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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Groton House Farm H.T. 6/28/09: Day 3, Stadium


WE DID IT. WE DID IT! OH MY GOD. I can't even believe this happened. WE WON GROTON HOUSE.

This weekend was just one big awesome time. Not only did Shannon come out yesterday to see XC, but today Daun and her SO came out to watch and cheer me on and bring me delicious eggs. HOW AWESOME IS THAT. Thanks Daun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Everything went smooth and nearly flawless today. The weather wasn't particularly cooperative - cool and misty all day long - but it wasn't rain and it wasn't freezing. The wise comment on that: "well, better than hot and muggy!" Agreed. Gogo was still sparkly clean this morning when I took off her sleazies, and I regroomed and rebraided her. I didn't ever actually take pictures of the course - oops - but I walked it in the crappy weather and found that it was set up to ride smoothly. The first two fences were simple verticals that rode at a forward five strides, with a left turn to an oxer. The oxer rode to a black and white plank, then to an offset oxer off to the right. A hard right turn led to a triple bar covered in super gay rainbow stripes, then a tight left turn to a funky vertical decked in oars and docklines and other boat-y stuff, then another forward ride to a big oxer. The last two on course were a combination, a two-stride which had a trick: a very wide oxer as the first fence, then two strides to a vertical instead of the other way around. Once we were all dressed and ready to go, I went up to the warmup going hey, we've got time to mosey! So mosey we did, and did a little trot, a little canter. We trotted two crossrails just to get started. And then suddenly, Daun is flagging me down going, they're calling for you!! Wait, what? I haven't even cantered a fence yet! How are they running so fast? Oh well, here goes nothing!

And she was great. I overrode parts of the course but overall it was pretty smooth. We took a longer approach to the final combination than I expected, seeing as we landed further out from the number eight oxer than anticipated (and she had touched the rail) and I wasn't worried about time, but I did hustle her on a little and didn't get her quite back at the oxer going into the combination. She FLEW over that final fence! Wood allergy, anyone? The woman I had been tied with had a rail and dropped I think to seventh, and the rider who had been in first also dropped a rail at fence 5. That moved me up into first place.


I am completely exhausted but I will have more pictures and video later on. I have to work tomorrow (and alllll week), but at least Gogo will get a rest. Tomorrow she'll have off with some nice handwalking and grazing as well as the longest turnout we can manage without her freaking out, and she'll have a very light walk hack of probably around a half hour on Tuesday. Wednesday, it's back to work for us, seeing as the Area I Novice Championships are just two weeks away. Maybe it'll stop raining so we can actually GALLOP sometime this century.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Groton House Farm H.T. 6/27/09: Day 2, Cross-Country


Fabulous, fabulous Gogo and I have unofficially broken our tie for 2nd. At the end of stadium, ties are determined by looking back on XC and seeing who came closest to the optimum time. In terms of seconds, optimum time for our course was 312 seconds. The other rider has 302 seconds. And us? We had 310. DAMN WE'RE GOOD.

But we were only that close (which normally would be WAY too close for me) because Gogo was freaky as hell on course. I correctly assumed that because of the flaming heat and doing XC on a separate day, she was going to be looky and hot. And, well, she was, sort of. I'm not going to say she was HOT per se, but the big questions on course really caused her to look. She went over the first two just fine, looked hard at the third fence (couldn't see the landing), cruised over four and five, and gave an ENORMOUS leap at the sixths (the dark one in the woods going out into the light). I don't think she could tell that the brush bushes in it were, you know, brush, so she went over it. All four feet of it. Seven, eight, nine and ten all went well, but by this time I was riding hard and defensively at every fence instead of letting it roll smoothly. She listened well when I gave a hard half-halt down the hill to fence 11, and we cruised through the woods to the real meat of the course, fences 12 through 15 - the ditch, drop fence, water in and jump out, and hidden barn at the top of an offset hill. Well! The yawning black ditch with a troll in it almost went smoothly, but at the last second she saw that it was filled with black mulch and was much bigger than anything she'd done before, and gave it the popeye and hesitated hard, but had too much momentum and launched over it. A big pat from me, and it was onto the drop, but she was wary after the ditch and gave the drop, water and barn this kind of a crazy crazy ride:

Shannon (the barn manager) surprised me by coming to watch my XC run before heading back south to see her boyfriend. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? She got up at 4 just to watch a tiny piece of my ride! She's awesome, AND she filmed me too!
And oh my GOD is that not HYSTERICAL when she does the awful LAUNCH off the drop? It really was just a very green mistake and typical of a horse that doesn't understand how to drop down instead of leap off, so that's understandable, but the water? She's never really looked that hard at any water before, and as you can see I was pretty much beating the hell of out her to get her in. She trotted out fine, cross-cantered all the way to the barn, and then wiggled all the way to fence 16. Fence 17 was uneventful. As I glanced at my watch just before the finish (which you don't see), I saw that my watch said 5:08, and the optimum time was 5:12. Believe me, I was spurring by that time!! We crossed the line on 5:10.... CLOSE. TOOOOOO CLOSE.

But it worked out didn't it!!!! Thanks to her spookiness and hormones, we are the unofficial breakers of the tie should we both go clean tomorrow. The stadium course is currently set for training, and we have a different track, so I'll be walking it tomorrow, and don't have pictures of it.

I really can't stop cracking up every time I see her stag off of the drop. It is SO FUNNY.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Groton House Farm H.T. 6/26/09: Day 1, Dressage


Out of our enormous and very competitive division (23 people, there were two scratches last minute), Gogo and I have tied for 2nd with a 31.5, less than half a point behind the leader. The leader is a professional riding at Intermediate (and just did a CIC** in Florida), and the rider I'm tied with is an Advanced/Intermediate professional who just spent the winter competing in Area 3. And then there's me. To say I'm thrilled doesn't begin to describe it.

We had a very solid dressage test. She just warmed up well, and maintained it through our entire test. We had the same comments that we've gotten all year so far - needs more activity and forwardness - but I was letting her be on the lazier, more relaxed side, just to err on the side of caution. I obviously will need to fire her up a little more for the Areas! I can put that kind of pressure on her now, but last year it would have been a disaster. Just one more maturity notch in the Gogo training stick. We had an ENORMOUS severe thunderstorm (complete with ground lightening and hail) at 5am this morning, but it was gone long before I ever even got on. I had plenty of sun for my dressage test.

That's what I saw out my window at 5am.

From there, it got progressively hotter and muggier... and I got a nice sunburn after walking the course again in the afternoon. I pretty much killed Ti, who was panting uncontrollably by the end of the coursewalk. You'd think a greyhound with no fat or hair would enjoy the heat, but apparently not. The course looks awesome. If you want to sort of follow along, you can go to the coursewalk, but the pictures aren't working for me... at least you'll have the map!

