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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T. 5/30/09 (Cont.)

We did it AGAIN, oh we did!!!

While I feel it is slightly tactless to start going on about our big win in the face of big problems like Daun's annoyances with a defunct schooling show, I don't think I can contain this excitement any longer. This is Gogo's second ever Novice, and second event of the year, and we've won both of them on our dressage score. We are high atop the Area 1 Leaderboard already, and are chipping away at the top riders on the USEA National Leaderboard (the ones that have been showing in California and Florida since January!). We are overqualified for the Area 1 Championships, and just need one more completion (we don't even have to place, we just have to obtain a final score!) in order to solidify our trip to the AECs this year.

The day started out FREAKING EARLY. Woke up at 4am, staggered out to Gogo's stall in my PJs with her breakfast in tow, staggered back in to get dressed and gather my final items, staggered back out to the barn, threw her shipping boots on, and tossed her and the dog in the truck and trailer, departing at roughly 4:35am. We made it to the showgrounds at around 6am, and I was thankfully much more awake by then due to a Monster and a delicious Clif barn :D

Bright eyed and ready to go!

We had a leisurely hour to get ready, and I got on with a little less than an hour to warm up. Well, apparently it wasn't quite enough! Gogo was showing some of her usual magic show-heat signs - total distractability, talking to other horses, etc - and I spent the entire warmup feeling like she was being okay, but was ready to jump out of her skin. The actual test was a total blur, and I hardly remember it at all, but I halted, saluted, gave her a pat, and groaned inwardly. The whole thing was a tense mess, I thought. So much for a good placing!

Hi mom!

Back at the trailer I untacked (she hadn't even broken a sweat and was still raring to go), groomed her, put on her boots, and plopped her back on the trailer while Ti and I went to go walk the two courses again. The water jump looked just as hairy as it did the day before (it wasn't anything other than a TON OF ROCKS that made me worry about it... not that we wouldn't make it through, but would we make it through without major injury?), but everything else seemed inviting still.

By the good grace of some higher being, I happened by the scoreboard on my way back to get ready for stadium, and the dressage scores were up. I thought my test was rather caca... well what do you know, apparently it didn't LOOK caca even though it felt caca because I ended up with a 30.0, and was in first after dressage! Woohoo!

And off we went again for our stadium and XC, after getting all dolled up. They ran the format back to back, which is tiring but efficient, and I went into my stadium all dressed for XC, vest and pinney and all. I only warmed up a little, mostly just stretching out her muscles and bopping quietly over a few warmup fences, and then I went into the big grassy field, a little ahead of schedule. This course flowed VERY well, and the fences were beautiful - props to Mystic. I was much more relaxed than I was at King Oak, even though I drove her a bit to the first fence and got a little bit of a big spot to it. Second fence went smoothly, third fence went beautifully, fourth was even better.... and we settled into it, rode quietly to each fence, got an appropriate medium spot to everything (not long anywhere!), and cruised over the final big yellow oxer for a double clear round. Gorgeous, and FUN. Yay!

We then went right off for XC, and literally my warmup was the walk over there, and one lap around the warmup ring at the trot. That's it. We were already all geared up and ready to go. And for the first time in her life, Gogo didn't oogle at the first few fences, didn't take a little while to settle into the course - she was locked on and ready to go right from the very first fence. That's incredible.. she's never been that ready before. Our pace steadily picked up from there, and fences one through five went beautifully, five being the big ditch that a year ago would have probably had me slung off over her head! (Major phobia of Gogo's last year... this year she cantered over it. CANTERED PEOPLE. Even at the end of last year we were still leaping over them!) Our spot to fence six was a little bit off, and she knocked a toe on it, but picked up her pace in the three strides to the next coop and clear that one beautifully. No problems over the next set of logs and no problems in the woods either - we came at the water from a brisk trot, slowed to a sort of fast walk in the middle of the water (which she peeked at because it was moving but it never felt like she was going to stop at it, she just wanted to see what it was doing!), trotted out, and hopped over the log out of the woods just fine. Everything else went totally according to plan - picture frame, down bank (which she took overly enthusiastically as usual and we landed pretty hard!), bench, stone wall, and big curved white log at the end, which slowed her down a little but didn't cause any problems. Double clear again to TAKE THE DIVISION!

Gogo says, I won okay grass now please.

The only crappy part of the day was that it then took 3 hours to pin the division, and they had announced that there would be a mounted awards ceremony 10 minutes after each division's scores were final. Well, idiot me thinks that isn't going to take very long, so I kept her tacked... and waited. And waited. And got back on, and rode around. And waited. And got off, and kept her tacked but unbridled her and let her stand around and eat some hay and drink some more water. And waited. And got back on. And waited. Forever. And finally, even though our scores had been finalized for OVER an hour, they went oh wait, yeah! And there were only two horses that showed up to this mounted awards ceremony, and I was the only one actually mounted. Only four people in my division showed up to get ribbons at all! The other girl that actually came up to the awards ceremony with her horse (untacked, of course, and I wish I had done that too, poor Gogo!) and I had a good long chat, and shared a victory meander around the field (mostly it was me cantering around her in circles while she lead her horse around and laughed at me, it was very fun).

You know, our sport has a lot of things to work on right now, and a lot of glaring holes and problems, but the core of this entire sport is held together by the people that love it. I had so many people approach me, so many people offer to help me when they found out I was alone, and SO many people come running up to me with a smile to congratulate me after it was all over and ask how my day was. Everyone was smiling, everyone was friendly, and everyone was there to lend a hand whenever anyone needed anything. This is why I won't - why I can't - give up on this sport, no matter what happens. The heart of all of this beats with the people who live and breathe eventing, and do it for the love of the game, and the love of their horses and the partnership and satisfaction they find there. There will always be bad eggs, but there are so many good ones out there too. We are such a loving, wonderful community, and together, we will find ways to make this sport safer and better.

My favorite part of the day came when I was tacking back up to go get our awards, and a big wind came through the trees. We were parked in a shady spot, the sunlight trickling through the leaves, and a whole shower of helicopter seeds burst from the tree directly overhead. As I mounted and started back on the walk to the awards ceremony, the seeds all came floating down gently around us, settling all over us like confetti. It was as if Nature itself was celebrating our win, giving us our own private little ceremony, validating and praising all the hard work we've been doing all year long.

