Sunday, April 9, 2017

Winter is over and show season is right around the corner!

This winter ended up being a whirlwind. We rode a lot more than we typically do.

Here's the low-down on our shows thus far this year:

January 21: West End Winter Combined Test 2-  1st place in the Senior Beginner Novice Division with a 31.5 on our BN Test B and a clear stadium round, We also rode Training 3 and got a 65.9 with a rider error when I forgot my walk transition. After the show, we rushed home so that we could get ready for the KCDS banquet where Chris won a TON of awards for the year on Stuart!

January 29: Karla, Leah, and I ran/walked the Groundhog 5k at Subtropolis.

February 5: Stone Ridge Eventing had their 3rd schooling show in Miller, MO, and the weather was gorgeous! Like 64 degrees in the beginning of February. In Missouri. We had a 34.8 in dressage, a refusal at the first fence on cross country (those damn first jumps!) and some time penalties to go with it, and knocked 2 rails in stadium to end up 4th out of 4 finishers! Better luck next time.

February 11: West End Winter Combined Test 3- 3rd place in the Senior Beginner Novice Division with a 30.5 in dressage and a rail in stadium when my first-fence-phobia reared its ugly had again. We also did Training Test 3 and got a 67%.

February 25: Karla, Leah, and I ran/walked the Mardi Gras 5k in the Power & Light district.

February 26: Stone Ridge had their 4th and final one-day horse trial (until next winter, hopefully), Remember how I said the weather was gorgeous for the HT on 2/5? Well this was karma. I rode dressage in a blizzard. Literally. Check out the video ( We got a respectable 30.3. Luckily, they allowed us to ride stadium before XC so we could see how the horses would handle the footing. Dieter was slipping and sliding all over the place and generally unsure about jumping in the snow. He refused jumps that haven't been a problem since when I first started riding him. He took everything on the second try, but we decided to draw out of XC just to keep our confidence up going into show season. I'd hate to have him slip and get hurt or have a bunch of refusals and become apprehensive about jumping XC at the recognized shows. It wasn't like we had a chance at any of the series awards anyway.

March 4: Mid America Combined Training Association had their annual meeting/awards banquet at Main Event in Olathe, KS. It was a total blast. Dieter ended up 5th in the starter division for the 2016 season. Then we got to play laser tag and do gravity ropes (a high ropes course they have above the arcade area complete with a zip line!). It was a blast.

March 5: West End Farm Combined Test 4- 1st place in the Senior Beginner Novice Division at a 30 in dressage and a double clear stadium round. We again did Training Test 3 and got a 67.5%. It was really really windy that day, so I was happy with what we were able to accomplish.

March 12: Karla, Leah, and I ran/walked the Martin City Whiskey 5k and had a delicious breakfast after the race. That race has good perks. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in doing 5k races.

March 18: MACTA XC schooling at Heritage Park. Dieter was phenomenal! We jumped some beginner novice stuff but mainly novice! He was a total baller. We even jumped a training fence (maybe a couple) and he couldn't care less.

March 19: MACTA One-Day Horse Trial 1- We had to scratch because as I was picking out his feet getting ready for dressage, I noticed that Dieter's back shoe was half off of him. It couldn't be very comfortable for him to walk around, let alone ride. He got the day off and I helped with XC timing, which was fun. Luckily, we were able to get to the farrier that night to get his shoe fixed, but it was still a huge bummer to miss what I was thinking would be an awesome day!

March 25: Mill Creek had XC schooling at Longview, but we decided not to go because it had just rained a bunch and Dieter is the only horse of our string who has stud capabilities. Taylor has already had her own difficulties with slipping and sliding around XC/stadium, and Leah is just starting out so there was no need to test her confidence on a less than perfect day. Better safe than sorry. Although, we heard (after the fact) that the footing was indeed alright. We went to Iron Horse for a jump lesson that night instead. Dieter was amazing!

March 29: The horses had their annual vet visit (there's a ton of money down the drain- of course they all needed to have their teeth done). After the vet, we left for the World Cup in Omaha.