From the startbox, we have our first fence, a big rampy thing all covered in bright purple flowers jumping into a downhill area. Pretty intimidating for the first one on course! You go through a narrow opening in a fenceline, then swerve back up another hill to the right to fence two, a set of logs filled in with brush like so:

We'll be shooting for the gap between the second and third trees so she's not so backed off. Up from there you go down a path in the woods to a set of logs that is set to land on a downhill slope, so you can't see the landing until you're on top of it, and you have to crank right when you hit the ground. The fourth fence is another set of funky narrow logs, and then comes a question - how to get to fence five? You have to thread the needle through a bunch of trees on a hill, and the question stands as where IS the best place to go? I have a path picked out that should cut time and not be too outrageous, so we'll just see how she's feeling. The fifth fence is simple:

But the following path is NOT! You again need to weave through the trees in the woods to get to fence six, which is big and dark and in the shadows so you can't see it well. There is just no easy way to get there. Once you're over fence six, you're back out in the field, and fences seven and eight are straightforward, easy to look at, and gallopy... very gallopy. There is a looooooong gallop to fence nine, which is a hay rack that's a bit looky, and fence 10 is a barn that's on a loop around through where the dressage arenas were. Down a steep hill and you have fence 11 - only the second real stand-alone fence on course that's not connected to a fenceline (fence four is the first), and the landing is up a steep hill and into the woods. We'll need to pick a careful line so we don't end up in the damn trees! Cranking it to the left, and then back to the right, you gallop down a road that brings you eventually to the opening of the next field and fence 12, which is an enormous black yawning ditch of doom. It's bigger and deeper and darker (filled with black mulch) than any ditch she's ever done, and she used to have a major ditch phobia, so EYES UP and LEG ON! That's a big question, and so is the next fence: an actual small drop fence. Not just a downbank, but a real drop fence, which looks like this from the landing side:

And the landing is looky as hell - you drop off onto a short sloping hill, at the bottom of which is the entire water complex, tons of people, tents, fountains, etc! You can't see ANY of that until you get to the actual drop! You need to crank to the right HARD when you land to look around to the water, which looks like this only plus the actual, you know, water:

Her first real fence out of water. It's a NARROW corridor out, and a hard turn to the left in order to get to fence 15, so this is going to be trick and I will be conservative through these four efforts. But there's only two to go from here on out, so we'll gun it to fences 16 and 17, which are big, rampy, and covered in more flowers and shrubs. The idea is to get as close as possible to the optimum time to break the tie, so I'll take it more conservatively if I can. The rider tied with me obviously knows what she's doing, so she's going to be shooting for the same and probably already has a way better feel for the pace of this course than I will, so I'll keep my eye on my watch.


Aw man. As Daun said, "tell her to keep her panties on, she's working!"

We ride tomorrow at 8:28am. SO FREAKING EXCITED. The course is big, flowy, gallopy and fun looking. I am pumped as hell and I can't wait!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Ti and Gogo and I have arrived safely in Hamilton, MA, for the Groton House H.T. Even though I had to work today, everyone hustled me out of there as quickly as possile, and we were on the road by 1pm. We actually got in before 4... speedy quick! It was a bit crazy when we got there - trailers all over! - but we got everything sorted and settled, and I braided Gogo before her dinnertime.

She looks popeyed.... I wonder what she was oogling at.

Ti and I had some snacks from the welcome party, but I didn't stick around too long because I was too eager to get out and see XC! The course looks awesome. Interestingly, the majority of the fences are within a fenceline... very few stand alone jumps. I actually don't think the course looks THAT hard; I think King Oak was harder. The very first fence is the most intimidating first fence we've faced yet:

Bright flowers! I like it. I'll go over the couse in more detail tomorrow, but we have a few things on course that are new to Gogo. For instance, we have our first real drop fence. Not a down bank, but an actual low fence with a pretty big drop on the other side. We also have our first jump out of water - we've done up banks out of water, and plenty of fences a few strides after water, but technically none that actually have a take off in the water and land out of the water. It's teeny weenie, but it's still there! There are lots of big gallops and lots of beautiful, hilly land. SO EXCITED.

It's also our first time doing dressage in a grass ring. Sweet!

We ride at 8:36 tomorrow morning. There are twenty-four people in my division, and a whole lot of them are GOOD. REALLY GOOD. As long as I give her a good ride, we'll do just fine. I don't know where we'll place, but I expect us to earn a reasonable score. She IS in flaming, flaming heat though.... so we'll see. I pretty much tripled her raspberry leaf for the weekend, just to see if I can keep her body relaxed. We'll see!

WISH US LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let's have some fun, this beat is sick!

What do YOU do for your pre-show ritual?

I spend the entire week prior to the show getting ready. For Groton House, for instance, I started on Sunday, stripping all the old bedding and hay scraps out of my trailer, adding fresh bedding, cleaning up her shipping halter and boots, and hanging a fresh haybag. On Monday, I cleaned out my trailer's tackroom, got my ride times, organized and laundered my show clothes (the few that were still dirty), and hung them all up neatly in my coat bag in my tack room. Tuesday, I went to the store and bought petfood (cause I needed to anyway) and picked up some snacks, vacuumed out and washed Patron, cleaned out and organized my brushbox and grooming tools, and packed hay and shavings into the bed of the beasttruck. I also snagged some library books, because who doesn't want to read Harry Potter for the 90,000th time? Today was a bit more hectic - I packed all her grain, cleaned ALLLLL my tack, trimmed her feet, packed up the dog's stuff, cleaned my helmet, made sure all my pads and things were all washed and put away, and am still in the process of getting directions, doing laundry, polishing my boots, and packing up all my remaining stuff. Tomorrow, I'll finish packing, clip, trim, bathe, braid, and otherwise clean Her Majesty Queen of Dirt, inventory alllll my stuff, make sure my test is memorized, make sure my GPS is ready, make sure my food is all packed, and go through the ten million things I forget to mention during this little blog post. Then, after work, she and I will be rollin on 22's. (And I mean that... have you SEEN my rims? Patron has so much chrome its like a boobie trap!)

Oye, it's almost midnight and still so much left to do. Gogo had another tremendously amazing dressage workout today, and I've been on cloud nine. I was sidelined for a few hours from my packing today when my friend Colleen asked me to come with her to pick up her horse from the equine clinic, and we ended up taking my truck and trailer instead of hers, because the mare doesn't seem to scramble in mine. I feel awful for them... they've worked their BUTTS off this season and are showing 4th level and doing the Juniors tests, and qualified for a team slot for the NAJYRC (the Junior Olympics, essentially), and the mare hasn't been right recently. They finally opted for an MRI after not finding anything conclusive, and as it turns out, Duet has a tear right near the insertion of her DDFT, right before it articulates with the coffin bone. There's some swelling in the navicular bursa too, so that explains all her ouchiness and the location of the pain. That's the end of this show season for them... Duet gets 6 months of stall rest now. It was Colleen's last year as a Junior. That just sucks something terrible. She just sent her entries in for the NAJYRC the other day.
But anyway, that was why I seem to still be fussing around here, waiting impatiently for my laundry to finish drying so I can finish my packing and GO TO SLEEP. Mmmmmm.... sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep goooooooooood.

I am also happy to report that because my very wonderfully kind mother booked me a hotel room instead of allowing me to spend the weekend sleeping in my trailer, I will have internet access and can post pictures and updates throughout the weekend!!

All right, laundry's done... we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Time for SLEEP!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ever forget you were gay?

I have! Actually I do all the time. I've had several people ask me about this subject, and got a few questions from an anonymous commenter just the other day, so I felt that touching on the subject might be silly and fun.

No, seriously, I forget that I'm gay. It's such a normal, boring ol' life thing that's just a part of who I am and is also totally forgettable, like having short hair or a nice tan or some killer arm muscle (that's me! Seriously, it's freaking me out, I look like a G-D bodybuilder right now). Being with a girl (more specifically, my fiancee) is such a natural and normal thing that I find myself eyeballing straight couples every once in a while, because it looks unnatural to me. No seriously, I do! Heterophobia... well, the first step is admitting it, right? I accept my straight friends for what they are, and just have to deal with the fact that no matter what I say, I'm not going to be able to convince them that sex with girls is THE BEST THING EVER. No, seriously, try it!

