Friday, March 24, 2017

Das Boots

I need new tall boots, a little urgently. We suffered our first blowout mere days after Christmas, which might be the worst timing because had I known I was going to suffer a boot-splosion I would've asked Santa for new ones for Christmas.

WHAT WHY TALL BOOTS NOT NOW???? by @kieshorse
Somehow I lucked out with a girlfriend who not only has the skillz to fix my falling apart boots but actually seems to want to do it. I don't want her to figure out she could be doing better things than fixing my boots. No one tell her. (Stop reading this)

This poor girl.
But she can only patch them so many times, and I'm (more than) a little annoyed because I've had them just over a year and daily riding of one horse has destroyed them.

Now we're here, shopping for tall boots, yet again. This is not my first rodeo.

My very first pair of tall boots were Ariat and they were pull-ons, purchased in the dark ages when I'm pretty sure Ariat just made 'field boots' and there weren't different kinds. I loved those, because they were a bitch and a half to break in and were so tight on hot days that they cut off the circulation to my feet.


Wait, did I say love?

I hit puberty and they didn't fit anymore, and I wasn't competing so I no longer cared for or needed tall boots. Then a week before my first event I bought Mountain Horse boots after struggling through every pair Dover had in stock. They were too tall but they fit around my calf so I accepted my fate.

The problem with the 'wider' fit boots is they assume your leg is wide all the way down. They bunched around my ankle and gave me horrible bruises, while also simultaneously resulting in my foot not even touching the bottom of my boot unless I shoved my heels down past the point of no return.

I competed up through Training in those, and then desperately needed new ones as my dressage was actually being affected by the fit. I tried on every pair in the local tack store and ended up with a set of Tuffriders. At least they taper delightfully in the ankle! And they were such nice soft leather they were totally pain free.

However to get the calf to fit I had to go up a shoe size. But that was okay, the tack store just gave me some inserts so that my feet weren't waggling around in all the extra real estate they had. And they were somehow too short on my already very short legs.

They're so short it's all I can see.
If you have hung out with me for any length of time in person you know that I am an unholy klutz, and wearing boots a size too big (inserts or no) became a serious health hazard to the point where I only put the boots on right before I got on the horse.

From my favorite movie
Sooooo back to shopping. Again. Do you know how it feels to see even the extra EXTRA wide boots only fit up to 15 3/4" calf??? It hurts my calves feelings!! Look now, you've made them cry.

By some miracle of miracles, for about six months Ovation made tall boots that fit me. So I bought a pair. It was a glorious year, you guys. Oh and they were brown too. I love them. I have ridden in them until they literally fell apart. And now they are lost to time and history and mine can no longer be cobbled together.

So we're shopping again. I feel like I have even less options. My fat leg (lookin' at you, Righty) measures a little over 16" around. They're a little over 16" from floor to crook of knee. And I wear a size 8 shoe. Apparently recipe for an abomination. I'm considering offering a cash reward to whoever finds me boots that fit.


On your marks, get set, go.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Hate Deer

If you roll up to my farm nowadays it looks like we are home to thirty or so horses and a flock of deer.

They even stay in the paddocks to graze like horses. Sometimes they're in Runkle's field! His field borders the woods so I see them hop through the fence and mingle with them eating all the grass.



Can someone please explain to me why the deer are okay in the field with him but the second I am on him they are bloodthirsty murderers?

Normal deer.

Deer while Runkle is under saddle.
Last weekend at the in-house show Runkle was well on his way to losing his cookies. But the nail in the coffin was our flock of deer running across the farmer's field next door, more than a half mile away. No one noticed them except for Runkle. He saw them before I did even, so it's not like I'm anticipating it.

Yesterday I had a jump lesson (OUTSIDE!! AFTER WORK!! IN THE DAYLIGHT!!) and the deer were back. Runkle saw them but didn't seem super fussed. He was bug eyed but he had more of an issue with the fact that they made an enormous ruckus getting through the fence to get away from us.

The jump lesson continued without any deer-related hitches but plenty of Megan-not-keeping-her-shoulders-back and Runkle's-stuck-at-the-poll issues. Three quarters of the way through the lesson a couple of the deer were back hanging out on the grass behind the jump field.

I thought horses were supposed to have good eyesight. Runkle didn't see them until soooo late, if they were lions he'd be dead. I guess Thoroughbreds arent known for their survival skills. But he stopped so suddenly I almost kept going right off his back, and then he did his run sideways thing that I'm going to patent soon. If we ever got to the 4* level the canter halfpass would be no issue, he does it at the gallop. He's got tremendous reach.


