Thursday, July 28, 2016

Runkle Takes a Field Trip

Dat smile doe.
Horse Show Quickfire:
  • It was hot. As hell. In the future I'm just not going to show in July and August (we'll see, yeah right).
  • Runkle had to sniff every turd on Flora Lea's property. They turn their horses out in the area where they have the show so there were A LOT of turds to sniff.
  • In contrast to our little blowup the week before, he was way more manageable!
  • Though I did drop us down to starter.
  • Because of that I had to do the Intro C test. Intro C test has a halt at X when you trot in.
  • Guess who forgot to halt at X.
Have a video!! This is after the error, she sent us out and had us start again.
  • Stadium warm up had 100% less emergency dismounts from last weekend!
  • Stadium warm up also had 100% MORE jumps from last weekend!
  • We finished a course of six jumps and we only jumped one of them from kind of a standstill.
Hint: it was this one.
  • Runkle got himself another blue :)
I'm so pleased I was able to actually get him through warm up and into the arena to jump. It wasn't my prettiest round by a long shot but I coaxed him through it. He got nervous and sucked back, he wasn't sure what I wanted and probably thought it all seemed too easy but I just rode each fence as it came until suddenly we were over the last totally clear. I made a huge fuss over him and he did a little romp after crossing the finish flags. It's okay, I'm fine with him feeling like a cocky asshole all proud of himself. A little confidence wouldn't be amiss with him.

I'm most proud of him standing and quietly eating while I talked to a few friends and BN/N riders were galloping around their courses. They loudly cantered past, knocked down rails, all the normal show jumping sideshow and Runkle was just more concerned there was a poop he hadn't overturned to investigate.

Despite my error we managed a win, our score was a 33.something, so without the error would've been a 31.something (that's how it works, right?) But I can fix not knowing the test. I think my favorite comment to get on a dressage test is lovely pair. I like that we both kill it together :)

This is actually from last weekend but its SO CUTE.
I really owe my trainer Lauren huge. I keep thinking about this winter, and how little confidence I had that I was doing right by him. I must've been so annoying. Seriously, every lesson I asked if I was ruining him forever. But after a couple months I realized I hadn't done any irreparable harm; in fact, he was better! We weren't crashing into walls due to lack of steering! So I stopped worrying (a little).

She's brought up way more baby horses than me, and I like how slowly she does it, so I listen to her when she tells me stuff. Even if it means begrudgingly dropping him down to starter. So far she hasn't steered me wrong.

Basically he's the best. I'm having so much fun and I love him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Runkle's Second Show

Sometimes I write an entry and then delete the whole thing because I think "Dear God, I sound incredibly self involved."

This was one of those times.

Runkle had his second dressage show this weekend, first doing jumping and a w/t/c test! Big boy growin' up and movin' up.

Because I'm as lucky as a wolf (as the Mongolian's say) I was first ride of the day on Saturday. It's still scathingly hot and even with an 8am ride time both the horse and I were drenched through. Runkle never felt tired, just his normal pokey behind the leg issues. The judge arrived minutes before my test and I went into the ring. I let him have a little sniff around, look at the letters and car. He didn't seem phased by any of it. When she rang the bell I picked him up and headed down to C.

He was so quiet in the bridle, happy and relaxed through his ears and back. We swung through the final turn and halted at X. Even the halt was solid.

So besides his first w/t/c dressage test we can add another first: I've never cried happy tears after a dressage test.

I was so proud of him, and he had absolutely no idea what all the fuss was about. I was crying on him, hugging and feeding him treats and he just stood there going "what, we just trotted in circles. Psycho". But he wasn't done with the psycho-ness. The scores were posted and someone told me we won. I thought they were having a laugh with me. We had won? We had won!!! WAT.

More tears and hugging everyone and a thousand cookies for Runkle. WHAT A GOOD PONY. He rules.

I tacked up for jumping feeling like I was on cloud nine. He ground tied despite the commotion and I sauntered down to stadium warmup. He felt keen beneath me, assessing the new jumps in the field and walking with confidence.

Once at warm up he started to feel tense and nervous. The longer we were down there the tighter he got. He stopped and stared at a cross country jump in the field that we've ridden past approximately three hundred and nintey five times.