In all seriousness, I suppose that loving and sleeping with women exclusively has earned me that weird L-word label. I'm not much into labels or the whole gay pride thing, nor do I really feel like it's a huge and glaring part of my everyday existence. But just because I feel that way doesn't mean that everybody else does too. In an ideal world, we'd all just love whomever we happen to love, and that would be the end of the story. In reality, there are lots of people out there who hate us, want to hurt us, and want us to remain as second-class citizens. Don't believe me? Just go Google the Westboro Baptist Church, or Fred Phelps. I won't post a link to it because it makes my stomach church.
Some people hate me for being a girl in love with another girl. (Maybe they're jealous of the hot hot hot hot hot HOT sex. No seriously. I'd be jealous too.) Some people slander us with horrible, crude names, some people tell us we'll be burning in hell, some people tell us that we ought to be shot and killed. Some of us do get shot and killed. I've had my ass beat more than once, and worse. Way worse. I don't talk about it anymore, but it hasn't changed who I am. How could it? I'm not afraid to love. And I honestly don't understand it. Why? Why hate? Why waste the time and energy when there is so little love in this world anyway?

Was it hard to "come out?" Well, yeah, it was. I kind of figured it out on my own after I caught myself staring at girls' butts in tight pants and skirts while going up the stairs behind them at high school (no seriously. THAT'S how I found out I gay. While I tried to convince myself I was just jealous of their round little buttcheeks, I actually just wanted to jump those round little buttcheeks. To put it politely.) I told my mom when I was 16 and had my first ever girlfriend. She didn't take it all that well. My father, on the other hand, found out because he walked in on my then girlfriend and I doing... well, you know. And hey presto! I found myself landed in a mental hospital for a week to cure the gay. That didn't go over too well. No seriously.

And no, I didn't tell anyone at the barn for a long time.... a few years and many girls later. At some point, I found myself just blurting it out to the daughters of the trainer, and they all just laughed and said they knew. Did some of my friends walk away from me forever? Yes. But to me, that signalled something very important - if they were not willing to accept this part of me, then I didn't want them in my life anyway, because that is no way to treat a real friend. It sort of cleaned out who was really real, and who wasn't. And I found that even the ones that had a very hard time accepting and dealing with it (the super religious types, etc) but still stuck with me were the ones that meant the most to me. That's love, and that's the ability for human beings to bond and grow and accept each other. It's the little differences that really make people well-rounded, worldly, educated, and sympathetic to one another.

So where does that leave me today? I'm here at this barn in Connecticut, and everyone knows, just because they all figure it out on their own - I felt no need to go and broadcast it to the world, because why should I? (I suppose this is the entire gay pride debate - straight people don't go around broadcasting their straightness, so why should gay people go around broadcasting their gayness? It's one thing to be proud of who you are, but it's another to be annoying about it. I don't get the whole pride thing, but I completely understand the reasons behind it. But I think pride parades are really annoying, personally. Be loud, be proud, I guess, but I kind of really just don't care. I sound like a homophobic bigot, I think. Obviously that's not my intention.) Everyone here, in all honestly, just doesn't care, or is totally happy for me. I don't think it's changed how any of them see me or think of me. But I am fortunate, because some people really are nasty about it. It's just another little part of who I am, and I really and honestly forget about it on a day-to-day basis. When I was 16, it was totally on my mind ALL THE TIME, and I wore rainbows and crap like you do when you're 16 and wanting to attract mates. But now? I have my little rainbow sticker on my car because, in all honesty, I don't want people to get the wrong impression and think I'm straight. No seriously! I'd hate to be mistaken for a straight person, how weird would that be! And beyond that, I dunno. I act with my fiancee the way any other engaged could should act - loving and happy. I don't think this makes me different from anybody else.

Being gay is just.... normal. It's just life. Once in awhile, Alex turns to me with this look on her face, and goes, "Wow... we're gay." And I'll always say, "I know, that's so weird! I forgot."

So to sum it up - if you're gay or you're bi or you're straight or you're poly or you're asexual or you're this or that or whatever, amen and more power to you. If you're struggling to come out to your friends and family, hang in there. It's not easy at first, but it will get better over time, I promise. Will people get mad at you? Yes. Will people hate you? Yes. Will other people love and support you? Yes. My advice is to surround yourself with the good and loving people, because they're the only ones that matter. Life is too short to hate anyone or anything. There are too many good humans out there to love, so don't waste time and energy with the bad ones.

And just be gay. Whatever that means to you, just be it. If that means waving a big fat rainbow flag out your window, then go for it. If that means spending a quiet evening at home with your fiancee, then go for it. Just be you, whoever you are, whether or not you're queer in any way or have blond hair or brown eyes or are really tall or have a weird birthmark that's shaped like Texas. And love yourself. Always.


In other news, Gogo is AMAZING. We had another incredible dressage session today that just blew my mind. She's becoming so confident and happy in her dressage work.. it's like having a whole new horse. She's literally been transformed. No longer is she is the skittery, anti-contact bundle of nerves that she was two years ago when I got her back from Crazy Trainer. This new Gogo goes out to my contact and stays there... and is actually heavier than I'd like sometimes, which is a whole new concept. This new Gogo takes manipulations through the contact without any great leaps, massive stiffening, major resistance, or rearing (all things we did two years ago). This new Gogo actually likes dressage, because she understands what I'm asking. She finally, finally, after all this time finally went OH! Okay. THAT'S what you want. You're not trying to take on my face or hurt me or scare me or take away my freedom. You want to help me be freer. But I can still do it on my own.

She's from a notoriously late-maturing, headstrong line of horses, but they're also amazingly smart and strong. I think she'd jump the moon if I asked her to, but she'd take full credit once we were back on earth again. She's proud of herself. I can feel it in her dressage-y swagger. I might be anthropomorphizing, but it's there. And if we can channel it together just right, there's nothing we can't do.

Groton House is almost, almost here.... and I can't freaking wait.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Countdown to Groton House: Four Days!!

Sorry for my lack of updates these past few days. Ever since the great flood on Friday when the pipe burst in my closet (effectively covering my entire floor with two inches of standing water), I've been a bit out of my mind. Today, actually, I was planning on giving Gogo a light jump school, but I've been suffering some pretty awful mold illness (between the leaking, flooding, and high humidity, we seem to have a mold explosion in here, which is making me rather sick), and my vertigo and nausea were overwhelming (no puking, thank god). I felt it wasn't particularly safe to get on my horse when I could hardly walk a straight line, especially when I was planning on jumping, so she got a light lunge instead. She did break a sweat, and we did plenty of trot-canter transitions, so I'm happy with what we did. I certainly don't need to school her hard the week before a tough show, and there was nothing over fences that I could have done today that would better prepare her for this coming weekend, so it all worked out. I am thankfuly feeling better now, but I'm back in the apartment... so I probably will feel like crap again tomorrow morning.

Saturday and Sunday were great fun. On Saturday, Anne and Salute and Gogo and I went back to the Larkin Trails and up into the Middlebury Bridle Land, where we did our 25 minute trot, which was the real conditioning part of our hack, popped over some XC fences, cruised for a little while at a brisk canter, and shared some good laughs. We were out for longer than expected - three hours - but neither Gogo nor Salute seemed any worse for the wear afterwards.

Some liniment, a long afternoon turnout, some wrapping and a good night's sleep, and she was bouncy and cheerful as could be when I went out to feed breakfast yesterday morning. And even though it was crappy and rainy all day, after work I still tacked up and rode to Dunkin Donuts to get myself a nice hot cocoa :) I carried a dressage whip this time, and just having it there encouraged her to WALK instead of saunter! We seem to be making friends along the way... people love to stop and pet her! Which, of course, strokes her ego and makes her strut along like, "yes, my admirerers are all here... come, flock to me humans!"