He finally got over it and we finished the lesson. Or more like, I decided to get my balls out of my purse and get over it. After I did the exercise (while the deer looked on, and then noisily climbed through the fence) my trainer said "Wow, you really dug deep there and got over that". At which point I informed her that I had trouble sitting in the turns because my butthole was so tight.

So can someone please explain to me why horses can graze in a field full of deer but why they lose their rag when a person is on their back?? Or is Runkle just a dumb baby TB?? Or both.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bonus Post - Eventing Bingo

Emma gave me some interesting Bingo cards for her contest - click here to see.

I was all set to make up a story when I realized one column was already real!!


Column O on there reminds me a lot of my last show with Lexy, our second jaunt through training level where we ended up 5th.

Okay I lied, there is one square I'm gonna say is fictional. The fictional square is 'Judge's Comments: Harmony'. If you know Lexy you know I would never ever get this comment. Ever. I love Lexy a lot, she's an amazing cross country horse and riding her is like wearing my favorite pair of jeans but she is no dressage diva.

Exhibit A for active in the freakin' mouth

Exhibit B for bobbing head


Exhibit C for contact... the inconsistent kind. 
However that test DID go reasonably well, for us. Our lengthenings are frequently... not really lengthenings. So while the judge didn't say it was harmonious, the red mare stayed in the ring with all four feet on the ground. I'm gonna go ahead and give myself that square.

Once we got through the Sandbox of Hell we went on to stadium where there was minimal head flailing and trantering lead changes, and maximum poles staying up. I had one of those moments where I questioned what the hell my trainer had me schooling at home because these looked tiny despite being at the tops of Flora Lea's silly small standards.


Then came the best part, the cross country. It was changed very little from the recognized show so it was a beefy training course, including my own personal kryptonite: THE STEPS. I was absolutely cacking my pants the entire coursewalk. I actually couldn't keep my mind on most of the course after the steps because I figured I would splat into them and it wouldn't matter.

I can't tell you how many times I've fallen UP these.
Joke was on me though. I took my coach's advice to 'ride like I knew what I was doing'. Channeling my inner WFP I galloped up to those steps and in a few hops I was past them. I immediately felt so relieved I thought I might fall off.

The rest of the course was going so well, I decided to take the option at the water. There were two banks for the training level horses, and they both led to a set of chevrons out of the water. I had the option to take whichever bank I wanted, depending on how I felt at that point.

Well, I felt like the master of my domain after the steps so I boldly cantered to the big bank like an idiot. Lexy's an old prelim horse. She knows whats up. She's a professional.

On our way to the water.
We got to the edge of the bank and she launched off it so hard I thought we were going to reach orbit. We've schooled there dozens of times  and she has never jumped like that off a bank. Of course I landed, lost both my stirrups, and had to make a sharp left turn so we didn't miss the out jump at the water. I somehow stayed with her, flapping my extremities to keep her moving, and she nailed the out because she's the hero I don't deserve.

By the end of the course I was exhausted, and I narrowly piloted her to the last jump. She had another good girl moment and bailed me out of a very long spot even though my reins were a foot too long and I had massive chair seat because I was tired.

Proof that I don't need a massive long spot to get left behind,
drop my reins and  otherwise cause a scene.
But she did it anyway. Cause she's the bestest girl.
SaveSave

2017 Show Season - Ready, Set, Go!!

This weekend officially marked the beginning of the 2017 show season. It's been absolutely beautiful this winter, featuring outdoor clinics and cross country schooling about a month ago and no snow. So of course our first show of the season was twenty degrees not including the wind chill.

I was flying solo so I have no media, and I sincerely doubt I'll be purchasing any of the show photos because between my cold weather bundling and Runkle's... Runkle-ness, I'm sure they won't be anything to write home about.


A couple weeks ago it was nice out. Now, ❄️. #letsgetreadytorunkle #dirtypony #theyseemerollin #exhurdler #thoroughbred #ottb by @kieshorse

Runkle was fine when I brought him in from the field, tacked him up, mounted and walked into dressage warm up. At that point I felt his brain fall out of his head. Have you ever felt that on a horse? In case you haven't I'll let you know how it feels: you hear a squishy sort of slapping noise as the brain leaves the cavity of your selected mount's head and then they suddenly become seven hundred pounds lighter, able to dance on the tips of their toes and blow about in the breeze. Or freezing blusters, whatever season it happens to be.



I legitimately felt bad for the other people trying to warm up. There was another woman who was trying to ride her very nervous horse and Runkle, without any warning, lost his side stabilizers and did an impressive gallop half pass into him. That's when I finally gave up and dismounted (although he also tried to jump the low wall out of warm up,crash into a tree, and spook at deer a half mile away before then).