March 29-April 2: Chris and I had an absolute blast at the World Cup in Omaha. We were able to watch, in-person, every single ride of the weekend (except the ring familiarization stuff on Wednesday). It was awesome to be around top riders (I got lots of selfies and autographs), and see how they warm up (they had their warm up ring right in the middle of the trade fair). Plus it was nice to catch up with some riding buddies I haven't seen in a while and meet new friends. The shopping wasn't bad, either!

April 8 (yesterday): West End Farm had their fifth and final combined test at Longview Horse Park. The day was crazy. They didn't get started until about half an hour to 40 minutes late and it only went downhill from there. I was supposed to ride at 12:20 and didn't end up going down center line until about 1:15. Because they were running so far behind, the warm up ring was nuts. I even got blamed for a girl who's horse was bucking, ran into me, and then fell off her horse. All because I was trying to pass left shoulder to left shoulder and couldn't tell where she was going. Her trainer even took it upon herself to say something about how I need to look where I'm going. To an adult. The next time I had to pass her, I yelled "outside" as loudly as I could so she would be able to know where I was going, despite the etiquette. Then I heard them talking smack about me at their trailer (which was parked directly next to ours). Whatever. I'm over it. I was waiting outside the dressage ring for the 2 riders in front of me, both of which forgot their test and excused themselves from the ring. As I went down center line, Becky O'Bea (dressage judge) said, "I hope you have a better ride than the last two." I said, "I'm fairly certain I remember my test" but I didn't want to jinx myself by saying that I absolutely knew because stuff happens. Her response, "I'm fairly certain you do, too. And I'm fairly certain you won't give up." Our test was pretty good. It was windy, so he was a little on edge, but we had really good rhythm, despite a couple spooks at people walking past the arena or me asking for a bit too much. We ended up with a 29.5, though, which is definitely respectable. For stadium, they had Brody Robertson jumps and a couple of very tall sunflowers in the middle of the ring to make it look pretty and to spook every single horse there. I tried to trot past them and Dieter wasn't having it. We pulled a rail at the fence next to the scary sunflowers, but ended up in 5th place overall with a 33.5. Then we went to the cross country course. We started over 2 beginner novice jumps and the proceeded to jump all the novice things. I had one refusal at the stupid tiger trap (it's all my mental state with that jump. I have PTSD, I swear). But he got it easily on the second attempt when I let him canter to it at a good pace. Everything else was perfect. He had no more stops and jumped everything I put in front of him! Good boy, D.

Next up: Mill Creek Horse Trials May 13-14.

Here's to a great season to all!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 Season Wrap Up

Well, I've got mixed emotions about proclaiming that the 2016 season is officially finished for Dieter and me. It was a year of ups and downs, but we've learned a lot. I think 2017 is bound to be a great year for us!

At the end of October, we celebrated Halloween by dressing up. Taylor and Duncan were Wonder Woman and Super Man. Dieter and Sophie and I were ninja turtles. And Leah even dressed her new horse, Scooter up, too. And we had to take a couple jumps in our costumes!

November came and went quickly. And none of us eventers are great at sitting still, so we kept
the engine going. On the 20th, we went to Stone Ridge Eventing's first one-day horse trial near Springfield, MO. It was a blast, and the show was run really nicely. It took us about 2 hours to get there from Chris's house in Butler, MO. Dieter was a pistol when he came off the trailer. We had to canter what seemed like endlessly around the cross country field before he started to chill a bit. We did beginner novice. Our dressage test was a bit of a disaster. He was trotting through mud with zero impulsion the whole test, and when I asked for that stupid left lead canter, it took us 3-4 attempts before we finally got it (oh no, now we have a new confidence issue). We ended up with a 36.0. Then came cross country. Their cross country jumps are scattered in about 3 turn out pastures, so the 12 jumps on the course all came up pretty quickly. Dieter did pretty well over the first 3 jumps and then we came to a barrel jump. He has never jumped a barrel, so it wasn't insanely surprising that he refused it on the first attempt. Stupid me was over his shoulder and barely made the save to stay on and reattempt. He jumped it beautifully on the second try. Then we came around to the water, which was about 5 feet across. I don't think he understood what he was supposed to do, and I stupidly tried to canter him into unfamiliar water (learn from my mistakes on a green horse, kiddos). Let's just say it didn't work out well for me and I ended up on the ground in front of the water (whoops! At least I didn't go for a swim!). I caught my horse and made the walk of shame off the course. Luckily, this was a schooling show and I'd be able to try again after everyone else had finished their first attempt. And I was allowed to ride stadium. While we were waiting for stadium to start, we warmed the horses up around the stadium jumps (some of them were different than anything we've ever seen... and they were all very colorful). When it came time for us
to do the course, it rode beautifully. We had a good pace throughout the whole thing and Dieter barely looked at anything (we jumped our first green astroturf roll-top with no issue!).  After we did our stadium round, I took him out to school the water again. He hesitated, but walked right through it. Then trotted it. Then cantered it. No problem. So we started at the beginning and rode the whole course from start to finish and he ate it up! This horse loves his job. It's pretty cool, and so much fun to be on this journey with him! 
After Stone Ridge, Dieter got a week off while I visited my parents in Austin, TX for Thanksgiving. We had a lot of fun playing pickelball, golfing, and doing iFly (so fun!). 

