was how she was.

And her dressage work has been lovely. It's taken her some time to warm up these past two weeks, but once she's there, she's THERE. Our work on Wednesday especially was quite incredible at the end - she was light and balanced and employed in a rather advanced state of self-carriage for her level of training. Her contact was feathery light but still extremely honest, and any change of bend or direction, any change of the length of her frame, any sideways or medium movement and she was right there. I happened to glance into the side mirrors when I was doing a very excellent shoulder-in down the long side at one point, and just went WOW. She was GORGEOUS. I wish I could figure out exactly what it is that makes her suddenly amazingly perfect. It's like she goes from eh, eh, eh, to eh....MAZING! AMAZING! AMAZING! all at once.

You know, just like last year, we're kind of going into this show season partially trainerless, coachless, and for the first time ever, sort of friendless. I'm training mostly by myself, and I'll be going to shows totally alone for most of the summer. Won't even have a friend to videotape or to share a sandwich with :(

It's just Gogo and I, together. From the centaur connection we have when performing a completely harmonic dressage test, to the wild feeling of being aboard Pegasus when we gallop or jump, to the quiet moments when we are handgrazing behind the arena after a good workout, it's just us, together. I love having a big support group, but if we can't have one, then so be it. As long as we're together, we can do it.

Photo Adventure Fridays

I'm starting a new Friday tradition that's a little off topic. In my spare time which I don't have anymore, I travel... a lot. I've traveled a ton in my young life and on a seriously limited budget, so there were lots of nights spent sleeping in my car along the roadside, not eating for days, relishing the freedom only a set of wheels and your own two legs can bring you. I am a roadtrip junkie, and I don't get to do it much anymore.

So every Friday, I thought I'd post a picture or two from an adventure I've had, and give a little blurb about it, just for fun. This Friday's adventure:

Hitching down Route 66 with my travel companion at the time, Brett, in 2006.
That was one hell of a roadtrip. I'll have more pictures from that one for sure. Three weeks, all the way from Detroit to San Francisco and back.

I'll have a real post later :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mount Holyoke Sunday Sizzler Jumper Show 4/5/09

Okay, so I know it's Tuesday and I've been slacking XD
But yes, the jumper show! It went pretty well, if I do say so myself. We did come away with two 3rds, which is a great start around higher courses - we did the 3'3"-3'6" division, and some of those jumps were SOLID and BIG.

Saturday night, Gogo got all fancied up, much to my parents' dismay (they were visiting for the weekend and wanted to watch the UConn vs. Michigan State game.... yeahhhh State! Except then we lost yesterday, boooo.), and Sunday morning dawned windy but sunny. We headed out at around 9 or so, and unloaded and hacked around for awhile once we got there. She was MUCH quieter on our little hack around the property this time, which was nice. She also warmed up very well - very quiet, very steady and sweet, no rushing to fences.

And then, we went in for our warmup round.
And wow. Gogo had a fit. A BIG ONE.

It started off all right... but we had a rail at the first fence, which threw her all off. She stuttered a little at the second and third fences, thrown off by the height a little I think, and then we had to make a sharp right turn to a triple combination with THE biggest and most imposing oxer in the middle of it. Later, I found out that they didn't reset this line from earlier in the day, when the 18" crossrail class was going. Hmmmm.
Anyway, so Gogo landed a little far out from the third fence, an oxer, and mid-turn to the vertical that started off the combination she just walked. Ceased all forward canter momentum, and walked. Hmmm, I thought. So, I circled her back around at the canter, and that's when it happened. Nowhere near the fence at all, she just melted down, like this:

Except for those top two which were the same one, those were all different rears. And check out that SKULL ON SKULL ACTION. Yes sir, she clocked me in the face prettttttty hard one time. I saw stars for a second, and that was the moment that she stopped rearing and stood perfectly still, as if to say, Oh oops, my bad, I'm good now. We then picked up a lovely canter, and made it through the line just fine.

Oh wait, except for this part. THE MEGA OVERJUMP. Every fence, every time! And now notice my lack of release and relatively poor form. This show was a painful stab in the eye when I saw the videos, which I'm not going to bother posting - when the jumps get higher, my equitation goes down the toilet. I need to really reevaluate my position over fences and FOCUS on it. I tend to unfold rapidly overtop fences - a defensive thing - but it needs to stop. Like, yesterday.

But wow, was she ever trying. PLEASE ignore my crappy equitation! I'm aware of the flaws, I'm making it a new goal to REALLY focus on it! That was a VERY solid 3'6" and she's bopping over it like it wasn't even there. She was pretty much jumping the standards. What do those max out at, like 4'6"? Holy crap Gogo, you don't NEED to jump that big!