Life is surely beautiful and good.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T. 5/30/09

R-E-P-E-A-T WINNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!

Finished on our dressage score of 30.0!
More later, but for now... BED! :D

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tomorrow comes EARLY!

Oh man, tomorrow is an EARLY START for Gogo and I. Plan is to roll out of bed at 4am, stagger into the barn to give her brekkie, stagger back into the house to get dressed and ready to go, stagger back out to the barn with a Clif Bar in one hand and a Monster in the other, and load up and be off by 4:30am. I better set like... 25 alarms. 4am is eaaarrrrlllyyyyyyy.

But then, the adrenaline will kick in! I spent the entirety of today getting ready for the show - cleaning tack, clipping, trimming feet, bathing, braiding, loading gear, hooking up the trailer, getting snacks, etc, etc. She is dressed and ready to hit the road tomorrow - she's already in her Sleazies and her shipping boots and halter are right outside her door. Poor thing was out of her stall for a very long time this evening while I was bathing and braiding, and when I left her alone in the aisle to dry while I was outside finishing packing, she peed all over the aisle. Seriously, it was the Niagara Falls of pee. I felt pretty bad, I had no idea she had to go like that!

I also spent time out at Mystic Valley Hunt Club today scouting out the lay of the land and the courses. Ti did not come with me this time, as her corn is bothering her again, but she'll come with me tomorrow and play not-guard dog at the trailer. The place is pretty nice, and pretty big - lots of horses. The dressage rings look pretty nice, even though they're a bit murky looking after all the rain we've had. No giant puddles, though!

Stadium looks pretty straightforward and nice. The fences look fabulous! It's relatively simple and not too big, and in a nice big field instead of a very tiny arena like King Oak - more room to breathe. It starts with a simple vertical at the far end of the field to a nice big oxer, curving around to three jumps on three sweeping curves in opposite directions, and then onto 6 and 7a-b, which are set as a triple combination, three strides to two strides. Then it's onto something resembling ANOTHER triple combination, but all numbered as single fences. I think it was a four stride and a five stride.. maybe it was a three and a four. I need to walk it again tomorrow. Tricky!

We have to ride our stadium in our XC gear, because it's immediately onto XC from there, 20 minutes after each individual's stadium finishes up. I was supposed to ride at 8:00am, 10:30am, and 10:50am, but I've been bumped back 6 minutes as the last person in our division needs to go ahead of me. Oh well, fine by me, 6 more minutes I can sleep in! The XC course looks nice and inviting, with a couple of little challenges, namely the speed. It's set for 400mpm instead of 350mpm (both reasonable Novice speeds). The speed time is 4:07, and the optimum time is 4:38, leaving a small window of 30 seconds to come in. There are some nicely built fences to start off, two simple loggy-things to begin with. It then goes on to these two very pretty fences:

Very well built. 5 is a simple ditch, and 6 and 7 are set as a combination - 6 is a very solid, very long brown coop that is a two stride to 7, which is a much narrower brown coop. 8 is a pile of logs painted green, and then there's a long gallop into the woods, which is where we come our first really tricky thing - the water crossing OF DOOM. Seriously, it's around a corner, down a hill, and through a whole MESS of giant, slippery rocks. There's nowhere to get around then, you just have to hope your horse doesn't slip all over them, even though they block the entire path. The water crossing itself is a running stream, and it has big rocks in it too, and the footing also seems to be inconclusive - I'll be sure to get my feet wet tomorrow when re-walking the course. It just doesn't seem all that safe to me, and I don't want Gogo to go running in with gusto and hurt herself. I think we'll be trotting this part so she can get a better foothold. There's also a log a little ways up a hill, exiting the water area.

You can't really appreciate the rocks because I didn't seem to get them all in the picture. But oye! 11 is a nice confidence building set of logs, 12 is a funky red table, and 13 you have to figure out how to turn yourself all the way around to get back to the famous picture frame fence - it's actually pretty narrow in the middle, but it looks very straightforward (and professional photographer worthy!).

From there, 14 is a funky elevated area in the middle of a flat field that leads to a drop (don't fall off either side please!), 15 is a biiiiiig table, 16 is a stone wall, and 17 (final fence) is a gorgeous curved log jump. The fences are quite nice, and dressed well. Area 1 is awesome!

I am sorry to say it's unlikely that I'll get any pics or video from this show, aside from the ones I take, and the ones the professional photographers get. I'll be going it alone, except for Ti and Gogo of course. Here's hoping for a R-E-P-E-A-T of last time!!!

Mystic, here we come!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I admit it, I'm a bit of a behavior Nazi. My horses stop when I stop, back when I back, and walk when I walk, on a loose lead. They stand when I tell them to, and don't move until I tell them to. They stay out of your space unless you invite them in. They don't nibble on anything - people, crossties, nothing at all. Mouthiness is NOT acceptable AT ALL - they don't open their mouths unless I'm putting something in them (yes, I do handfeed treats, and she knows not to ask for them). They stand still when near grass and don't go to eat until they get the word "Okay" from me. They don't paw for food, or while standing on the crossties. They pay attention to me. They open their mouths for the bit and put their heads down into bridles and halters. They stand quietly with their ears forward when being girthed up. And they are my friends. I dictate where their feet go, and they are happy to accept their role as second in command. If I need to reprimand, it is quick, and it is without emotion. I also am quick to reward if they've done the right thing.

I don't understand why it should be any other way, but a lot of the time, it is.

Readers, I want to know - what bad behaviors or manners drive YOU nuts? Since I'm crazy pretty much ALL bad manners drive me bats, but chewing on things and leading poorly top the list, I think. What about you?


In other, better news, Gogo was an absolute peach today. I only rode for half an hour - I think a new record for getting a good dressage-y ride in a short amount of time - and she was just awesome, right there for me when I picked her up. I didn't canter on a loose rein, just walked and trotted and then picked her up right from there. And there she was! We leg yielded, we lengthened, we serpentined with ease. We did some shallow loops in canter, performed 10m circles to leg yields, and did a few shoulder-ins to 10m circles and back to a bit of haunches in down the long side. Complicated, more along the second level lines, but she understood and did her best. I finished with a perfect square halt, looked at my watch, and was astonished that it had only been 30 minutes. Delightful!