There was another Stone Ridge show scheduled for December 4th. Unfortunately, the night before, it rained pretty hard. As a barn, we decided that it was a schooling show and it wasn't worth risking our horses' safety & health to ride in a schooling show that might not have the best footing available to us. Dieter has shoes, so we weren't as worried about him, but Duncan doesn't have shoes and didn't need to lose confidence by slipping and sliding into a cross country jump. We decided to scratch and stayed home to ride at Iron Horse later that night instead. Dieter jumped some fun stadium jumps with mounting blocks under them, astroturf, jackets on top of the jumps, and even some bigger stuff. We're really figuring out this jumping stuff!

Then on December 10th, West End Farm was having their first combined test for the year. We're doing beginner novice this year, as compared to green as grass (which is lower than starter) last year, so it was fun to see how he had improved over a year's time. We ended up leaving Chris' house after she got off work on Friday, so we didn't make it to North KC until about 7:30 pm. We decided not to ride, because it was late and there was no one around and it was cold. We made sure the horses were settled in and headed to Walmart for sugar cubes. We were totally lame the rest of the night and went back to Lorna's house to sleep. On Saturday morning, we went to the barn early to feed and found out that the outdoor jumping ring was too frozen to be used, so dressage would be in their front arena (which didn't have fantastic footing and was littered with some rocks), the indoor arena where we would be jumping, and a grassy hill that could be used for warm up when the 2 arenas were in use. I gave Dieter a really long warm up (about an hour and 15 mins), and we started in the indoor where we just walked for a while. Right after we started trotting (and were able to do 1 canter transition), we got kicked out so the lower jumper divisions could start. We did the rest of our warm up on the grassy hill. We schooled left lead canter transitions until I didn't think about it anymore. I had the realization that I think I'm bending him too much in preparation for the transition, so when I straightened him out, we did a lot better. We went in to the ring to warm up (there was no space around the outside, so we just trotted around the ring. When the test started, it went really well. He felt really good. He was pretty good about keeping a good pace throughout, and when it came to the left lead canter, he picked it up on the first try!!! I had the biggest grin on my face! We had conquered our demon. I didn't even care how the rest of the test went, but we ended up getting really good scores on all our walk work (like 8s... like 3-4 8s!). It was our best dressage test to date! We got a 28.75. Check out our test here: The jumping started 15 minutes after I finished my dressage test, so I immediately changed my tack and went straight to the indoor arena. They didn't really have anywhere to warm up jumps and I figured that the quicker I could get into the jumping arena, the more I could use my dressage as my warm up. They allowed us 4 warm up jumped before we were to start our course. Dieter was awesome! We had a good pace throughout the whole test and he did amazing. We went double clear. We ended up in 1st place! Yay for winning! It IS possible. And Taylor and Duncan won the BN junior division.

And now the weather sucks and it's unbelievably cold and we haven't ridden since last week. I saw my horses once when I went out to put a new blanket on Dieter. And now it's snowing and the roads are super icy, so who knows when I'll be able to ride again. So instead of riding... I blog. You're welcome. 

Monday, October 24, 2016


The name of the game this year was more miles, more miles, more miles. More miles in the dressage ring. More miles in the cross country field. More miles in show environments. More miles meeting new horses. More miles in crazy warm-ups. More miles meeting new people. More miles passing the terrifying people in judges boxes. More miles in dressage rings with unfamiliar edges, More miles going to different facilities. More miles going down centerline. More miles by ourselves on the cross country course. More miles over different types of jumps. More miles doing anything and everything we can to get outside our comfort zones. More miles. More miles. More miles.