I felt his breathing start to pick up. I gently asked him to keep walking and he shook his head, and I swear I could feel his heart pounding against my legs. He's nice in that he gives me a lot of warning that he's going to explode and he was definitely getting ready to blow so I started to get off.

My foot was halfway over his back when he spun and ran, so I fell the rest of the way off and landed with my butt in the dirt. Calls of loose horse rang out as he ran (re: bolted) up the field. For a fraction of a second I thought he might jump the gate but he stopped and allowed himself to be caught.

I trudged up the field. His eyes were huge and staring but he had all four feet on the ground and he allowed me to catch him. As I walked back down to jumping though he started hyperventilating and then he reared over and over and over.

I should have been terrified but I just felt bad that he was so freaked out. I wish I could've explained to him that it's okay, I wasn't going to ask him to do anything hard, I wasn't going to ask him to race. Unfortunately horses don't speak English so we had to settle for putting him back in his stall to calm down.

Once he came back to neutral he got a small cocktail and we walked back down to warm up. Armed with a LOT of cookies I went and walked him around among the jumping horses for about an hour. Initially he was scared, but the longer we were down there the more calm he was until we were standing in the middle of the stadium course while someone schooled it and grazed.

It wasn't the clear round I had pictured but I was proud that he had gone from being petrified to acquiescing that we could stand by the jumps without running away, rearing, or shanking anyone with a shiv constructed of salt licks and carrots.

I'm still considering it a huge victory. And if anyone ever doubts the humbling nature of horse's I'll just link them to this post.

Pictures might be coming, but no video as my dad has UP AND MOVED AWAY and he was my official videographer. Although I'm glad I don't have Runkle's 'spin and fuck off' move on video.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Great Meadow International Part 2: Cross Country Day and Blogger Meetup!

Alternate titles I considered:

Great Meadow International Part 2... 

...Falling in Love with Welcome Shadow
...Amateur Photography at its Finest
...I Regret Everything
...So Much Salt

I could go on. Subtitles are the best. If I write an autobiography it'll have a subtitle of epic proportions.

Emma and Austen picked me up from my hotel in the morning so we could all take one car, since I had already bought a car pass. We definitely should've brought some adult bevs with us but this just leaves improvement for next time!

The amount of volunteers they had running this show was phenomenal. They had people riding around in golf carts driving from the parking lot into the main area so you didn't have to walk. The cross country course was all around us so we just stomped over to the first jump and got right into it.

I started blogging because I wanted to write more, but I've gotta say meeting other bloggers and having other nerdy horse people to do stuff with is pretty damn top.

I'm starting to notice a trend with fancy pants events; at some point they have a display of hunt horses and hounds. Great Meadow doesn't breed their own hounds like Badminton does but they still had a couple field masters blowing a horn and galloping across the field. I won't lie eventually I'm going to bag eventing and foxhunt full time. I went once and loved it and I also like the idea of being allowed to have a flask of scotch with me when I ride.

I digress. It wasn't too long after we arrived that the first horse got on course. I loved the course design. The jumps were all beautiful and it flowed really well. The problems on course were spread out, although the biggest issue people had were at the huge brush corners in the arena. I had seen them the day before in stadium and while we didn't get a chance to walk any of the lines it seemed to invite itself to be run out on.

If you want video media, check out Emma and Austen's posts, especially because Austen is way more dedicated about getting all the riders right.

I got fancy. Have a slideshow.