But that was really the big highlight of my day. The rest of it pretty much just sucked. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, but I can't make any guarantees.

The entry for the ENYDCTA/Old Chatham H.T. just went out in the mail tonight. I sent it in electronically on the opening date, and sent out the checks just now. This is the Area 1 Novice Championship show.... who's excited? I'm excited!!

Now, if we could just get these darn clueless owners to behave themselves and to stop getting mad at me for caring about their horses' health... then everything would be sweet.

Gogo showing jumpers a year or so ago, winter '08.

(One final note. There was a rotational fall at Devon last weekend, in a Big Eq class. Everybody's okay, but that's pretty scary. Even in the hunters, as totally harmless as they seem, awful things can happen.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mystic Valley Countdown: Four Days!

Four days until our second horse trial of the year! Who's excited? I'm excited!

I'm actually feeling pretty relaxed about this show. I'm not sure exactly why, but there are only 10 people in my division. I've never been in a division that small in all my life! I checked up on all the people running, and I thought Daun and Stacey might like to know there are two full drafts in the Novice Horse section with me - two Clydesdales, owned by two different people no less! I'll have to keep track of how they do.
The not fun part? I'm trailering in, and it's about an hour and a half away with a trailer, maybe a little less. I need about an hour to warm Gogo up before dressage, and so of course, guess what time I ride? Yep, you guessed it - first ride of the morning, 8:00am sharp. Which means I need to be on at about 7. Which means I need to get there at about 6. Which means I need to leave here at like... 4:30am. Awesome. So, I'll need to have EVERYTHING done before I leave - bathing, braiding, packing, etc. That's not a problem... but heaven forbid her braids come out overnight!! She doesn't rub them or anything, and I tie a pretty tight braid, but I always do the forelock braid the day of (because they don't stay under her Sleazy), and I'll need to factor in time to fix anything that goes awry. Blah!

So dressage is at 8:00am, and stadium goes at 10:30am. The other thing that I'm not all that hot about is that XC starts at 10:50am - so I have to ride stadium in my XC gear. In reality, doing my stadium as a sort of warmup and then riding over to XC to start there makes a lot of sense.... I just feel like a goob riding stadium in my XC gear, lol. It will make things easier for sure - one less thing to get dressed up for, considering I'll likely be alone for this one. Then again, I thought I'd be alone at the last one, and I had three people show up to watch and help and film, so you never know really!

There isn't much of a Virtual Ride coursewalk on the Area 1 website, but I do know we will be tackling this jump this weekend:

Her very first picture frame! Gogo grows up and up. By the way, she'll be 8 next Tuesday... time is flying by.

After a nice day off and a light hack yesterday, doing the rounds greeting little kids on a beautiful Memorial Day afternoon, we had a totally awesome dressage school today. Her canterwork was actually better than her trotwork for the first time... well, ever, I think. She even did some shallow loops in canter that were totally balanced and exquisite. She usually does them obediently, to be sure, but she tends to get near the centerline and sort of dive back towards the rail. These were smooth and totally balanced - no gravitating towards the outside. I was very impressed! We also did all sorts of serpentines, leg yields, and transitions, just to keep her mind relaxed and quiet and thinking. We worked on free walk too - our Achilles heel - and she actually did quite well. I have high hopes for Saturday! Let's hope we can hold it together!

Two more days of dressage, and then we take a day off to get ready on Friday. And Saturday, we PARTY! And by party, I mean we are not going to have a rumba butt repeat performance, but instead we are going to have such a square halt-salute that I drop the reins and give her a big crushing hug at the end of the test!

Lots of things to do to get ready, lots and lots of things. This being the second show of the year, I'm feeling way less nervous and way more excited. This is going to be a blast!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


What a fabulous weekend I just had. Okay, I know that it's the Memorial Day weekend, and it's supposed to go through Monday, but my holiday ended yesterday. It was so needed though, and I feel exceedingly refreshed. Everything went beautifully, and while I hope to do it again sometime soon, I feel like vacations like this come long only once in awhile. I can accept that fact though, as I get to appreciate them even more when they do happen.

Friday, after getting my repaired boot back (AGAIN), I washed the truck, packed my stuff, bathed my horse, and loaded Gogo and Salute onto the trailer. I was headed off to my lesson with Kerry Millikin at Hillden Farm, set for 3:00, and I was excited. The trip was uneventful, and Gogo and I looked pretty classy if you ask me.

That's Gogo's flybonnet signed by Jennifer Wooten-Dafoe and The Good Witch! But she was unimpressed.

I found Kerry to be really, really refreshing. She tells it like it is, but not harshly. I was later told that if she doesn't like your horse, she's going to let you know about it, but she had nothing but good things to say about Gogo - a real compliment. Right off the bat, she honed in on my equitation - "you ride like a dressage rider!" - and helped me get out of dressage mode and into jump mode, something I've never really been able to make the transition to fully simply because I've never really been taught how. I tend to sit up instead of really getting into my halfseat. Kerry helped me close my hip angle, turn my toes out a bit, and take the brunt of my weight into my heels and calf instead of stalling out at my knees and thighs - more of a dressage thing to do. The other thing we worked on was keeping her round instead of letting her cruise around with her head in the air. I usully leave her face alone while we're jumping, but by keeping her round to a fence, it helps to influence how she uses her body over the jump. She's tidy with her legs when she jumps with no bascule, but it does her no favors otherwise to jump so flat. So, instead of doing what we usually do, we tried to go around a little more like this:

Which, in turn, caused her to jump more like this:

The picture isn't at the best moment of the jump, and she's sort of trying to figure out where her legs need to be, but you can see she's actually using her body over the fence. Bascule what? We have that?

Kerry helped me stay up in two point all the way to the fence and away from it, staying quiet the whole way. She was totally pleased with how quietly Gogo dealt with the little challenges we set up for her, including a jump on a circle and some gymnastic exercises. She did super well, and I felt that I did do.
After the lesson, I went with Anne and Jen (and Salute and Lucas) for a nice relaxing hack. Or so I thought! We went all the way down the mountain, and trotted all the way back up! It was another hour before we were back, so Gogo and I were both pretty tired! We turned out our horses for a few hours each on grass (a REAL treat), and then tucked them into their stalls at Jen's place for the night.