And then today, of course, was an epic moldy fail.
Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better, less vertigo-y day. Dressage lesson tomorrow, dressage lesson on Wednesday, day off on Thursday, and then we take off Thursday night. I've already packed all my show clothes, cleaned out the tack room, and stripped the back of the trailer, so we're under control in terms of packing. Ride times should be up soon!


EDIT: Okay, Groton House is the best ever. Not only did they already post the results from the Summer Classic (this past weekend's schooling event) already, but on the same day they also posted our start times. GO GROTON HOUSE!
Dressage: 8:36am
XC: 8:28am
And stadium is... whenever stadium is. This is a tentative time schedule, mind you, but that's pretty awesome - I'll have tons of time to watch the rest of the divisions go!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....

Great Smokey Mountains National Park, North Carolina.
The road trip from Ohio to Florida last year led us right through this beautiful gem. It was great. And cold.

Dressage, dressage, dressage

The title says it all. We've been doing dressage... dressage... and more dressage over these past three days. I had a lesson on Tuesday, which went pretty well, and a lesson on Wednesday, which went a lot better. We finally made it back out into the outdoor - YAY! - but then of course, yesterday it POURED ALL THE LIVELONG DAY, so we ended up having to head back inside. Interestingly enough, yesterday, my indoor-not-lesson ride was THE BEST out of all three of them. That's exactly how I like to end a dressage spree - with an amazing ride!
It didn't start out amazing. She stretched fairly well from the get-go but was having nothing to do with coming back up. She was essentially giving me the big middle hoof, if you know what I mean. I asked nicely, I asked not nicely, I waited, I refused to wait any longer, I waited even after I refused to wait any longer... still nothing. She stayed locked at the withers, gnashing her teeth, and that was the end of that. 40 minutes into the ride, I still had nothing... and then something changed. I have no idea what it was. I don't think did anything particularly different. But she transformed from tense and locked to supple, loose, relaxed, forward, and steady. She stretched into the contact and took every correction I made properly, and without tension in her neck or back. She lengthened more dramatically than ever before. She crossed so far underneath himself in our leg yields that I could hardly believe it when I saw it in the mirror. And we had collection - real collection - in the canter, which I could completely maintain with my seat alone. In front, she stayed light and connected. It was amazing, light, smooth, connected, and beautiful work. I dismounted with a big stupid grin on my face. If we have a ride remotely like that at Groton House, we'll win. Of course, I say that now... Gogo is very good at keeping me humble at the shows that matter the most!! But I'm delighted with how she's been working. Groton House is right around the corner and we're ready, ready, ready. I can't wait!!!

But then of course, things like today happen too. The plan has been to start gallops on Friday instead of Thursday, but it's been raining - torrentially, I might add - for the past, oh I dunno, three weeks. Yesterday it rained so hard that the horses didn't even get turned out at all, so obviously today, seeing as everything was drenched, there was no galloping surface to be had. Today I spent the morning and early afternoon at the Mystic Aquarium, and then was going to come home and hack Gogo to the Dunkin Donuts again. Of course, I got home and went into my room to change, and found that the ENTIRE SURFACE OF MY FLOOR WAS COVERED IN TWO INCHES OF STANDING WATER. A pipe burst in my closet... the pipe that the handyman already fixed yesterday night. AWESOME. So, instead of riding, I've been making a very sad attempt to throw out all my ruined stuff, move furniture, soak up the worst of the water, and run the Shop Vac/dehumidifier/three fans in a sad effort to make a LITTLE of the water dry up. Seriously though, everything is soaked. It's awful.

So no riding today. Gogo had today off instead of Sunday, which works just fine, seeing as she'll have next Thursday off. SIGH! But, some good things happened today: I got an additional award in from the Mystic show (more on that later), and I found that RNS Media is running a video special for the Groton House trials, so I might get to have a professional video made!!

Speaking of which, a few of you have mentioned that you'll be around at Groton House and wanted to come cheer us on. If that's you, leave a comment or e-mail me at, and I'll pass along my cell number.

I have one more interesting and exciting bit of news for you. They've just announced the location for the 2010-2012 AECs: Chattahoochee Hills, outside of Atlanta, GA. That's right by the Georgia Aquarium ya'll. Where they have WHALE SHARKS. That's one HELL of a long roadtrip to Atlanta, but oh my god, is that not going to be FUN AS? I'm ALREADY excited!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sun: Making Do (and a Mess); Mon: Gogo's First Corners!

It's been a rather successful two days, interspersed with some, erm... happenings. Well, one main happening really. Yesterday, I decided to bite the bullet and try my gallops in the orchard, hoping that it was dry enough, so armed with my GPS for the first time, we set off.
First thing I noticed was my GPS's fitfulness in the trees. It seems to get confused when you're anywhere that doesn't have a direct line right to the satellite, which, when you're in an orchard, doesn't really seem to work all that well. I spent the entire span of my trot sets circling the field in all directions, looking for the best possible route for a faster rate of speed. And, well.. there wasn't really a good route anywhere, honestly. I chose as best I could, and used the GPS when we were under open skies. It ended up working all right - we were on a big oval that was only really under treecover on one end (the dangerous end, where I got attacked by tree branches when we were going 470mpm!!). In the open area, I was interested to find that was I thought was 350mpm was actually more like 300mpm, and what I thought was 470mpm was actually more like 500mpm!! That's very nearly Prelim speed kids! I adjusted slightly (speed up and slowed down, respectively), and was pleased to find how easy it was for Gogo. She was awesome! We got pretty sweaty by the end because of how humid it was, but back in the barn Gogo was bouncing around on the crossties like an energetic and very naughty pinball, so it doesn't seem to have worn her out much.

10 minutes walk warmup
4 minutes trot
1 minute walk
4 minutes trot
1 minute walk
4 minutes trot
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
1 minute walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
2 minutes walk
5 min 470mpm gallop
15 minutes walk hack cooldown

We galloped in the snaffle and she was amazingly responsive, light, balanced, and delighted with herself. And then, of course, the happening: I went back up in the field to check out the footing and.... I turfed it. Of course. Not badly, of course, just left a steady trail of small dents, but that's more than I expected. So I tamped everything back down to where it was before and am just hoping that the grass recovers. I thought it was dry enough! (Later edit: Thankfully, everything recovered just fine. Grass rocks!)


Today, Gogo jumped her first corners!

With quite a bit of success I might add.

Her introduction to corners was simple enough, just three poles up on Bloks in the center of the arena, creating a simple triangle like this:

But here's the catch. There's nothing to frame the horse in - no standards, no nothing. So it's all about straightness and honesty. Not an exercise for a green horse, but I felt she was up to the challenge. And she was:

Woo hoo!! Actually her first and last jumps were the best (video is of the last). We had one run-out going the other direction the first time we approached it (I'm sure I just created a hole somewhere for her to slip through), and after that had no problems. She definitely was straighter and more honest approaching it from right lead to left, which is odd, because whenever she's wiggled in the past (and had the single XC runout of her life), she's always run off to the left. I did have to give a few strong corrections here and there, mostly when approaching on the left lead (why was she wanting to run out to the right for the first time ever!), but we ended on that lovely last jump, calling it a day. I'll revisit this one for sure, as corners are a vital part of the upper-level XC experience and we're going to need to be able to school them properly out in the open when the time comes.

Tomorrow, it's back to dressage, then more dressage, then MORE dressage... and then a good gallop, a conditioning hack, and a day off!

ELEVEN DAYS TIL GROTON HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

AWWW! Baby Gogo jumps some jumps!