Other thoughts again in no particular order:
  • omg guys, Welcome Shadow. When I was eight I had an imaginary horse (you know, like you do) named Diamond. She was one quarter Thoroughbred, Morgan, Quarter Horse and Shagya Arab. I don't want to know what that abomination would actually look like but in my head she looked like Welcome Shadow. So much obsessed. I seriously doubt Welcome Shadow has any Morgan in her. 
  • The rocks at the water jump are not as comfortable as they look to sit on.
  • If the live stream went out ever it was because I tripped on the cords literally every single chance I had.
  • You could see so much of the course from one spot. We walked around a lot and you could see between four and six jumps from certain viewpoints. That made it so much more fun to spectate, because you could watch one rider zoom around the back field over six jumps.
  • We ran into a woman who works for Boyd. She chimed in because I was talking about how Otis Barbotiere never came back after the Olympics so this might be the ONLY time to get to see these riders on these horses. Apparently he is retired, fat and happy. She also told us all about Blackfoot Mystery.
  • Blackfoot Mystery is even cooler in person than he is from my internet stalking. He's a BIG dude and just seems like a total bro. Really cool horse.
  • Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance had a sticky ride through the coffin but she was really sweet and encouraging to her and I thought it was really cute.
  • I was so sad when I heard Elisa Wallace had a spill at the stupid beaver. She was sitting in good standing going into cross country, their strongest phase, and she really worked out stadium the night before. Unfortunate.
  • Ditto Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless, who pulled up before we saw them.
  • Lots of frangible activity in the back field, which ended up being influential. They had a couple holds on course to fix an airy oxer made of logs.
Anyway, so that was my day. I hit no traffic coming home and rode Runkle which fulfilled my "omg I just watched people gallop around the coolest track ever and I haven't run XC in 2 years".


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Great Meadow International Part 1: Stadium & Trade Fair

Friday night I was sitting around moaning about how I didn't have anything to do this weekend and I wasn't looking forward to spending it doing boring adult things like cleaning, doing laundry and grocery shopping. So instead of doing all that, I went to Virginia.

I had been planning to go to Great Meadow, and then it kinda fell off my radar. But when I realized I had nothing else going on I figured eh, why not, I'll go anyway.

So go I did!

After riding Saturday morning I loaded up and started driving south. I hit all kinds of traffic but still made it for the 5pm start of the stadium test. It's been sweltering all week but Saturday was slightly more bearable. The arena is huge and gorgeous with the most wonderful footing I've ever seen. The course was challenging, including an option and a triple combination that was a triple bar to two upright verticals.

General 'seating' for the peons and the sponsor tent.
The way the arena is situated makes it really easy for everyone to have an excellent view. I had my camp chair parked on the hillside below the VIP tent (which hosted a SWEET dance party after jumping??? I need me some VIP tickets next year). The hillside meant everyone had an unobstructed view of the arena. There were also private 'box' areas where the sundress and seersucker wearing sort drank bubbly and shared exaggerated hugs. At times I felt severely under dressed.

Arena with private 'boxes' for owners and people in sundresses.
Each rider filed in and gave their shot at the course. Of course Phillip Dutton went first with Fernhill Fugitive and went double clear making it look like a piece of cake. Several people had rails or time penalties but for the most part the courses went smoothly. Have a small percentage of the about a billion pictures I took. Some of the rider's I'm not sure who they were/who they were riding but if I knew I posted it!

This horse could've been a successful working hunter.
Just a classically good jumper.

Emily Beshear & Shame on the Moon

Welcome Shadow and Boyd. I am so into this horse. So, so into this horse.

Buck Davidson & Copper Beach

Marilyn Little & RF Demeter

A couple of other thoughts, in no particular order:
  • They totally needed a scoreboard. They had a timer showing the current person's time but not the time allowed or the person in first. Or the name of whoever was in the ring because everyone was wearing pinks and riding a bay horse and I could not keep them all straight.
  • Santino can jump like a motherfucker. Pardon my French but seriously that horse is an explosive jumping force.
  • Marilyn Little & RF Demeter won most sparkly of the night. Marilyn had a sparkly helmet, and her coat had sparkly buttons on the sleeves that were absolutely entrancing. Add a sparkly bonnet and really they could've crashed through every jump and I would've been like OOOH PRETTY!!!
  • There was a 'fist pump' competition. The rider with the best post clear round fist pump won $500. I forget who won - I think it was the Canadian rider Colleen Loach - but Phillip and Buck both had hilarious double fist pumps where they dropped their reins and punched the air with both hands while their horses took off. Colleen did a bit of a Cotton Eye Joe which was really hilarious.
  • It was kind of funny to me because I actually saw most of these people compete last weekend at HPNJ when I was jump judging. Not on their A++ horses, but still. And no one was watching at HPNJ.
  • Clark Montgomery is going to be the breakout star of these Olympics. I've never seen him compete before but he has such a partnership with his horse,
After the jumping test concluded I wandered around the trade fair for an hour. I do wish there was a better spread of vendors. I wanted to buy something just because horse shows are typically known for their excellent shopping, but everything was just too pricey. Or it was stuff like grain or four wheelers that ... I mean I want a four wheeler but what the hell am I going to do with it. Drive it to work??