Dieter and I are in no rush to run prelim (and frankly, prelim scares the living H-E-double hockey sticks outta me). I'm doing this for fun. I have a full time job that I have to make my first priority so that I have a way to afford my horses. I have a lot going on in my life, and eventing and horses is my hobby. I want it to be fun. And I want my horses to have fun and love their lives. I want to take it slow. We have no time table for success. I'm not trying to make it to Rolex by 2018. I only have my horses for so long, and I want them to be happy and healthy for the rest of their lives. So we're taking it slow. We're working up the levels. I want to stay at the same level until I enter a division and people see my name and say "Oh, man, she's in my division... I don't have a chance." We're putting in the hours and we're getting the experience. We're paying our dues and figuring out the kinks so that we can fix them for next time. That's what this year has been about.

I could not possibly be happier about this year with Dieter. We've almost hit our one year anniversary (we're about a week away), and we've had so many accomplishments. When I got him, I was terrified of his power. I remember thinking that he is so much more powerful than Coco, and I never thought I'd be able to ride him well. He had never jumped a fence when I got him. We spent hours doing figure 8 patterns with tiny tiny jumps to work on our timing and get distances. Now we can jump a course of 2'6" fences with only minor errors (typically caused by the rider). I love that I'm learning more about his personality and his wants and needs daily. This horse drinks more water than I knew a horse could drink. He loves his massages. He will do absolutely anything for treats, and he's non-discriminatory when it comes to treats (unlike Coco). He has a way of telling you exactly what he wants and needs. He won't just do what I want him to do because I want him to do it. I have to ask correctly. He's teaching me all my flaws and bearing with me while I work through them. He's a pretty incredible horse. I've got a feeling that we've got some fun stuff coming up in the future.

On Friday, we started packing for Windermere Run Horse Trials at Longview Lake Horse Park in Grandview, Missouri. Taylor and I spent the morning cleaning tack, cleaning the trailer, and getting our horses bathed and ready. We left for the park around 1:30, When we arrived, we set up stalls and started getting ready to school dressage. Dieter and I had a fairly nice warm up, but we could not for the life of us pick up the left lead. Whenever I asked for the left lead, he would effortlessly countercanter. What?!? We haven't ever had this trouble. What is going on?? Finally, after trying about 20 times, we had some success and I thought we had it under control (is that some amazing foreshadowing or what?!?). We took the horses back to let them rest while we walked the cross country course. The course was pretty straightforward with a couple twists and turns. And yes, that damn tiger trap was (of course) on the course. Good thing we had conquered it and it wouldn't be an issue... Or so I thought (more foreshadowing?!?). We took an early evening, fed the boys, and I headed home to do laundry and prepare for Saturday. I was only able to sleep restlessly that night. I had dreams (nightmares??) of the tiger trap and everyone I knew (except me) walking away with blue ribbons. I think I was only able to sleep for maybe an hour at a time all night.

I woke up early Saturday morning to feed at the barn. It was nice to have some time out there where it was just me and the horses, feeding hay and grain, filling water buckets, and just enjoying the early morning quiet before the storm. I tried to lunge Dieter before all the excitement started, but the only place to lunge was on grass and it was super slick that morning. D's feet flew out from under him several times at the canter before we decided to stick to the trot, which was much better. We worked a bit on rubber bands (collecting and extending) at the trot with side reins, just to get him listening to me a little better. He was pretty good. I wish I could have worked more on his trot to canter transitions, but we could only do the best we could do. At least we were able to do some lunge work. Taylor and Duncan had absolutely no success with their lunging attempt, because Duncan was slipping all over the place on the slick grass.