AWWW!! On Youtube, one of my friends posted a really old video of Gogo and I in a Stadium class lesson in 2006. I hadn't had Gogo for more than a few months, and she had just recently turned 5. This was one of her first courses, really. When I got her, she could trot crossrails, and that's about it. She was a very fast study and quickly graduated from 'Green Beans' classes to real Stadium classes at school. I think she'd been going over fences for maybe three or so months at this point. Isn't she cute!

(The cheering in the background is from Bud, our best, most inspirational, and most awesome jump instructor ever. She believed in us and made me believe in us too!)

When Creativity Turns to Desperation

The main disadvantage of being an eventer at a dressage barn is this: lack of space and land to do everything I need to do besides dressage. There are enough standards and poles around to sort of create a tiny course if I need to, or some nice gymnastics, but there isn't really room to do anything large. I can hack all I want... on the paved neighborhood roads. There aren't any trails. And now, the final straw: the field I've been doing gallops in has finally completely overgrown, and has become impassable at the walk, much less for gallop work. I'm going to ask the owners if they ever mow, but let's face it, it's their land and they have ever right to keep it a big wild field if they want to. So where does that leave me? Desperate for a place to do conditioning and unsure of where to turn at this point. We have the orchard behind the barn, it's true, but I can't say that it's going to work to gallop there. Why? Well first, it's full of young trees that have low to the ground branches! I don't know if it's going to a) be good to her legs to do tree slalom at high speed or b) good for my brains if I get scraped off by a tree branch at high speed. There's really not much room out there, and I don't know if I can pick up the appropriate speed I need and actually maintain it through the trees. Also, it's been raining for honest to god three weeks now, and with the orchard boardering the owner's house, if she spots a sign of the grass getting turfed I will be in BIG TROUBLE.

Where do I gallop now? I don't know. My creativity has completely turned to desperation. I'm frantically wracking my brains for places to turn now. I have some ideas:

1) Leave a note in the field owner's mailbox asking if they ever mow, and if they don't, if they don't mind possibly either mowing the field completely or maybe mowing a wide path around the perimeter of the field. I would pay for someone to do this!
2) Gallop in the orchard. Again, possibly impossible and difficult to do, for the reasons to explained above.
3) Trailer to the White Memorial park. There is a big, well-groomed field there that could easily be used for gallops. But, it's a good hour away, and I feel like I might possibly get in big trouble for picking up speed there.
4) Anne and I today discovered a giant, GORGEOUS field off the Larkin Bridle Trails where we went hacking. She has been there before and says they usually mow it, and in the middle, they plant corn. Well, the corn was planted, but the field wasn't mowed! It was up to our knees! If they mow it, however, it's open to our use and I could definitely gallop there.
5) Ask the nuns down the road to mow their field for me.. but I think they use it for hay and probably don't want horses on it.
6) Ask Mystic Valley? Ethel Walkers? Frazier Farm? King Oak? All these places are over an hour away though... and the closest, Frazier Farm, is rocky and I don't think I'd want to pick up any sort of speed there.
7) Gallop on the Lark Bridle Trails... but the ground is very flat, straight, and hard. Great for trotwork, not so great for speed work. Also, there are lots of bikers, hiker, and dogs, and I'm not about to go trample people. But it's a possibility.

The field today (sorry, crap picture taken with my phone.)

So I have no idea what to do.
Anne and I had an awesome conditioning hack out at Larkin today, and it ended up being two and a half hours instead of two. We trotted for our first 25 minutes, and then went up and 'discovered' the big field. Beyond the field we intersected the Middlebury Bridle Land, which is actually private (but we didn't know it until later!) There we picked up some cross country fences (sweet!!), and picked our way through the realllllllllly rocky trails. It was gorgeous, and lots of fun. We did a bit of trot and canter on the way back too, just for fun. So I guess Gogo SORT of got some gallop-y work in today. But it's not the same.

What to do, what to do. Here's the kicker: I found a potential move-up Training event. If you go check out the virtual coursewalk for Training, you'll see nothing too complicated - and as a bonus, most of the course is downhill, so we'll be able to maintain a rolling gallop with minimal energy, making it more likely to make time. I'm going to call Sarah and ask her if she thinks it's a good move-up or not, and decide from there if I want to give it a go. This would be in late August, so we have plenty of time to decide if we're ready or not.

BUT, that makes it all the more important that we keep up our gallops. Oye, frustration. Honestly, I don't know what to do.

PS: I have the best readers EVER EVER EVER. Thank you all SO MUCH for all your helpful comments, tips, hints, and encouragement concerning Gogo's hocks. I'm just a worried mommy, and I need reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. And I'll take all your suggestions into consideration, and add them to my arsenal of soundness-keeping-tricks. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure...

Yosemite National Park, California, 2006.
I was actually a bit dissapointed. It was gorgeous, but crowded and full of rowdy, obnoxious campers. Not enjoyable and relaxing to hike in at all. Maybe in the offseason I can go back someday...


Now, off to Taco Bell and the tack store to celebrate. More later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let's Talk Hocks

First off - still no word from Groton House yet. The suspense is killing me!! But in other good news, both my checks for Riga Meadow and for Area Championships were cashed today, so that means I got into both of them. Yes!

Now, here's the topic I worry about ALL THE TIME but still don't have any solid conclusions about, so advice and comments are all appreciated. As you may or may not know, last year in the early summer, Gogo started doing little things like chipping fences and taking rails in competition. She was never really lame per se, but there was something weird going on. Something wasn't right. I took her to the Equine Specialty Hospital in OH, and via flexions, blocks, and radiographs, we isolated the problem to her right hock (flexed 1 out of 5 on the lameness scale, so it wasn't bad!). I had one of two options, the first being hock injections, and the second being very proactive and less invasive maintenance. I opted for the second choice, seeing as she had only just turned 7, she was only showing BN, she wasn't really lame, and there were a lot of options to keep her comfortably going. I am anti-injection when I can be. So, we started her on Adequan and Cosequin, and the chipping and dropped rails disappeared. Her dressage work improved, and her overall condition and comfort level went way up.

Fast forward to now. She's in much harder work, and I worry about her comfort level. She's still on the Adequan, and we've switched to the Cosequin ASU, which is a good product even though it's damn expensive. When I put her on the lunge the other day, she looked outstanding. She's jumping really well, hacking really well, and doing dressage work really well. But there are little, subtle things that worry me. Today, her first day back to dressage work after the chiro adjustment on Tuesday, was similar to the last time she got adjusted in that she needed to figure her readjusted body out a little bit. She was very good, up until I did a few canter lengthenings on the left lead. She seemed a bit hot to trot after that, and I did a simple change across the diagonal onto the right lead. And, well, we kind of blew up a little. She didn't go crazy really, she just sort of did the head in my lap thing, and stopped steering for a few. We eventually got a few decent strides and then went right back to trot, but it was interesting that it was on the right lead, her generally weaker side (and mine too). When she was adjusted, through the applied kinesiology Dr. Amery found no hock soreness (he can tell where the horse hurts through certain points in the body, and it seems to be spot on as far as I can tell), but he need to make adjustments to her left SI as opposed to her right - compensating for the right hind? Who knows. The other thing she was doing today, very consistently, was when we would go to halt, she'd leave her right hind behind her, which isn't abnormal, but whenever I'd ask her to move that leg forward in the halt, she's comply, but she'd just rest it instead of bearing weight on it. Unusual. But then again, the most sore spot he found on her was beneath where the cantle sits on her right side, so maybe she was still sore from having that adjusted? Or here's one more option - I tend to sit crookedly to the right, and I'm very much so in pain and in need of an adjustment myself, so maybe it was me causing the crookedness? I don't know. Also though, when she was in the crossties, 90% of the time she was resting the right hind. She tends to rest both hinds a lot when standing around, but is that relaxation, or is that discomfort?