And we rounded out the evening with a whole mess of people enjoying wine and cheese and dinner on the porch, watching the sunset:

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh yea. A lot of wine and passing out on Anne's couch followed. Yessss.

The following morning at 7:30am sharp (oye!) after delicious smoothies, Anne and I headed off to yoga. I LOVE YOGA. I never get to do it anymore because I don't have the time or money to go to a studio and take classes, and lack the religious inspiration to actually do it on my own. I find the practice of yoga to be enlightening, refreshing, and rejuvenating. And not only does it stretch every part of your body, it tones every part too - I woke up this morning and EVERYTHING hurt. The classes at this studio run for an hour and a half and are only $15, and they're on Saturdays too, so it would be totally possible for me to go to them. On my way to Moksha, one yoga practice at a time.

After changing and helping a neighbor load some horses into a trailer, we cleaned out our stalls, let our horses out on grass again for awhile, groomed them up, and then loaded up and headed out for White Memorial Park for a few hours of trail riding goodness. The day started off with a downpour, but nature must have been happy with the positive energy we sent out into the universe with our yoga, so everything cleared up beautifully by the time we got out there. The trails were perfect, the scenery was gorgeous, and the company was hilareous. We laughed the whole time we were out there.

Just perfect.
We finished the day with some lunch, and then cruised on to take the tired ponies (and our tired selves) back home. One of my favorite parts of the day is taking care of a horse's needs after a hard workout. Putting a freshly linimented, rubbed, and wrapped horse into a softly bedded stall with buckets of clear, cool water and a mountain of fresh hay in front of them just feels so good.

Today was a well-deserved day off for both of us, complete with some stretching, grooming, walking, and turnout. Tomorrow, it's back to work, and prepping for the show on Saturday!!

Breaking the daily cycle of Samsara and achieving a little taste of Moksha is exactly what you need sometimes. Thanks, Gogo. Thanks, Anne and Salute. Thanks, Kerry. Thanks, Jen. Thanks, yoga. Thanks, life.

Photo Adventure, erm.... Sundays

Since I've neglected my Photo Adventure Fridays for THREE FRIDAYS IN A ROW now, I wanted to make sure I had a good one for this week, to replace this last Friday. I even have a VIDEO with this one. Beat that.

Chincoteague Island Pony Penning, 2006.
I slept for two days in my car, was interviewed for two newspapers, didn't eat a single bite of food except for an energy bar that one of the reporters gave me, got crusted in marshwater and salt and sun, stared for hours at the lit-up fishing boats docked at the pier at night, and swam with the ponies. Probably the most fun a person could ever have by herself... ever.

The end of the pony swim! A little baby gets left behind, and momma comes running out to find him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Dialogue of Dressage

It's strange how much a change in nutrition can really affect a horse. Over the winter when Gogo was on quite a bit of Ultium, she was irrational, hot, difficult, and spooky. She's finally back down to just the ration balancer, and the difference in her behavior is astounding. No more uncalled for blowups. No more rearing, no more thrashing. She still fusses with her head sometimes, but with all four feet on the ground and still traveling at the same tempo and gait. She still has to make her opinions known, you know!

Dressage is slowly evolving for us into a running dialogue instead of a question and answer session, or an interrogation even, sometimes. Instead of just letting her do whatever she wants with her head until she decides to play the game, I can now ask quietly and she responds quietly. Instead of fighting with her and her fighting right back, I can now make a correction with a rein aid and instead of inverting, curling, flinging her head or being otherwise generally offended, she can quietly take it and do the correct thing - reach back out towards the contact no matter what we're doing. Before, you couldn't touch her face without asking for tension or a fight. You just had to leave her alone and let her figure it out on her own. Over this winter, however, she's matured and started to, for the first time in her life, take my corrections not as a personal affront, but as a polite request that she's willing to make. A year and a half ago, touching her mouth at all caused her to either bolt or rear - it was right after I got her back from the evil trainer. A year ago, she still wouldn't take a correction or any sort of, but if you gave it a lot of time, she'd eventually go to the contact herself and actually be very correct. Six months ago, she was still like that, and would fight and fight against you if you made any attempt to manipulate her front end. Now, she's in the process of changing again. Right off the bat when I picked her up yesterday and today, she was right there. She wasn't 200% warmed up and perfectly fluid, but when she did make a balance mistake and came off the bit, I could make a correction and she'd take it and go back to where she was supposed to. Her canter isn't totally there yet with this newer self - she is less willing to accept corrections, but she's still been trying hard to figure it out. I think if I am very careful and cultivate this new mindset properly, we could really be headed for great things.

Dressage has to be fair, and it has to be an intelligent, kind discussion. There can be no telling, no demanding with a horse like Gogo. She needs to have her input, and she needs to know when she's done the right thing. When I ask her to bend a little more left, she might ask in return if she could tighten her jaw a little and stay where she is. But that's the difference now... she's asking. She's not crossing her jaw, yanking hard, and refusing, taking my question as something that could potentially cause fear and pain, and trying to protect herself from it. She might prefer to not bend quite as much as I ask, but now she is taking my question as a fair one, and accepting it. All the connections in her mind to all the abuse she and her mouth have sustained finally seem to be letting go. She doesn't feel so defensive anymore. It's as if she's finally, finally, almost two years after her mind and body were demolished by the wretched trainer, accepted that I'm not going to yank on her face, I'm not going to crank her in, I'm not going to flip her over. It's something she'll never, ever completely let go of, and I know that. But it's my duty to do the very best I can to her, and to always try and do the right thing. She's letting me push her a little more, letting me make my minor corrections to whatever she's doing, and getting better because of them instead of worse.

She's matured so much over the winter, mentally. She's astounding me every day. It's as if someone hit the fast forward button on progress all of a sudden in these past two weeks, and I'm completely amazing and floored and trying as hard as I can to just keep up and not make any mistakes that might set her back again. We've come so far, we've grown so much, both of us. I can't believe how much she's letting me influence her body while we're doing dressage, and I can't believe how little she needs me while we're jumping. Last year, I felt strongly that I needed to hold her hand to every fence going cross-country, and she let me know that she needed support to every fence in order to have confidence about it. This year, she's finding her way to whatever I point her at without feeling like I need to be there to support her at every stride. All she needs me to do now is point her in the right direction and sit chilly. She does the rest.