The team watched Lorna ride dressage and then I headed back to the barn to braid. It takes me an hour. Always. But it's nice quiet time before everything gets crazy. I tacked up and got on an hour early for dressage so that we could have a long walk warm up. We got to the dressage ring, which was running early, and started warming up and Dieter felt like a dream. He was listening to me and we were bending and flexing and he was listening to everything I had to tell him. We didn't really push the canter too much, seeing as we had had so much trouble with it the night before. I asked for each canter once and he picked each lead up beautifully. Done. We were able to get into the ring a bit early. The test was riding pretty nicely. Dieter was listening to me, we were getting good bend, and then I went to pick up the left lead. His haunches were out, his shoulder was in, and he picked up the right (incorrect) lead. 3 times. And then we finally got the left lead about half way around the circle. We got a 3.0 on our canter transition and a 4.0 on our canter circle. Whoops. I tried to brush it off and remember that I have to ride the test movement to movement. Messing up one movement doesn't mean that the whole test is ruined. The rest of the test was nice. We ended up with a 37.0 which put us in 14th place (out of 19 starters). Just imagine what our score would have been if we had done better on our left lead canter! Check out the youtube video here.

I untacked and took out Dieter's braids and wetted them down so that he could go out on cross country without looking like an idiot with a crimped mane. Then I realized that Taylor was warming up for cross country and Chris was helping Sam warm up for dressage. I figured that maybe I could help her start warming up in case Chris couldn't get there in time. Duncan slipped coming into a couple of jumps and kept chipping into jumps unnecessarily. We finally got her to the point where she took 2 jumps in a row nicely without chipping in or sliding in front of the jump and decided to give up. He would be better out on course. Taylor went on to ride a double clear cross country ride. She left out of the start box just as Chris was headed into the cross country field. As soon as she finished, I headed back up to the barn to get myself and Dieter ready for cross country.

Dieter warmed up nicely. He jumped everything well and made easy work of a pretty big roll top in the warm up. We were ready. My main concern was to get over the first jump. I didn't want to spend too much time thinking about the tiger trap. He jumped the first jump well. He jumped the second jump well. And on the way to the third jump, there was a four-wheeler coming into my line of sight and therefore my path to the third jump. Dieter was already running sideways looking at the training jump nearby and the four-wheeler coming toward us wasn't helping the situation. Finally the four-wheeler stopped and we were able to proceed as planned. Jumps 4 through 12 rode very nicely. Jump 13 was the tiger trap. I came down the field and got complacent. My reins got too long and I had no way to convince his shoulder that it should go over the jump. He blew right past it. Totally my fault. I circled around, shortened my reins, and he jumped it beautifully on the second attempt. The water and jump 15 were good. We had a fun little gallop to 16 to make sure we were able to make time despite a couple interesting happenings on course, and we finished well. He did everything I asked him. He was pretty perfect. We dropped down a place to 15th, but I was still happy with him. I survived. I stayed on the horse. We got through it. Miles. Dieter got his hose down and his linament before a little rest in his stall while we went to dinner.

Samantha had had a rough Friday. We took their horses to the show on Friday so that they could go to MU to have Arrow (her other horse) checked for lameness. Unfortunately, the discovered that he has Wobblers Disease (a neurological it) and will not be able to be ridden anymore. She was pretty upset. After we watched her ride Brownie on cross country in the starter division, I took off so that I could find her something to make her happy, As soon as I saw the arrangement of smiley face balloons when I walked through the door at Price Chopper, I knew that would be perfect. I took them to Oden's (where we were going to go for dinner) and snuck them in before everyone else got there. After dinner, the waitress presented Sam with her balloons and I'm pretty sure she didn't stop smiling the rest of the night. We went back to the barns to wrap horses and walk them before bed. Sam and Taylor spent the night at my house.

We woke up early again on Sunday morning to feed horses and watch some of the competition. We were able to feed, water, and clean stalls pretty quickly so we had time to take the boys out to graze a bit before we went down to watch prelim jump. The competition was fierce and we knew a lot of the competitors, so we were having a lot of fun watching.