She's not lame. She's jumping really well. She's progressing fast in her dressage work. But I still worry. I want to delay hock injections for as long as humanly possible, just because a) I hate being so invasive b) anytime anything goes into a joint there's risk of infection and DEATH and c) long-term use of steroids can lead to cartilage degradation. There's a very good article here on joint injections and joints themselves, and there are bits of information on there like this:

"The lower motion joints of the hock are unique in that they are a major origin of subclinical performance issues (commonly sore back syndromes and poor movement and push from behind), yet are not essential for movement of the hock. For this reason they can be viewed in a radically different manner than other joints within the horse. In fact, if these joints were to magically be removed from your horse, they would maintain their full athletic scope and ability without the downside of persistent, low grade discomfort which often accompanies arthritic change.
For this reason, long term comfort of the horse and relief from the arthritis is the primary goal of lower hock joint treatment, NOT continued motion and flexibility of these low motion areas. This is a very important concept to grasp as joint comfort and treatment for joint function are not necessarily the same. Granted, high motion joint treatments such as Adequan, Legend (intravenous hyaluronic acid), intra-articular hyaluronic acid (HA) and low dose, short acting steroids do play some role in creating comfort. However, all of these drugs are aimed primarily at restoration of a more “normal” joint environment. The primary goal being preservation and regeneration of healthy cartilage. In lower hock joints we often take a different approach. As these joints are not necessary from athletic performance, their more reliable comfort becomes the primary goal somewhat at the expense of the cartilage involved. For this purpose, long acting steroids (the most potent anti-inflammatory available) are used."

Now, from this you can derive a few things. The lower hock joints are not important in a horse's mobility directly. Horses with fused lower hock joints perform effortless and, more importantly, pain-free. BUT, the road to a joint actually fusing is a painful and long one. So, the primary concern of a joint like this isn't to maintain mobility, but to maintain comfort and minimize inflammation. By injecting the joint with powerful steroids, you can dramatically reduce inflammation and drastically increase the horse's comfort, BUT you also take the risk that the cartilage will sustain gradual and permanent damage. Osteoarthritis doesn't heal. It doesn't go away. It's there for life, and it can only get worse over time, which is why the diagnosis was horribly depressing. There's no reason Gogo won't be able to go on and lead a rich and fulfilling competitive life, but it needs I need to be careful.

And careful I am. I use bute before and after hard workouts. I wrap, cold-hose, and use liniment and poultice regularly. I maximize turnout time, encourage movement, and provide lengthy warm-ups and cool-downs. She's on Cosequin ASU, and gets regular Adequan (and Pat says I can have some of her Legend too). I rarely jump her over 3' at home, and I rarely jump her more than once every two weeks. I don't lunge her anymore (well, there's a more complicated training issue behind all that but regular lunging also compounds the arthritis issue). I handwalk all the time. So is she still uncomfortable on some days? I don't have an answer for that. I honestly don't know. It could be this, it could be that. She's going so well that I have no reason to suspect hock pain, but when she does things like rest her right hind a lot, I still worry.

Shannon and I brainstormed all afternoon. Joint injections would mean relief if she is feeling discomfort. They might also add to her long-term soundness and performance. But, they also might contribute to her long-term unsoundness. I feel as though they are inevitable, and I'm okay with that - it'll probably have to happen next spring. But for now, we came up with some other ideas - using HPQR gel on that hock, using poultice on that hock, continuing the use of bute before and after a hard workout day, possibly looking into Surpass, adding Legend to our arsenal, and looking into the Back On Track hock wraps. I've heard nothing but totally positive things about their products, and we have a horse here who has the mesh sheet and the leg wraps. It does seem to make a difference. I'd rather try this than traditional magnets, because I dunno how I feel about magnets in all honesty. Back On Track, on the other hand, seems legitimate.

I just want her to be comfortable, happy, and able to perform her job pain-free for as long as possible. I don't know if she's achey, but I sure know that I myself get pretty ouchy on some days. She's not lame (and is moving better than ever really), is jumping great, galloping well, and hacking perfectly. So am I just creating bigger issues than need be? I don't have any idea. But I do want to avoid invasive actions until I feel that what I'm doing isn't helping enough.

Any other ideas? Opinions? Input?

PS - I apparently got some special award from Mystic for being the Area I Adult Rider with the second lowest score. Dunno what it is, but I'll set you know once they send it to me in the mail!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I just got an e-mail in from the secretary at Groton House saying they have all my stuff (and that the recieved my other check for the correct amount, because the first check I sent in was overpaid by $19... how did I add the fees twice??), and that she's keeping her fingers crossed for us in the draw. Wait, what?? I might not make the draw?? I sent in my entry online at 12:01am on the opening day! Well, apparently what the organizers have to do for such a big show is take all of the entries on opening day (from 12:01am to 11:59pm) and do the draw from that group. That's it. And they're oversubscribed. So there is a very real possibility I won't get in. It's such a special and huge show that everyone and their mother wants in, and I imagine that with Groton House combining their I and II events into one big horse trial, the number of people who don't get in is going to be big.

And then my little heart will break. Or well, be very very very sad anyway.

So keep your fingers crossed for us. Send along all of the blog reader positive energy you can muster, because you never know.

EDIT: I do have good news though; I have a backup plan! So that Gogo and I still get to an event this month if we don't make the Groton House draw, I went back and checked the Omnibus, and good news! The Great Vista H.T. is on June 28th, that same weekend, and is going to continue to accept entries until June 22nd. It's not that expensive ($175 including stabling versus Groton House which is $429 including stabling... that one was a birthday gift from my mother, or else I'd NEVER be able to afford it!!), it's only one day, and it's still points towards the Leaderboard. It's probably a three hour drive, but so is Groton House. So hey, I've got something to fall back on, right?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Return of the Chiro Man

I am very thankful to report that Gogo's little puffiness in all four legs disappeared with poulticing, and all throughout the day there was no return of it nor was there any heat, so my guess was that it was just hot and stressful, and her little bit of time off was just the fix. Yesterday I wanted to give her a light workout on the soft, rubbery indoor footing, so I revisited this old exercise, but left the vertical as a big X. I figured if she felt at all strange, I wouldn't go beyond a little flatwork, but she felt brilliantly sound, so we progressed with the exercise a few times. You canter in to the big X, and then have four strides to transition back down to a trot, trot over the poles, and then halt. Again, I rode her in the snaffle (second time I've ever jumped her in it as opposed to her Waterford), and she was BRILLIANT in it. She did the exercise VERY well, and was very quiet and responsive to every half-halt and every transition. I worked hard on staying up in a respectable two-point right up to the base of the fence (it's soooo hard...!), and keeping her round throughout the entire workout as well, including right up to the fence. She performed beautifully (and I did all right too!), and we finished our quick 20-minute workout with a hack through the orchard with Harrison and Shannon. I cold hosed both fronts and re-wrapped her that evening, just to be safe.

This morning, her legs were still tight as a drum, and I had a lesson bright and early at 8am (which meant I was up at 4am cleaning stalls... blarg). Right off the bat, she warmed up well. After some walk-trot work, which she was very malleable for, Vicki asked, "Does she do reinback?" Well, in the past, reinback was a source of major fear for Gogo - something about confining her in front after Jeane ruined her brain just scared the daylights out of her, and before she realized she could go backwards away from the pressure, asking for reinback caused her to rear uncontrollably. I'd reintroduced the concept to her with the help of a groundperson, and schooled it VERY occasionally, but haven't pressed the issue. I've been re-re-introducing it over the past few weeks, so I took up Vicki's suggestion to see if we couldn't unlock the area behind the saddle a little more. And what do you know, after the very first reinback, we praised her like crazy, and she visibly perked up and stretched perfectly into the bridle when we walked off again. She just adores being told she's perfect! We did loads of transitions after that within and between all three gaits, and continued to halt, then reinback. We did then without Vicki's help either, and by the time we finished, we were getting clear and light steps of reinback (she tends to want to shuffle backwards in a walk-type footfall sequence instead of with diagonal pairs). The work inbetween asking for bits of reinback was quiet, relaxed, correct, and forward. I called it a day with one final, lovely reinback and a few steps of walk out of it. She was delighted with herself, and she should be!