And wow, she was honest. She just sort of ignored my mistakes and went for EVERYTHING, even when she had every right to stop. She was very backed off of the in and out, and was sluggish coming in, and I never thought she would have the impulsion to make it over the very large 3'6" on the way out, so I prepared myself for a stop. But she went. Obviously I caught her in the mouth on that one, but bless her little heart she just kept going to the next fence like nothing happened. She's an amazing athlete, and I need to get my crap together so we can actually do this WELL!

Again, IGNORE the crappy equitation. But look at her go! Those were two very close spots, which was unlike her and why I was falling all over her neck like that, but apparently it gives her form if she gets in that deep... ick. We'll work on that.

Four classes in all, one of which they didn't pin, and one of which I went off course for and didn't place :) But two third in the other two, Gambler's Choice and the Speed round! Some of the jumps were hairy, some of them were deep, some of them were awkward, and some of them were PERFECT. We've got a lot to work on, but all in all it was a very good outing for her first time showing at that height. Novice is going to be a CAKEWALK after this... she's going to be asleep!

And they say barefoot horses can't jump. Yeah, right! But is it me or is her frog really... really... really.... far forward? It reaches into her toe area... is it supposed to be that crazy forward? Hmmmm!

So a quick summary:

Show: Mount Holyoke Sunday Sizzler Jumper Afternoons
Location: South Hadley, MA
Level: Division V – 3’3”-3’6” Jumpers
Results: Two 3rds!

Gogo's the supermare queen of ever. And then, of course, after her day off yesterday, she gave me a BEAUTIFUL, fluid, supple, light and loose dressage work today. Apparently, that's the trick - she just has to go jump around a course and then we're all better!
She also got cast yesterday for the first time that I know of since I've owned her. I didn't hear a thing over the rain on the roof, but Shannon, who was riding in the arena, happened to ride past her stall and heard some crashing. It stopped, then 30 seconds or so later it started again. She called for me as she was hopping off her horse, and I ran down there. Yep, cast and totally immobile! But what did she do when I went to get her? Squiggled for a moment, then pushed against the wall with her front legs so that she freed her front end, and managed to roll upright and stand up. She then shook off, coughed a few times, and went back to eat some hay, not a scratch on her. Mares.

21 people are watching my saddle on Ebay!!! Cross your fingers that it sells!!!!

Funder, we're thinking of you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quick Update

Some quick updates about the last several days before I break the big big news and then buzz off to my jumper show today!

1) We've had a couple of very nice dressage days, where I've been focusing exclusively on my position and then discovering what a beautiful, soft, round, supple horse I had beneath me. Friday, however, was not quite as good because it was pouring and I had to ride in the indoor. Our warmup took 45 minutes of just trotting around with our head in the air, me unable to do much of anything really. Lame. BUT, she did come around finally after doing a single lengthening (the magic button?), and we proceeded to perform a whole mess of excellent lengthenings, shoulder-ins, and leg yields, as well as a ton of high quality transitions. I wasn't as focused on my position, which I think didn't help things. Note to self... figure out how to alter weather to my liking.
2) We also had our awesome weekly 2-hour conditioning hack yesterday morning.... at 6am. My parents were here visiting for the weekend, which was lovely, but they don't understand the importance of conditioning and they wanted to go to the Mystic Seaport, so that left me with one option: be on my horse at 5:45am, because it's a 2 hour hack and we were leaving at 8:30 SHARP to get to Mystic. Well, of course I rolled over at 5:59am cursing myself because I never heard the alarm, and I managed to get dressed, bolt out the door, run a brush over her, and toss on my tack, and be on by 6:08am... I LOVE living at the barn! I hate not being able to give her a good grooming. The ride was gorgeous... I love the daybreak, it's so peaceful and beautiful. We're up to 15 minutes of trot, and next week we move on to 20. Back in the barn, I fed Gogo and bolted off to shower myself (I hadn't even let the dog out yet!), and off we went to Mystic, which was great fun. Later that night, I gave her a half-bath (head, neck and legs) and hot toweled the rest of her, and decided that there was nothing on her to clip anywhere - it was all done just last week!
3) Gogo also got trimmed on Friday night. Or, well, mostly I just rolled her walls because there was literally NOTHING to take off on the bottoms of her foot. I didn't get pictures... I promise I'll have some soon! She's wearing them awfully fast on the pavement though... a little too fast if you ask me. On her LH, she's worn into the sole a little bit all the way around the foot and actually had a little bit of a ridge of sole forming on the inside. Note to myself... if I continue to condition on the pavement, next time I'll wrap each one with a bit of vetwrap and duct tape. The poor man's hoof boot!


My current tow vehicle is the second car I've owned, a blue 2004 Dodge Durango with kind of a wimpy engine but a good heart (it tries. Hard.) named Shaker. I love Shaker, a lot.