I went to get my horse ready and appreciated that I could hear the competition from the barns. I took Dieter up in a halter so that he could graze and take in the scenery before we had to do anything serious. He acted like this was old hat. Nothing phased him. He happily grazed on the hill next to the arena and couldn't care less about anything going on around him. I bridled him and got myself ready before I headed to warm up. The warm up ring was crazy. There were probably 10-15 horses in there with lots of kids with little regard to the people around them. I did a couple of warm up jumps before I asked to leave. It was just way too hectic. Luckily, I only had to walk around for a couple of minutes before I was allowed to head to the warm up ring within the arena. I kept Dieter moving but stopped momentarily to watch Donna ride. As she was doing her stadium round, Emily (one of the girls I knew from Columbia who was supposed to go right before me) went to take a warm up jump and her horse slammed on the brakes. She went flying over her horse's head and landed on her head/neck and immediately started crying. I thought I might throw up. I suddenly had a pitting feeling in my stomach. Maybe I shouldn't do this. Jumping can be scary. After they let the EMT into the arena and were waiting for the ambulance, they asked if I wanted to go. Chris had told me that Dieter would most likely not like the large sailboat standards they had in the arena. Sure enough, as we went to trot next to the judge's box, Dieter was looking at the scary sailboat standards and the people sticking their heads out of the cave (judge's box) to check out what was happening in the warm up. The judge watched our freak out and after I was able to get him past the scary spot, she rang the bell. I rode too hard to the first jump (I didn't want to have a repeat of Heritage) and my handsiness caused him to drop a rail. The rest of the course rode beautifully, until we got to the sailboats. He didn't want to do it, he wanted to run in the opposite direction, so I circled him and we tried again. We had success on the second attempt and the rest of the course was perfect. He even jumped the two-stride line only a little extra leg to convince him to take the brick wall at the second fence. We did it. 8 jump faults, but I'll take it. Miles.

We ended up finishing 15th out of 19 starters and 17 finishers. At least we weren't last. And like I said, the more miles, the better. Plus, despite being the drop score for my team, we still got 2nd place in the beginner novice division, so I still walked away with a ribbon for having awesome teammates. 

Now we know what we need to work on for the winter. Lots of jumper shows with scary new standards. Lots of dressage work with emphasis on transitions (particularly trot to canter) and collection. Mainly, I need to keep the reins short enough. It's amazing how despite thinking that my reins are super short, they look crazy long in the video. We need to school as much cross country as possible. Stone Ridge should help with that. There's a lot of fun stuff coming up, and I hope to be a part of all of it. Miles. Miles. Miles. We'll get there.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dressage Shenanigans, Trouble on XC, & our Beginner Novice Debut


It has been quite a busy 2 weeks with Mr. Dieter-man. Last weekend we had a long weekend at Longview Horse Park with a Mission Valley Pony Club Dressage Show and cross country schooling on Saturday and Kansas City Dressage Society Dressage Show and another MVPC cross country schooling on Sunday.

We hauled to KC from Butler early Saturday morning. I rode Dieter first and got a 68.75% on BN Eventing Test B. He was acting really strange, swapping leads if my balance was even slightly off, not bending to the left, and overall resistant. I wasn't sure what was going on and just tried to get through the test. Then I had to throw Dieter in his stall and do a quick tack change to ride Coco. At about 10:30, after Coco's test, we went out on cross country with Lorna (riding Scotty) and Sam (riding Brownie). Again, Dieter was acting really off... he wasn't bending to the left, he was resistent, he was refusing to go straight after the jumps, and he kept acting like he wanted to buck. We started to wonder if there was something going on with his back. We did minimal cross country jumps and finished with the scary "BN" tiger trap, which he refused the first time and jumped fine the second time. When we went to jump it a third time, he got over it, but it wasn't pretty. We chalked it up to something going on with his back and moved on. Dieter got some time off before his second dressage test, Training Test 3, where we got a 63.18%, We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how quickly we could get a hold of a chiropractor or a massage therapist, thinking there was something going on with his back.

Cue feelings of being a terrible horse mom... as I was grooming him after the show, I noticed that Dieter had a fairly large spur mark on his left side. It wasn't terrible, but his hair was pretty much rubbed off and the spot looked like it could have been irritated. Good news: my horse's back is most likely alright. Bad news: The reason he's been off if because of my negligence and horrible riding/use of spurs.

I decided to forego the spurs for Sunday's KCDS Show and things went much better. I got a 70.25% (our first sub-30 eventing dressage score... 100-70.25=29.75 for those of use not in the loop) on BN Eventing Test B. Then I had a quick tack change to ride Coco followed by another quick tack change to ride Dieter again in his Training Test 3 where he got a 65.46%. We need to work on our canter transitions and maintaining contact during transitions, but things were better than Saturday. Then it was time to go school cross country.