I also have happy news: the chiropractor came back and readjusted Gogo this afternoon, and I am very happy to say that it was nothing at all like the last time she was adjusted. Three months ago, everything in Gogo's body was majorly out of alignment, and it took some really serious adjusting to try and get it back to where it belonged. I wanted to follow up with another adjustment sooner rather than later given how major the work was last time, so I chose this time to go at a three-month interval; with luck, we'll go six months next time, although I will probably want her adjusted before the AECs. Let me tell you, Dr. Amery is a genious. Not only is he a skilled veterinarian and a skilled chiropractor as well, but he and his wife do a lot of acupuncture and applied kinesiology, which is completely fascinating to me. I've only seen him do it, never anyone else. He, being the wonderful guy that he is, patiently answered the millions of questions I always ask him when he's here, and even let me help do some applied kinesiology while working on her poll. For those of you who haven't heard of it (I hadn't either!), here's a Wikipedia article on it. Applied kinesiology is a sort of controversial alternative medicine form that goes along with chiropractic work; the point is to tap into the horse's energy, which can tell where there are weaknesses in the system. The concept is difficult to explain, but the idea is when there are disruptions in the neurons in a muscle, energy escapes, creating a weak response in the 'testing' the chiropractor performs. In the horse, it requires two people to do this: one person touches the horse and extends an arm, and the other puts their hand on the other's arm and touches the parts of the equine body in question. By both having their hands on the horse, they can create a closed circuit. I tried this with him, and he had me push up strongly with my arm, while he matched me with a downward push. That was a 'strong signal.' When he found a weakness, I found that I really had no ability to push up, and he could press my arm right down with no effort on his part. It was really weird! He then went on to adjust whatever he found was weak. While it sounds a little kooky, I totally buy into the thought that we all have a sustaining energy force in our bodies that we can tap into, and that can get disrupted, so hey, it makes sense to me. The actual adjustment went really, really well, considering how awful it was last time. Given the fact that she's just come out of heat, he found reactivity in the T-L junction (place where the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae meet) on the right side especially, which he expected was secondary due to soreness in the quadatus lumborum (which runs under the spine and connects with the ovaries). He found some reactivity in her left SI, oddly enough - I was sure it would be on the right! - but it responded well to adjustment. He did minor adjustments all the way down (some mid-lower neck, a sore spot on her poll where she banged her head, some mid-lower back), but found nothing seriously major besides some sore ovaries and a little reactivity in her left SI. She was WAY more relaxed this time about it all, and I was totally thrilled with the response she had to the treatment. PHEW. I was terrified there might be something horribly wrong and she's just really stoic!
Another thing he mentioned, when I told him sometimes I have difficulty with left bend, is that she's more upright on that foot, so her body sends differing signals to itself due to the fact that she loads that side of her body differently. There's nothing really that can be done about it except continue to work on improving her balance, and keeping the foot trimmed properly. I'll probably always fight an uphill battle to keep her as symmetrical as possible on both sides, but really, what horse (or rider, for that matter) is ever totally symmetrical? None, that's for sure!

I feel like everything is sort of falling into place before Groton House. I was worried about her hocks - now that I've seen her move and seen how sound she is, I'm not worried anymore. I was worried about her back and maybe there being problems I didn't know about - now that I've had her adjusted and there's nothing major this time, I'm not worried anymore. She's been so outstanding under saddle lately, and equally as cheery and lovey on the ground, and it just makes me feel like she's comfortable, happy, fit, healthy, and ready for a challenge. Knock on wood, but I think we're really ready to play with the Big Boys at Groton House, and have a good chance at doing well.

(Hunter's Run, 2008.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Being Conservative

Today, Gogo and I were supposed to do gallop sets. "Supposed to" is the key phrase. Gogo, however, had some other ideas. While turned out today, she went galloping all pell-mell around and around the field (because she does not believe in heat, bugs, cold, snow, rain, or anything other than 65 degrees and partly sunny with a light breeze), running herself repeatedly into the fence until I came to rescue her. This is not actually an abornal thing - I think she's done this every single day for the past three or so days, but usually stops after a few laps... and then starts again in a few minutes, but hey, what can I say - but she was particularly sweaty and breathing today. After a cool shower, I parked her in front of the aisle fan to cool down and dry. The day was just so impossibly hot that I felt that riding her during the prime daylight hours was just cruel, and as it worked out, I had to go trailer out and rescue a stranded horse on the highway (one of our boarders had a wheel incident with their trailer while coming back from a show, and I came to save the day), so I decided to for sure wait until it cooled down in the evening to go out and do my gallops.
Well. I pulled Gogo out of her box at around 6pm, and started grooming her, new GPS strapped to my arm and ready to roll. Of course, I get down to currying her legs, and realize that the inside of both fronts are warm and a little puffy. Her hinds were a little filled too. I palpated the crap out of all four legs, and nothing is painful anywhere. I then went to stick her on the lunge to see how she was moving, and of course, she's totally sound, and the swelling went significantly down with a bit of brief exercise. She's done this before, the mystery leg swelling, so I'm not all that worried. Nothing hurts, nothing is blisteringly hot, and there is no lameness, so my impression is that by tomorrow, it'll all be gone. I poulticed and wrapped her, and I imagine by tomorrow morning she'll be right as rain.
In all honesty, while I'm sure she's totally fine, why take a chance? We lose a day of gallops, but she got plenty of galloping done out in the field (well, she did!), and really, why on earth would I take that chance in case she's NOT okay? I believe in being conservative when it comes to health. There is no reason to risk it, and if something like this were to happen before a show, I'd scratch, even though I'm 99.9% sure she's fine and will be totally great tomorrow.

Oh mare.

But I have to say this. Last summer before Gogo was diagnosed with having very mild arthritic issues in her right hock, when you put her on the lunge going to the right, you could see that it just wasn't quite the same as going left - she wasn't lame, she wasn't short striding, she wasn't hiking any hips, but she just wasn't moving quite the same way she did going the other way. I was worried today when I put her on the lunge - how would she move? She's working so hard, what if her joints can't keep up? - but not only did she behave herself perfectly, she looked honest to god sounder than I've EVER seen her. She was striding forward with power, she was smooth and even all the way around, and she just looked amazingly confident, comfortable, and SOUND. It's been a long time since I've seen her really moving without it being hidden underneath a blanket, on a poorly shot video, or through a semi-warped mirror, and I was completely in awe of just how good she looks right now. Gogo looks SO. GOOD. She's lost a tiny bit of that flub since we've pulled her off the Ultium, and hidden beneath that little layer of dissapearing fat there is rock hard, glistening muscle. Her coat is gleaming, and for the first time ever, she has dapples. GOGO HAS DAPPLES. They're just under where her saddle goes, so you can't actually see them while she's being ridden, but it's all right because I know they're there. I can't belive the amount of muscle she has on her either. Her whole body is rippling, and she has more topline than ever before. I couldn't help but smile watching her trot and canter around me in big circles. She's strong, she's brave, she's really matured over the winter and she's ready to take on the world.