She's telling me that she'll let me do my job as direction of dressage if I let her do her job of finding her way around a course of fences. We don't rely on each other for physical or mental support. We instead work together because we want to both be there, and we know we can do it together. We're both strong-willed and independent, and we don't rely on anyone other than ourselves for survival, but at the same time we have the perfect symbiotic relationship. Her partnership completes me in that way that only a good horse can. I know she, of all opinionated horses in this world, is not working with me because she has to. She's working with me because she wants to.

And I am truly the most humbled and honored person in the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The title of this post doesn't have much to do with anything really. I just like the word 'snafu,' much as I like the words 'jabberwocky' or 'catawampus.'

Yesterday we jumped! It was more of a breath of fresh air for her than an actual school, something other than boring ol' dressage. We did a simple gymnastic, set like this:

The distance was set pretty short for her. She definitely favors the long spot, so exercises like this help her be very tidy and quick with her body, as she must tap the ground pretty cattily and come right back up again. She had one time where she came in a little quick and shimmied through it a little awkwardly, but every time before and after it, she put it together pretty easily. I had Shannon help me put the whole grid together as we steadily warmed up through it, and I also had her put two poles together to form a triangular chute propped up against the top rail of the final vertical. I really like what it did for her straightness and tightness up front. We didn't go for too long - about half an hour - but I felt that she was excellent and saw no need to continue. As Shannon said, she's not a horse that needs to really be schooled per se over fences. She, as this point and at this level, is point and shoot. There isn't enough I can set up at the farm that'll really challenge her. I do want to, in addition to the jumping lessons I'll be taking, set up a few steep slices and a few really narrow skinnies for her, just to see how honest she'll be. She really seems to have grown up over the winter, and she's being more honest on her own than she ever has. Last year, I felt very strongly that I had to be there to hold her hand for her to every fence, and this year I feel like as long as I'm pointing her sort of towards the right fence, she'll take it no matter how we get there. I've been really, really impressed with her.
The other thing I did yesterday that I haven't done in well over a year is jump her in her snaffle. I usually have her in the waterford, but really and truly, she just LOVES that blue plastic bit. She was dead quiet, completely response, and took a half-halt like you don't know. Maybe I was just being softer, but seriously, I think that's as responsive as she's ever been to a rein aid while jumping. I'm not about to go gallop XC in the thing, but man, blue plastic bit is my friend right now!

Today, more boooooooooooring dressage! Or well, that's how she sees it :) Gogo actually came out feeling AMAZING and completely responsive RIGHT off the bat, and was giving me awesome trotwork and leg yields right from when I first picked her up. I thought about just getting off and calling it a day, but I went on to work more. And, of course, the more we worked, the hotter she became. And she got HOT. Not sure exactly what happened, but wow, she was HOT AS HELLFIRE by the time we were nearing the end. Our second canter was, in fact, a large disaster, although for some reason this didn't really bother me. She was racing around a 20m circle completely inverted, flinging her head in my face, completely in gallop mode for whatever reason. I just sort of sat chilly and waited... and waited... and waited. Finally, she quieted down and gave me something resembling a quiet circle, and I went back to trot and cantered the other way, which was much better. Much, much better, actually. I dunno if her brain just finally settled down or what, but after that, we did a little more nice quiet trotwork and called it a day on a perfect halt. Mares!

This is the eternal dilemma with a pretty fit event horse like mine. It might be only Novice but the fitter she gets, the hotter she gets. I wonder how confusing it can get for her doing everything in the plastic snaffle. She now hacks, gallops, does dressage AND jumps in it, which is great and kind of bad at the same time. She has no real way to differentiate between what we're doing based on tack alone - and she's the kind of horse that would definitely know what different bits mean. I don't ask her to come round while galloping, as I want her to have her own head for balance, and while actually doing a course I don't bother to mess with her head while I'm jumping either. Hacking is usually done on the buckle or a loose rein. This is the other problem - I'm working all sets of muscles, the bad ones included. I'm no fool to think that all this dressage is going to eliminate her ewe neck, especially when her natural balances lies within a high head carriage. I'm not going to fight nature when she needs to balance that way. Her neck looks awesome for her right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a pretty unimpressive neck. We do what we can, and I try my hardest to make sure she knows a distinct difference between everything we're doing. King Oak was proof enough that if you leave her alone, she'll go there on her own. Home is for trying to school her through that mindset. Dressage is slowly and steadily becoming more of a conversation between the two of us as opposed to me quietly hoping she'll decide to play the game that day. Now, I feel as though I can ask her a little, and while she'll have moments where she's not totally connected, she'll go where I ask her to go, and she'll take my corrections instead of fighting them, although sometimes it's with a grain of salt. I like this new direction.

And... um.... Gogo's fat. I mean really, I look at her and go oh man. Fattie. I tried and tried to tell everyone here that she's an easy keeper, and nobody believed me until now. I put a little weight on her over the winter seeing she was on the thin side after the long trip out here, and that seems to have backfired as now she won't LOSE the weight! I've cut out all the Ultium except for a tiny cup of it at nightcheck just to give her a little something along with everyone else, and she's now eating 2lbs a day of the Triple Crown 30% ration balancer, which I actually don't think I like much, and about 10 flakes of okay-ish quality hay. Not sure what else I can cut out, as she's at the low end of the Triple Crown's recommended poundage for a horse doing her kind of work! I MAY have found somewhere to get Gro N' Win though.... here's hoping that works out!! I thought about putting her on Platinum Performance instead of the ration balancer, but I'm pretty sure she won't be getting all the protein she needs on that system. Nothing replaces a quality ration balancer in my book.

Vroom vroom!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Giving that Hemi a WORKOUT!

The truck had its maiden pull on Saturday, and it hauled again today, TWICE. I freaking LOVE it. It pulls "like buddah," just like Daun said it would. It honestly feels like you're not even pulling anything at all. It's truly a perfect workhorse, exactly what I've been needing. I made around $200 hauling a horse to and from a dressage show yesterday and today, AND I did it while on the clock cause my boss didn't feel like making a second trip back for him, lol. I need to get a picture of Patron all hooked up - it's been hooked up all weekend and I never even bothered to unhitch it.