I tried to lunge him, and that helped less than zero.

So I dropped all the way back to the ground floor, and put him back in the stall to let him calm the hell down. We were actually right exactly where we were last season.


I ended up scratching my first test, untacking him, and letting him sit for twenty minutes to marinade and think about his life while I went around and visited with friends competing. I went back into the barn like we hadn't just checked some squares off on eventing bingo and tried again.

Attempting test #2 he was much better and more rideable, although still a little overexcited about all the new 'friends' that came over to his house. Of course once we went into the sandbox he laid down a lovely test including a fantastic free walk for 31 and change penalty points, landing us in first.

Of course.


Jumping was it's own disaster, this one not actually his fault. The division was huge and the seasonable weather meant the ground outside the arena was frozen. In the time I spent waiting for my turn to warm up I guess I didn't move around enough, because my hands completely froze.

I was useless holding the reins and as the feeling came back into them it was excruciatingly painful so after warming up over about half the course I couldn't take it anymore and scratched that as well. Which believe me, makes me feel like the biggest pussy to ever saddle up and call herself an eventer. I was in tears in the bathroom muttering curses trying to warm my hands up with barely lukewarm water.


Overall, really successful first outing.

But, it actually was. And I keep telling myself this, because I'm incredibly hard on myself. And I also learned more than I thought I would.

Takeaways:
  • He dealt with warmup, especially around jumping which used to be his kryptonite. He actually stood great in jumping warmup and there were about fifteen people galloping around with varying levels of control at once.
  • Don't take any part of his behavior for granted.
  • I shouldn't be prepping him like what I'm used to, seasoned veteran event horses. He's a baby. He was great on Saturday despite having Friday off because on Thursday I rode through a couple different dressage tests six times. I need to ride him hard the day before we compete and give myself MORE THAN AMPLE warmup before my test.
  • Pat on the back for me: my seat is way better than I normally give it credit for.

I'd buy stock in SMZ's if I were you.
So no, not the start I hoped for. But it's still a start. Time to start planning for the next one. And maybe buy some warmer riding gloves...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fair Hill vs Great Meadow, Part 1

If you're not into eventing, you probably haven't been on the edge of your seat as the powers that be discuss adding another four star event to the world. The last four star added was Adelaide, which officially became a CCI**** in 2011.

My top two choices made it to the second round and frankly, I'd be happy with either of them being chosen. I was lucky enough (or bored enough) to bugger off to Great Meadow for the Nations Cup and experience the venue for the first time last summer. Meanwhile Fair Hill's fall CCI is my freakin' Andromeda Goal and my favorite event ever.

I'm sure you're wondering how they stack up in my opinion, but even if you're not I'm going to tell you anyway. This entry I'll take a look at Great Meadow!

Of course... Welcome Shadow.
Pros: Location
The venue is in the middle of Virginia horse country. It was extremely easy to get to, a pretty straight shot down a highway where the speed limits hover around 70mph.  The place is absolutely gorgeous. The terrain and footing are wonderful, consisting of lovely rolling fields and beautiful water complexes.

I also stayed at quite possibly the nicest budget hotel I've ever stayed at (shout out to the La Quinta off 66). Pet friendly, twenty or so minutes from the event. It had a pool, hot tub, folded the toilet paper into fancy little origami's, and there was a Cracker Barrel across the street. You know, the important things.


Pros: Stadium
The footing in the stadium ring is this crazy space age super-footing that I'm going to call Cloud-Fluff. I walked across a Cloud-Fluff path and let me tell you, I wish my whole apartment floor was made of it. I think we should invest in turning the sidewalks into Cloud-Fluff. It can handle a deluge without a single puddle. I have no idea what devil invented it but one day I will have my own farm and there shall be Cloud-Fluff everywhere.

Cloud Fluff in action.
They already have lots of flagpoles installed that can be strung up with flags to represent the many countries that will travel here to show off. And hopefully not beat us on our own home turf.

Pros: Cross Country
Great Meadow has one huge advantage on cross country; you can view huge swathes of the course from each vantage point. At one spot on the hill you could see six fences well enough to tell what horse and rider combination was jumping them. It's hard to find cross country courses that wind all over and are still spectator friendly. You could also cross easily between jumps without actually crossing the track a lot, which is great if you're trying to catch every jump and moving around a lot.

It's not as great if you're trying to get your steps in for the day (amirite, Emma? :P)





Cons: Stadium
The spectating for stadium does need some work before its 4* ready. There isn't any grandstand seating right now, although the way it is currently set up made it very easy to spectate, no matter where you sat. I'm not sure how good temporary grandstands are but I'm sure they'll do something fantastic. I mean Christ, the ring has Cloud-Fluff installed.