After I poulticed and wrapped her, I let her loose to graze in the yard while I read a book nearly and lazed in the setting sun. I feel better than ever about Groton House, the Areas, and the AECs. We're fighting fit and we're ready to take on anything any event can dish out.

Now, I just need to get my lazy butt up away from this computer and go running. Tomorrow before work, I will! I swear! I mean it!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Running on Dunkin

Gogo and I had an excellent adventure today. It was our two-hour conditioning hack day, and given that it was gorgeous and hot out, I decided to make it a conditioning hack with a purpose beyond fitness.

That's right, we went to the Dunkin drive-thru.

Of course, it wasn't without work. We started off with a 10-minute walk warmup through the orchard, and then continued on with our 25 minutes of trotwork around and around the orchard. The orchard's not really all that big, so we went around through the trees many times! I considered taking her out on the road and doing trotwork, but I worry about how quickly several hours of work on pavement wears a foot. Gogo is back on Gro N' Win now (yes!! I will write about that adventure shortly), which is far superior to any ration balancer I've found on the market, so with luck, she'll start rapidly putting out foot (my past experience with it). I actually put her together at some point (because she was doing the gravitational pull back towards the barn and almost ran into a tree), and she actually ended up doing spectacularly with that, reaching down for the bit and giving me a decent bit of stretch through the entire workout. We were both sweating by the time we were done, and from here, we headed out on the journey.

Gogo's road rules are incredibly defunct. She believes that she really ought to be able to walk all over the road, wherever she pleases, and why should she stay far to the right, those cars aren't scary and they would NEVER hit her, she's too important! There is a lot of pinball-esque channelling when it comes to her walks - she bounces back and forth between my legs just because she wants to look around and go in all directions at once, in a totally eager way.

And then.... there it was!

One Strawberry Coolata and one blueberry muffin later, we were back on our way, and made it home just in time to watch Mine That Bird get his butt kicked by his own half-brother, Summer Bird.

She's the best, that silly mare.

Friday, June 5, 2009

End of May Analysis, and Happy Belated 8th Birthday, Gogo!

I've been away this week in OH visiting my fiancee week. I left Monday night, and came back VERY late last night (went to bed at 2am, was up by 4am to go clean stalls, bleugh!), so I'm understandably tired! Gogo had Sunday off, and got a nice groom and some handwalking to go along with her loooooong turnout, and on Monday, she hacked lightly around the neighborhood, up all the big hills at a trot.

And very tragically, I missed her 8th birthday on Tuesday, because strangely enough, June 2nd is not only her birthday, but my kitten's birthday (well, she's an adult now I guess!) AND my fiancee's birthday too! Before I left on Monday, I carved up an apple into the shape of an 8 and left it in her morning grain, and tonight, I made her a special birthday cake:

Mmmm! She, of course, thought it was delicious:

And she was nice enough to share a bit with everyone when she was done :)
Happy 8th Birthday sweetie pea!! Here's to many, many more birthday celebrations, cakes, and years together! :D


And now, June begins!!

May Goals:

1) Attend our first two recognized events of the year, and obtain two qualifying scores for the AECs and for Area I Championships
Success!!!! And this deserves many exclamation marks!! Not only did we get our qualifying scores, and are now entered in the Area Championships (and just need one more completion to go to the AECs), but we WON both of Gogo first Novice runs, on our very respectable dressage scores. Awesome!!!

2) Continue to develop our gallops, and my gallop position
Success... mostly! Our schedule wasn't quite on the week-for-week that it was the month before, but during show weeks, I tend to back off on the gallops in order to save her for the galloping she'll need to do during the weekend. We have defintely developed our fitness further, and I definitely think my position has improved thanks to working with Kerry. I shortened my stirrups one hole already, and I'm going to shorten them again when we jump on Monday. We'll likely end up galloping tomorrow or Sunday, depending on how the footing is after all the rain we've had today.

3) Continue to develop better stretch, and trot-canter transitions
Success, slowly! We're still steadily improving this, the same as we have been these past few months. It comes along very slowly, but it's certainly not something we're going to perfect in a month. Progress, steady progress!

4) Start to work a little more collection into our schooling dressage work
Sucess! Again, this is not an end-all goal. We're starting to work more in shoulder-in and counter-canter work, and starting to gather her gaits beneath her a little more. She's given me exceedingly promising moments, and we'll continue to work on introducing new concepts. I've been playing with some baby walk pirouettes (very rudimentary ones), reinback, and more advanced counter canter work, but we have to be in the right level of relaxation and the right frame of mind in order to try new things. It's quite remarkable though, because things like reinback used to cause her to panic, fling her head in the air, and rear uncontrollably. I think now that she understands that she has an outlet when I ask for it - backwards motion - she's not so totally freaked out by it. I imagine when Jeane had her, a good yank backwards on the reins was all it took to flip her over. Ugh.

5) Have a little FUN out there ;)
SUCCESS! We are having a blast :D That weekend vacation we took with Salute and Anne and Kerry and Jen? Awesome. Just awesome. None of it is worth it unless you're having fun doing it.

June Goals:

1) Complete our AEC qualification requirements (one more event, obtaining a completion with no XC jump penalties)
2) Start to introduce new dressage concepts to her, and continue to ask for more moments of collection
3) Start fine-tuning our gallop speed and fitness via GPS
4) Continue ironing out the kinks in our Novice test - transitions, freewalk
5) Continue to strengthen and improve my position over fences, on the flat, and during gallops - there is always more to work on!

As for exercising myself.... I fail. A lot. If I am to start running with more regularity, I need to get up at 4am every day, because I just don't have the time or energy during the day or after work. Which is a horrible shame, really, but there is only so much a person can do before they collapse completely.


Like I said before, Gogo's had the better part of this week off (Tuesday-Thursday). I got on her today to do a light, stretchy dressage work, but discovered that since she had just been starting to come into heat last Sunday, she's finishing up her cycle now and OYE it's a strong one. When I went to get on her, she scooted off underneath me - totally unlike her! I went to get off and try again, and she scooted off again! Rude! When I went to get back on her, she held perfectly still, like she normally does, but the second I shifted my weight to pick up my other stirrup, she tweaked and went bolting around the mounting block in circles. Which, of course, made me crack up. She stopped and stood there quietly for a second, and then we walked off nicely, but the rest of the ride wasn't all that productive. We finished with a lot of really quiet walk-trot transitions, but it was obvious she was completley cramped up through her back, and there wasn't much I could do about it. Oh well, these next few days will be filled with galloping, hacking, and jumping, so hopefully by the time dressage-ness comes back around on Tuesday, we'll be quiet and comfortable and non-hormonal and ready to go again!

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure is a good one.

The Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park, NZ.
Quite possibly the most amazing thing I've ever done. We spent an entire day crossing the volanic region on the 19km alpine crossing, marveling at the colors, the steam from the volcanoes, the way the ground beneath our feet was so hot it burned, the glistening green of the Emerald Lakes, the frozen lava flows, the deep valleys.... amazing. If you ever go to NZ, it is a MUST if you are fit enough. But is definitely is exhausting, and don't go when the weather is crappy!

Because there are SO MANY amazing photos that I can't possibly put up here, I'm going to link to my Facebook albums of this crossing here and here. Any any true tramper of the world will notice our jeans... don't ever climb mountains in jeans. We were stupid and lucky. But other times we were miserable, and I even became very hypothermic when we were dumped in the ocean by a wayward kayak in the Abel Tasman National Park, and ended up hiking for about three hours in the pouring, freezing rain in our soaked clothes (jeans included) to get back to where we needed to be. By the time we got back to shelter, I had nearly collapsed and they practically had to carry me in. I am quite lucky I didn't die.