Gogo had Saturday off, seeing as I really was too busy to even consider riding, and it worked out perfectly as her day off instead of today. She got to stay out for about 5 hours, but was pretty insistant that she wanted to come in by 11. Too bad, you stay out there! She sometimes doesn't believe in the great outdoors, I think, especially when it's a little muggy and a little buggy. I got to handwalk her once for 20 minutes, but never got to do her second handwalk or her groom. Instead, I trailered Harley all over god's creation and immediately rushed back home, left Patron and trailer in the driveway, finished feeding and doing PM chores, and while I had missed the Rolex coverage on TV, I did get to see the Superfilly tromp the boys in the Preakness! I have to say though, Mine That Bird is really for real. He had a terrible trip and had to come WAY wide around everyone - no zooming up the inside this time - and he was still second and closing really fast. Had the race been a hair longer, he would have beaten her. Amazing... a $9500 nobody gelding, who would have thought.

Once again today, I went out to the showgrounds and fetched good old Harley, who did a wonderful job trekking his mother around for her first real rated show in less than ideal footing - he's 19, a retired big time jumper with wonky suspensories, and he's just the sweetest thing ever. I ended up back at home at around 4:15, just in time to help feed and finish up chores before grooming Gogo and tossing her butt back on the trailer, the engine not even cool yet. We headed out again to the Larkin Bridle Trails, where it was gloomy, gray and chilly, and completely deserted. Our 10 minutes of walk warmup was interrupted by around ten million little shrieking adorable kids, all of which came sprinting at high speed en masse towards my thankfully sensible mare. The loudest and fastest of them, who I asked nicely to slow down, then went on to tell me how she rides horses AT A TROT, and she knows everything about them (my guess was she was about 8). When I said I was off for a two hour hack, she promptly told me, "Oh, I ride for two hours. I maybe even ride for MORE than two hours. I maybe ride for THREE. I ride maybe the biggest horse in the barn. I can TROT him. I ride him sometimes without a SADDLE. Or a BRIDLE. Or my HANDS." Sure you do. Cheeky kid.

The trail was, as always, gorgeous. It's getting greener and more lush as summer steadily creeps in, and the footing was great even though we had some really heavy rain early this morning. Gogo was great, but after all that time in the car, I was not. I was stiff and was posting so crookedly that it almost felt like it was Gogo that was uneven. A bit panicked, I got up in half seat, and then switched diagonals - phew, it's not her, it's just me posting violently over to the left. My back is completely out of alignment, and that isn't helping matters. We went on for 25 minutes of trot without meeting a single other soul, and then walked the rest of the way home. The ride ended up being more like 2:10, but that's all right. Except it kind of was twilight and pretttttty dark by the time we were done. Oh well, you do what you have to do get your conditioning in!

All that money I earned trailering horses is going to be put to good use this weekend - one of our boarders and I are going to have a mini-vaca on Friday and Saturday, and I CAN'T WAIT. On Friday, I'm trailering both our horses out to her friend Jen's facility, where Kerry Milliken is coming for lessons. Kerry is an Olympian who won the Individual Bronze at the 1996 Atlanta games in eventing, so I'm seriously PSYCHED to get to work with her. We're having a stadium lesson on Friday, and I'm hoping that if we click, I'll be able to go out and ride with her when Town Hill Farm opens their XC course - we could use some XC advice if we're planning on eventually moving up at the end of the year, if all goes well. After that, we get wine and cheese on Jen's porch, and our horses get overnight turnout (vacation!!) in a nice big field. Sleepover at Anne's house, yoga in the morning, and then we'll be off for a day of trail riding and JOY! I seriously can't WAIT, I totally need a break like that!!

Tomorrow, simple gymnastics to loosen her up and to let me focus on improving my position. I am sorry to say that none of you will be seeing my stadium round from King Oak, nor will I be buying any professional pictures, because they're just awful! (Sure, I was totally on edge because I had literally been told that I was in first without a rail in hand AS I was walking into the ring for my round, but that doesn't give me an excuse to override and be sloppy!)

Friday, May 15, 2009

No Rest for the Wicked

I'm tired. I'm reallllllllllllly tired. I work really hard and I never seem to really catch a break, or feel refreshed after my days off. This weekend should be lighter, because Vicki and a bunch of clients are at shows, but I still find myself crashing at around 8:30 at night unintentionlly, only to wake up at 11, annoyed at myself and STILL exhausted. It's hard to complain when the world is so fresh and green and beautiful, but man, life is hard when you're a broke kid who can't afford to eat enough greens or protein to not feel utterly exhausted during the day, or to get more than four consecutive hours of sleep... ever, much less four hours total a night.

Hence my lack of posts this week. I've been a zombie.

And yet, training and conditioning goes on. Monday was a day off, and Tuesday I took her for a lovely half-hour walk hack around our property - not that there's much property to hack around. I looped the GORGEOUS orchard a few times (full of dogwoods in full bloom, enough to make you dizzy from the smell), went around the paddocks, went up the driveway, went back around the orchard... etc! It's pretty small here, and I have to get creative sometimes.

The dogwoods.

Wednesday it was back to dressage work, and Gogo just seemed to know she'd been a rock star last weekend, because she went right out and strutted her stuff right off the bat. She really worked with me right from the very start. We had a few moments somewhere about a half hour in where her neck got a hair short, but as soon as I went back to some slightly less complicated stuff, it dissapeared immediately. We did tons of transitions, leg yields and some shoulder-in, and at the end of the lesson I played around a bit with some walk pirouettes and even a bit of reinback. She understands the concept of the walk pirouette, actually better now than ever before (don't just plant that hind leg and pivot, USE it!), and the reinback will take more time but it's coming. In the past, the reinback totally FREAKED her out and she'd rear like a maniac (I introduced it to her before I went to New Zealand and she understood, but when I got back and Crazy Trainer had messed her up, it was totally out of the question for a little while), but as long as I take little baby steps, I can eradicate that behavior. Praise, lots of praise. I was totally pleased with her and she was totally pleased with herself.