I did take advantage of the fact that there were four different saddlers there and sat in a bunch of saddles. Eventually I want a new jump saddle, thinking 2017 or 2018. I hate saddle shopping SO much that I basically always keep my ear to the ground. Unfortunately sitting in saddles that actually fit me just made me want one right now. I sat in a cross country Butet (I used to have a Butet when I did the jumpers), Schleese, Custom Saddlery and a Devoucoux that actually fit me. Both my current saddles are Devoucoux's, and while I love my dressage saddle a LOT my jump saddle leaves a fair amount to be desired. Sigh. Mo money mo problems.

The other cool (pun intended) thing I saw was the Equicool Down booth. Since it was so hot people were swarming this one buying those little neck wraps. I still don't fully understand how this product works; the founder was trying to explain the science of it to me and it just wasn't processing. All I know is, it was cool. Really cool. With lukewarm water spritzed on it. I'd love the leg wraps because it would negate the whole cold hosing fandango. And when I'm competing more than the never I'm competing right now I'd love the body wrap. Just a really neat product.

Saturday wrapped up for me, though not for all because I could hear bass thumping from the VIP tent. I went home and crashed at the nicest chain hotel I've ever stayed at to prep for a long day of cross country on Saturday!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jump Judges are Better Than You

If you event at all, even a little, and you've never jump judged, shame on you.

We're all busy. Kids, work, school, horses to ride, and just life in general all get in the way. Clear a half a day and go sit and watch kids jump their ponies over a log for four hours. You'll be helping the sport and maybe some people you know, too! You could help an Olympian get that last prep ride in before a big CCI or allow a forty five year old amateur to complete her very first event. Just by sitting there and calling "Rider 138 clear 5" every two minutes.

So to help you out, I've compiled some tips and hints to help you be the best jump judge evar.

1. Don't have friends
I feel like this one is kind of a no brainer. If you have friends, you're not going to clear a whole or half day and get up at 6am to watch other people compete. Unless you're really cool and great like me, because I have tons of friends. Tons.

It helps to get friends that are also horse people.
2. Eat all the food
The shows normally provide food for the volunteers. Some places more than others. Plantation had tons of sandwich choices and SMOOTHIES in the afternoon! Really good smoothies. I think mine had papaya in it. Fair Hill didn't have smoothies but they had boxes of full size candy, all the candy you could want although the Skittles went really fast. They also had cookies.

I try and be healthy. I bring carrots and fruit and protein bars and they sit in a baggy and wait for Runkle while I eat three bags of skittles and individually (!) wrapped oreos.

3. Shade
No, not like the "are you in my business and we're gonna go fight now" shade. Literal shade. Some people bring chairs and sit out in the blazing hot sun to jump judge. I'm the prick who always has to bring my car. Luckily every place I've jump judged has been fine with this. As a subheading tip, don't be an asshole and drive your car all over the footing thus ruining it. Give the jumps plenty of clearance especially if the footing is crap.

4. Own your jump
Speaking of crappy footing, I'm a big believer in being all over your jump like fruit flies on an overripe banana. I've only had to judge once so far when it was raining but I was so covered in mud by the end of the day it looked like I had fallen off. I hopped out ever 3-4 horses to stomp divots, check the stone dust and  call the Stone Dust Man if needed. My jump also had brush that kept getting flung out of the top of the jump. But when I was leaving I heard a couple of competitors comment to each other that my jump held up better than they thought and even though Fair Hill has good footing I'm taking full credit. You're welcome.

Sometimes owning your jump means
sitting in your car and calling a grounds person
5. No matter what jump you're at, something is going to happen at it.
I was recently at HPNJ doing fence three, so I figured it'd be zero's down the score sheet since most people make it over the first couple jumps just fine. It was looking like I'd be clear until near the end of the day, when I had someone skip my jump (I felt so bad... can we change the rules so I can say something in the future? It seems like such a waste). I also had someone fall at the jump behind me and the jump judge at the fence was busy assisting the rider so I hopped on the radio and have them hold the course.