They also really need to get a scoreboard. That should maybe be #1 priority. I'll pitch in. Like, a dollar. But still.


Cons: Stabling
I don't know anything about stabling at these big events, or what's the norm. But the stabling at Great Meadow is just tents. Freakin' nice tents, but still. I think Welcome Shadow should have a 18x18 stall deeply bedded with four feet of shavings before she fancy prances or dominates on the cross country. But that is just me.




Cons: Shopping
The shopping at Great Meadow was crap. There's not really an area to set up a tent or large indoor venue for shopping. There weren't that many choices as far as vendors either; most of them were saddlers which was fun for me to sit on a bunch of saddles and cry myself to sleep because I want a new jump saddle but I didn't get to do fun souvenir shopping or buy unnecessary crap for my horse. Where's the fun in that??





So that's what I think. I really had to reach for the cons, I loved Great Meadow so much when I went there. I can't stress enough how much fun I had watching the cross country here, I think it's one of the real standout strengths of this venue.

JUST ONE MORE PLZ.
Next up: Fair Hill!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cross Country Schooling 2/20

We rounded off our perfect 'pre-spring' weekend with a trip to Flora Lea to cross country school.

The last time I got to school my horse was in September. He was an absolute genius and perfect gentleman at Flora Lea. He did everything I asked and then some. Of course, the next day Godzilla dashed hopes for a fall season (and tried to dash hopes for any season, at all, ever).

That motherfucker.
Fast forward three months of extensive (insurance covered!!) treatments, a platinum membership to The Walkies Club and about eighty seven bottles of ace and here we are. Back at Flora Lea, schooling and seeing exactly how much work we've got to do going into our spring season.

We got up early to beat the rush since it was such a gorgeous weekend and a holiday to boot. The last thing I needed Runkle to see was someone being run off with and have him decide he was off to the races too. Plus, we had full run of all the jumps and I really underestimated how good it would be for him to school without giant pauses in between for other people to take turns.

It was like he didn't miss any time at all.





Is it just me or do red and purple look good together?


Okay, I realize this is blurry.
But look how chill he is down that bank!!
This is his FIRST DITCH. EVER.
Superstar horse. Didn't even flinch at the ditch. And the even better part was he had two days of jumping in a row, was turned out for 48 hours, and I rode him on Wednesday and he was sound.



Take that Godzilla.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Clinic Report: Sally Cousins 2/19/17

The last clinic I did with Runkle was a year ago, with Jennie Brannigan. I haven't ridden with Sally in even longer.



For some reason we had a magical spring weekend in the middle of February. It was so nice we could actually do the clinic OUTSIDE. Jump clinic in the outdoor in February? I'm sure we'll pay for this weekend with four feet of snow in April but you know what? I'll take it. Maybe not gladly but I will.

Runkle's jump lessons have mostly focused on getting him up in front of my leg as much as possible. He's very simple in that that's his biggest obstacle. Forward. Once he's forward you take your hands a little wide and he can figure out the rest. I'm sure I'm over simplifying and not giving myself enough credit in the same breath but that's how he feels to me.

This lead to me making an acquisition this week, in the form of these spurs:
Runkle is a real turd about spurs. He sucks behind the bridle and goes backwards when you apply them, which is the exact opposite of what spurs are supposed to do. While these are a little on the pricey side, they definitely get the job done in asking him to go forward in a way that doesn't deeply offend him. I'd like to move past jumping him in a dressage whip someday.

Back to the clinic: I love riding with Sally. She's so great for young horses as she's brought up so freakin' many. She's excellent at zeroing in on very common easy to make mistakes that people overlook (like keeping your heels down). She's positive, and slowly builds up courses by having you do elements on their own or in small groups before having you do a course of five or six jumps.


I normally think doing a clinic is a waste of time for a young horse. You just have too much to learn, and a professional is overkill when you're still trying to get your horse moving straight and forward. I don't want to waste a four star rider's time with simple baby steps. But I never feel that way riding with Sally. Her clinics have always been valuable and no rider (or horse!) is too small for her. It's a nice feeling. I  can't say enough good things about her training abilities.

I'm delighted with where we ended up and it's getting me even more excited for the spring season. Runkle was forward, adjustable, and as I got more comfortable I could allow my hand to drop more into an automatic release and he was starting to use his head and neck more efficiently.

He's really come so far!


As an aside, I normally take the audio out of clinic/lesson videos. But I might need to leave it in for one of them, as Sally had an extensive conversation about my purple hair and how my helmet cover wasn't bright enough to match.

Just saying.