Back to gallops on Thursday! This week's work schedule was totally messed up so I had Wednesday and Thursday off instead of Friday and Saturday, so I was up early before the rain rolled in in. The grass in that field is growing out of control, and I'm not sure that the landowner has any plans to mow it, so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do - I don't know how accessable it's going to be as the summer progresses. As it stood Thursday, it felt a little bit like riding in deep snow, only less dramatic. By the end of our third gallop set, she was tired and so I was.

Warm-up: 20 minute walk hack
Sets: Trot 5 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Trot 5 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Trot 5 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Canter 4 minutes, 350mpm
Walk 2 minutes
Canter 4 minutes, 350mpm
Walk 2 minutes
Gallop 5 minutes, 470mpm
Cool down: 15 minute walk hack home

I had to push a bit the last minute or so, and we were both tired. Back at home, she got a nice cool rinse, a liniment bath, and a good half hour of grazing while I lazed in the grass nearby. Safety first!

And today, it was back to work, and it's going to be a long, seven-day stretch this time. She seemed to know I was delighted, however, about my truck arriving yesterday with my parents, and pranced around for them like a pretty fancy dressage horse (they came to watch). She was right there from the get-go, for the second time this week. I did a whole mess of leg yields right from the start, which helped connect her - Vicki said today, and after most gallop days, her body is a bit disconnected, like the area in front of the saddle wants to do dressage but the area behind it wants to gallop. A lot of leg yields really seemed to help that, and we did some fabulous trot work, including a bunch of high-quality lengthenings. The compression at the end of the lengthenings is what really helped bring her body part all back together, I think. On days after gallop days, I will have to rememeber to focus mostly on quality walk-trot work - the canter just wasn't there today and I wasn't going to push it. I had some small moments of good quality canter and I left it alone otherwise.

I was going to hack tomorrow BUT A) I'm supposed to trailer a horse to a show (WITH THE NEW TRUCK!) during work hours no less, B) the Preakness AND Rolex are both being aired on TV, also during work hours, and C) a former boarder and friend of ours want to take us out to dinner at 7, so I think tomorrow will be a day off, and then we'll hack or jump on Sunday, and then do the other of whatever we were supposed to do on Monday.

14 days until Mystic Valley H.T.!!!! Can you say R-E-P-E-A-T!!

Patrón got you in the zone

Man I have been a bad bad blogger this week! I will have updates for you soon, I promise. But I WILL leave you with this tantelizing hint:

Poor little Shaker looks so small and sad next to Patrón. I will miss my Shaker :( But Patrón.... IS SEXY.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

King Oak Video

Just quick video from King Oak's XC phase:

Not always the prettist, but effective, lol :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

King Oak Farms H.T. 5/10/09


Oh we did, we did, we did! Gogo tromped her field of 20 on this beautiful, windy, sunny day to win her first Novice on her dressage score of 31.1!

What an awesome day. It wasn't without some hairy, sticky spots, but for the most part it was just beautiful and flawless. I was totally thrilled with her performance. With all the rain we've been getting, it was nice to see some sunshine, even if it was windy. I had actually been hoping for some wind with all the trouble with the stupid bugs we've had lately, and I lucked out.

We were sparkling and shiny for our dressage, all fancied up with our lovely little braids:

I like my buttons, they were all right. I actually had three people come watch me - yay friends!! - and I got on with a little over an hour to warm up for dressage. Unfortunately for me, it's realllllllly hard to gauge how long it's going to take Gogo to warm up. Sometimes it's a half hour, sometimes it's an hour and a half til I feel like she's ready. The warmup was a big freaking pockmarked mess with all the mess and the mud we've had, but we did the best we could and stayed squished into one tiny little area about the size of a 20-meter circle where the footing wasn't so bad, with about 10 other people too. There actually was a girl and her horse who literally both took a nosedive in the warmup directly in front of me when the horse tripped on a pothole. They both rolled over, got up, and were fine. Man that has to be unnerving during your dressage warmup right before you go in the ring! Anyway, Gogo warmed up beautifully, and a lot faster than I anticipated. Of course, right? The ring ran kind of slow and I ended up overworking her, much to my dismay. When she's ready, she's ready, and you can't take a nice long rein walk break because you'll never get her back. You can see in the video (which I will post later) that she was tired and lacking impulsion in her trotwork. FINALLY, we went in the ring (20 minutes late!!) and Gogo put in an awesome test. The judging I felt was very tough but fair at the same time - we got several 8's, several 7's, one totally deserved 9 for a beautiful trot movement across the diagonal, and two 5's, one for a pretty crappy free walk (which I kind of anticipated, and accepted as something that needs more work... I gave her some rein and she stayed right there instead of stretching... ohhhh well) and one for our halt which was actually mostly square, but I felt her leaving her right hind behind her, so I put my right leg on. Lately, when she's been leaving a leg behind instead of being square, if I ask her to correct it she does. Today, however, she did mega rhumba butt to the left when I put my right leg on, so we had a pretty crooked halt. Not a 5 really, but there you are. Our score, despite those two 5's, was still a 31.1, and we were in 1st after dressage with no rails in hand (second place was a 34 something).

Back at the trailer, we had some drink and some munchy, and then got ready for stadium. I only gave her about a 10-15 minute warmup that was mostly walk, trot, canter and about three fences, and then we went in. I was a little anxious since I had just found out I was in 1st, so I overrode the course and got a few wonky spots, totally my fault. The arena was tiny and hard to ride in, and the course was seriously wasn't even a minute and a half long, and we were clean. It wasn't the prettiest course, but clean is what matters, and we have our homework cut out for us - mostly just concerning my brain!