6a. People are gonna be interesting (re: terrifying).
I feel like this is an extension of the above. You're going to see some crazy shit. It's just a fact of life when you're watching 70+ horses run cross country. It's easy to forget you're at a recognized show with a steep entry fee when you see people having silly brain farts like forgetting the course or not knowing the rules.

You'll have to sit there trying to sort out if the person has actually lost their temper or the horse just took a bit of coercion to get into the water. Unfortunately, there will be some bad riding. There will be a heads up on the radio to keep an eye out for number 55 because they don't look like they have any breaks and are cruising for an accident. So hold your breath as they barrel over your jump and exhale when they're clear,

There will also be people with clear rounds circle between the last jump and the finish and incur intentional delay penalties (that's a thing!!!! It's 15 points!). I guess it's a mistake you only make once, but at $500 a pop it's an expensive one to make.

Big smiles are the norm.
6b. People are gonna be interesting (re: fantastic).
You also get to see amazing displays of horsemanship that restore your faith in humanity. While judging the training once I saw a girl jump her horse over the more friendly novice trakhener before circling and jumping the training level jump. Yeah, she got time penalties but the horse looked nervous before and cantered away from the question braver and smarter.

The best might be the end. People have realized they've got one or two jumps left and canter towards the finish flags with a huge smile. The give their horses big pats and ringing 'good boys!' that echo over the field. Some people cry. It makes my heart swell to watch. Every single person beat some kind of demon that day, even if the demon was a dust bunny. I think it's really special to watch, and I fall in love with the sport a little more every time I go out.

So that's why I'll keep jump judging. The free t-shirts and Skittles. And I'll be at the next Horse Park of New Jersey crouched in my car surrounded by empty coffee cups and candy wrappers and calling every rider as they gallop past.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fear of Making Plans

Howdy y'all!

I am back from the untamed wilds of Montana (and Wyoming, I guess technically. And Seattle). While Rebecca Farm was on my bucket list, the rest of Montana wasn't and it really should have been. I have tons of media, including a several hour long helmet cam in which my friend and I practice some low stress livestock management. (She works here, if you want to eat grass fed beef. I had some, you do.)

A livestock experiencing low stress
But now that I'm back, WITH the all clear from my doctor to ride finally, I have thrown myself full tilt into Runkle. We finally started jumping again, and I was nervous for our first lesson back but he assured me it was a nonissue by being foot perfect and again the easiest horse ever to jump. He solidified that for me this week by taking the really interesting decisions I was dishing out with a minor amount of sass.

He is awesome.

It feels weird to be back and planning for my future because I have been off plan for so long. I'm also a little afraid that the second I say I want to do something I will break an even dumber bone than my pinky. But I guess that is life, right? There's no room to be afraid when you're grabbing a bull by the horns, and other such tired metaphors.

There's an in house schooling show at my farm in a little over two weeks that Runkle and I will be contesting. No one else enter Beginner Novice A I want a blue ribbon. The weekend after that we're going to do the Combined Test at Flora Lea, followed by Runkle's very first horse trial!!

I'll believe it when I'm leaving the start box, honestly.

How do you balance making plans and then the total bastardization of those plans? I'm back to riding like normal, jumping like normal, and galloping over fields (like... not normal). But when I think about what I want to do in the future I suddenly shy away from making a plan. What if something happens to me? What if something happens at work or I have a family emergency?

I feel like I've said this before, but I'm capable of and used to dealing with horse injury. That's a fact of horse life. What's shaken me up is there is more than one way to hit a detour, besides Runkle kicking himself in the face somehow.

This post turned out to be more of a downer than I intended. I guess I'm afraid for the future because I feel like I have a lot to lose, since it's all exciting stuff that I cannot wait for. Which is good!? Yes. Being excited about life is good even if it is scary. Who knows. Have some pictures of Montana and make plans to go there yourself, because it's worth the trip.

My friend's horse, Zuby the Arabian
Her other cow horse Blue that she LASSOS OFF OF!
Her and Zuby <3
Alpine flowers
The Lamar Valley at dawn

She lives here. YES REALLY.
From the top of the Bear Tooth Highway
Dog's best friend... a stick.