Shaker now has over 90,000 miles on it (I drove it to California and back once.... oops). It just had a ton of new work done on it, but it's getting old, and it's really NOT designed to be a tow vehicle for a horse trailer, even though it has a fancy tow package. So two night ago, over dinner, my parents broke this news to me:

They're buying me a new truck.
A brand new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad cab with a Hemi.
Oh. My. God.
Just hand me the most spoiled brat in the history of spoiled brats award. They gave me Shaker as a gift, too. AND my first car, a brand new bright orange Jeep Libery, as a total freebie as well. I hate to say it but I feel guilty. What did I do to deserve this truck?

(I also tried to ask if they'd consider getting me a 2500 but realistically I'm NOT going to get a bigger trailer or more horses ANY TIME in the near future... if I breed Gogo in a few years I'll have two horses and I doubt I'll have any more than that for a LONG time!)

I'm begging for it in orange (how freaking SPOILED am I??) but in reality I'm just going to get whatever color they have on the lot. Detroit is bleeding money right now, and we're also certain that Chrysler is going under, so they're desperate to sell. The deals are incredible, and there's a special one on 2009 Ram quad cabs at the moment, hence this lovely timing.

I just need to sell Shaker and we're all set.
I'll miss my Shakey :( But OH MY GOD, A NEW TRUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

End of March Analysis, and More

It's the beginning of April already, holy crap! Our first real event is in a month and a few days, so it's time to really get cracking on our next month's goals.

March Goals:

1) Get over our irrational chambon fears!!
Well, we're working on that. Actually, I've opted to leave this problem alone for the time being. We have so many other things to fill our week with, and I don't want to risk her hurting herself or scaring herself again, especially not right now as we're gearing up for some really heavy work. I revisited the issue only once over the past month, with a lot of success. I think I will very, very carefully be reintroducing this little issue, maybe on our days off, but I'm NOT going to push it hard. It will a lot of time.

2) Attend our first schooling jumper show and make successful, smooth trips around each course
Success!! We had a great first outing at this little schooling show... actually, we're attending a second one tomorrow! Our first rounds were fast, clean, and scopey. Not a hesitation, not a single rail, nary a bobble in our coursework. AND her attitude dramatically improved in our dressage work that followed that week, and she has maintained that happiness all through these past several weeks. Yay!

3) Continue to develop stretch down and up at the walk/trot
This is coming along! As you can see from these pictures, her tendency is still to tip on her forehand and come behind the vertical, but it's improving fairly steadily. Before, she would take the reins and root, and then pop above the bit. And once that had happened, you could forget trying to take the contact back. It just wouldn't happen. Now, she's going down with a lot of consistency, and coming back up when I ask and staying where she ought to - nice and relaxed and stretching to my hand.

4) Refine (and really focus on) trot-canter transitions - no popping up into them
Again, improving!! If you saw our video of our dressage work outside, you saw some very nice trot-canter transitions. She's getting MUCH quieter about them, but she still disconnects slightly in order to pull herself into them instead of push. But wow, it's still been a world of difference!!

5) Hopefully get our for our first x-country schooling of the season!!
Nope. But we tried. It was all this rain that stopped us. This month it will happen for sure, because Shannon said she'd go with me, and I'm really running out of time. RAIN, GO AWAY ALREADY. WE CAN'T SCHOOL IN THE RAIN.

And some goals for me too....

1) Improve cardio fitness through interval training

I've been running, that's for sure! Not as often as I need to be, but I've been running. Less interval type training and more long distance though... I don't like short bursts AT ALL. I dunno if I want to keep up with the sprints or to focus on the long distance stuff. Any opinions?

2) Continue to improve gallop position (a weak link for sure!)
This is MUCH easier now that I have my new Prestige!! We've only managed to get in one gallop session before this horrible week of nonstop rain started, but I've been focused on my position and very aware of what my body is doing. It can only improve from here!

3) Once we get out schooling x-country, work on maintaining a balanced and rhythmic gallop over fences
We'll get to this one this month.

4) Take the Hundred Pushups Challenge

I'm working on it right now!

5) Take the Two Hundred Situps Challenge
And ditto! They both take about 6 weeks to do, but I'll do it. You better believe it.

And now, for some new April goals:

1) Practice our Novice tests for the month of May, and really focus on improving whatever weak spots we have, including work on my position
2) Successfully make it out to one or hopefully two x-country schoolings
3) Develop our gallop fitness
4) REALLY focus on our trot-canter transitions, and our stretching
5) Make it around our first 3'3"-3'6" courses in the show ring!

And my own goals for myself remain the same, except for the addition of attacking my position weaknesses. :)

I have plenty to blog about concerning this week, but for right now, I need to go dash off to the bank and deposit my paycheck (yes, at 9:40 at night), and then make sure everything is ready for the show tomorrow. My parents came to visit me this weekend, and boy there is one HELL of a development I HAVE to share with you. But you have to wait! Ha!