No pictures yet - will get some professional ones when they get put online and I get proofs :)

I had everyone help me to quick pull her braids out and do a fast tack change, and with all the sets of hands we were done early, and had about 10 minutes to get a good drink and some grass (and a bite of a Nutrigrain bar for me - seriously, I haven't eaten in like two days because I've been so jittery) before getting on for x-country), and then it was off to x-country. I mostly walked, did some trot and some motoring canter just to get her trucking, and made her wait for my few warmup fences. I just wanted to give her a good, quiet, conservative ride, and I knew we'd be fine if I did. The first two little logs on course she oogled at, the third log she really oogled at, and the fourth coop she majorly hesitated. I never felt like she was going to stop or run out, but as a precaution, I gave her a little pop with my bat. And she LAUNCHED right from where she was, and landed WAY right on the other side... where there was a giant tree, right in front of us, about two strides away. Oh crap!! I went to veer right around it, and she instead veered left, so we had a moment of lost stirrupness and lost time as I slowed to pick it back up and continue down the steep hill at a trot. Oh well, that wasn't too pretty but the rest of the course from then on out just got better and better. We had the best down bank of my life at the bottom of the hill, made it through the palisade combination easily, went up the up bank and made the cranker to the totally freaky chevrons smoothly (I thought for her she'd look at it... apparently not! I left that with a big smile on my face!) and everything else went smoothly from there on our, including the broken line. She jumped it at a bit of a slice, landed big and totally let me, for maybe the first time on course ever, give a strong half-halt and a tight turning aid and had absolutely no fuss or problems approaching the next fence, just a few strides away. The hedge of doom, as I predicted, was not touched but totally jumped over, but it felt totally nice. From there on our, it was smooth sailing, and despite the bad bobble with fence four, we came in cleanly under the time, securing our first place finish.

And in doing so, we beat out 19 others, clinched our first victory at Novice, scored a bunch of points for the Leaderboard, qualified ourselves for Area 1 Championships, and got a qualifying score for the AECs - and we even got pretty stuff to boot:

I've got the best mare in the world, victory is sooooooooooooo sweet, and life is soooooooooooooooooooo good.

Oh wait, one more thing: my dad bought the truck!!!!!!!!!!

It's still in MI so we have to make a renvezvous to switch vehicles, but there it is. I didn't want a silver one but seriously, can I even say that without sounding like a really snotty little wench? My first Jeep was named Taco (solid Mexi food), the Durango is Shaker (liquid-ish foody-drink), so we decided to come full circle and go all the way into full Mexi liquids - we're calling it Patrón (tequila!). It's totally covered in chrome so I feel like it seriously fits. They see me rollin', they hatin'.....

Today's the Day.

It's finally here.
After months of training, waiting, dreaming, our first horse trial of the year is today.
We've put hours and hours in, worked impossibly hard, made ourselves work when we didn't want to, suffered setbacks and enjoyed massive progression at the same time.
This is her first Novice ever, and it's not easy.
This is our first Area I event, and we are competing against 20 tough competitiors.

We've worked so hard for this.
And we are ready.

Wish us luck today.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow!

I've had a great couple of days preparing for the King Oak Farms H.T., which begins today, and which I ride in tomorrow. Thursday is gallop day, but since it's honestly been raining for about two and a half weeks without stopping, the field is very wet and I don't want to chew up the ground. Instead, I went on a nice trail ride/hack with another one of our boarders to the only set of trails anywhere remotely near the barn. The mini system backs up to my gallop field, and it's about a 10-15 minute loop, nothing more. But Gogo was absolutely delighted to have a friend to go with, and was super cheerful before and after. That cheer lasted into yesterday, when we had a really good dressage school, our last one before the show. Our transitions and canters weren't *quite* where I wanted them to be, but no matter, they will come when we're at the show. She had some completely fabulous trotwork, and I finished a little bit early when she gave me the most balanced down transition to walk - simple and sweet, doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. After that, I hose her, grazed her, put her away with her fan on (yes it was finally that warm yesterday, and sunny too!) and headed out to the King Oak property to scout out the lay of the land and to walk the courses.

Oh boy. They're not easy.

Well, I take that back. The stadium's not bad. However, it's in a teeeeeny little arena and all the jumps are all on top of each other, so it's very busy looking.

But nothing we can't handle. Except the fences are definitely going to be maxed out. They had it set for Training and I'm CERTAIN that they were bigger than 3'3". Actually, I just checked the rulebook and it says that heights are 3'3" but the highest points on spreads can be 3'9" for Training. WTF?

And the cross-country course? Yep, pretty much had a heart attack when I saw a few of these puppies:

Greyhound to scale! Yes, those are some tough questions for her and they're all at almost 3', except for the Brush Fence of Doom, which is a maxed out 3'7". It's HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE. Knowing Gogo, she'll just pop right over it, in a totally enormous and relaxed kind of way, and I will just hang the hell on. The first two fences of the course are really small and shared with BN, which is nice - get you rolling on the right foot. Then you turn up a really steep, gravelly hill into the woods, and head to fence three, which is a big chunky log and is pictured here. From there you hit another huge palisade and then go down a really steep hill to fence 5, which is the big drop pictured with my Ti jumping off of it. She's a big greyhound folks, she's not some teeny thing! So I'll be hauling on her and trotting off of that, which then takes me into a big meadow where we have our first two-stride combination. Back into the woods we go, this time to an up bank, and then we have a hard cranker of a turn to the biggest chevrons EVER, also pictured. Seriously, that's Novice?? Back down into the meadow and through the water for obstacle 9, and then the exit is three strides to a little barn for fence 10. A nice big hayrack and a trakehner follow, and then we have a hard question - her first offset fences on x-country, pictured. They're not REALLY that offset, but they're maxed out, and I'll have to be careful and just gauge how she's going. And then... THE BRUSH FENCE OF DOOM! Seriously, from far away I thought, oh that's going to be so nice, and then I got up close. BAM! That thing is completely maxed out at 3'7", which is the brush height for Novice. Problem is, I don't really know that Gogo gets that she can touch the brush. I have a feeling we'll just be leaping over it. From there, the course is almost over - fence 15 is a simple set of funky pieces of wood (like lincoln logs sort of), and then a big gallop to a sharp turn, ending over a simple and small bench that is shared with BN. Start easy, end easy. It's the middle that's not so easy!

If I just give her a good ride we'll be fine. If she's as relaxed as she was on Monday, we'll be fine. But man it's going to be prettttttty exciting, I can tell you that! The course will definitely knock people out of the competition, it's tough. It's her first Novice and I'm understandably getting the pre-show jitters!

Today we clean tack, hook up, air up tires, clip and trim, handwalk (I get way too pressured before a show to actually give her a good ride the day before), pack up,
and bathe. Tomorrow before I leave I'll braid, and then head out for the first really big show of the 2009 season.

I've got butterflies and I'm totally excited. This competiton means business. There are a full 20 people in my division and they're not joking around, and neither are the courses. The pressure is on to place well, but in the end I just want to give her a good ride and make it a good experience.

Totally, totally psyched.