Originally, I had planned to take Dieter XC schooling on Saturday and Coco XC schooling on Sunday. However, after we figured out what was going on with Dieter and the spurs, Chris and I figured it would be more fun to take Dieter on Sunday. Cue second bad horse mom moment of the weekend... what made me think it was a good idea to take an exhausted horse onto a cross country course 2 days in a row? He warmed up fine, but you could tell he was tired. He refused the first BN fence we attempted, but rode it well after I put on what felt like a TON of leg at the base. On the gallop to the next fence, I felt like I had to push him every stride. Chris wanted me to take a series of jumps all in a row and then end with the ever-scary tiger trap. I went through a bunch of fences that looked like they were BN and that we had jumped previously, and everything was going well. Dieter picked up speed and seemed to be figuring out his job well. We jumped the down bank and headed to the tiger trap. We were going too fast, but I was thinking that I'd rather have too much speed than have to push him over the jump (bad horse mom moment #3). I came in too hot, he stopped, dropped his head, and momentum took me over the fence without my horse. My air vest went off and I totally freaked out my horse. I was able to catch him and I got back on sans air vest (which felt very unsafe!). I'm not sure if Dieter kept thinking there was something on the back of the jump (because that's where I fell and my air vest went off) or if the jump itself was scaring him or if I wasn't riding him well because I was nervous, but he proceeded to refuse that jump about 5 more times before he decided he was finished trying. On our last attempt, he veered left, throwing me to the right side of the saddle. I tried to hang on, but scraped my back along a tree, which made it that much harder to hold on. I landed flat on my butt/back. I laid in the middle of the field for a second to collect my thoughts and assess the situation. I was sore, but it seemed like everything was alright. The walk to the training fence to re-mount was painful. My lower back/right hip hurt, but it didn't seem like anything too serious, and when I got on, the pain went away. We decided not to beat that jump like a dead horse (pun kind of intended). We ended the day on a couple easy BN jumps that we'd jumped before and he took them like a champ. Hopefully the jumps at Heritage would be on even ground and not anything like a terrifying "BN" tiger trap.

Dieter got a hose down and about an hour of rest while I assessed my situation. I was really sore. Like really sore. But it didn't seem like anything that a little tylenol couldn't fix. Sitting was fine. Standing was ok. Walking wasn't exactly pleasant, and the sit to stand motion was definitely painful. We had to do something about that jump, though. I couldn't let him finish the day thinking that it was OK to refuse. We slowly (because ouch) walked down to the jump in question with a lunge line. We started lunging over an easy starter log near the water, and he was doing fine. He remembered lunging. Yay! So we moved to the tiger trap. He came to a complete stop at his first attempt, but I coaxed him over with a slight tap of the whip. He really hesitated at his second attempt but eventually jumped. Then he jumped the jump nicely 2-3 times. I should have quit (bad horse mom moment #4). However, there was a tree in the way and I couldn't get him to slow down before his next approach to the jump. He jumped the jump and ran straight (good news), but I was tangled around the tree and couldn't get a good enough hold on the lunge line. Dieter booked it up the hill back to the barn. I couldn't even remotely keep up with him. He has a nice gallop when he wants to! I took my time getting back up the hill (because ouch) (bad horse mom moment #5). When I got back, my horse was in his stall and had been successfully caught. Bad horse. Apparently he almost jumped a picnic table. But a "BN" tiger trap is terrifying. Really? Horses.

So not exactly the best weekend, but at least we had a chance to work on his fitness (how often do we get the chance to do dressage and cross country in one day, twice in a row?). And we learned the problem with the spurs. And we learned how scary tiger traps are. And we learned what it's like to have the air vest go off (the landing was actually fine- the landing without the air vest... not so much). And every time I ride him, we learn more and more about each other.

Dieter and I took Monday and Tuesday off. I was sore. Really sore. It hurts to lay on my right hip. But the soreness has gotten better. On Wednesday, we rode in the field at home. On Thursday, after some heavy rains, we rode dressage at Willow Creek and worked on our transitions (mainly trot to canter), with more success when we did 10 meter circles and picked the canter up on the circle. Friday morning, Taylor and I headed to the barn early (we got there around 9am) to pack for the show. We cleaned out the trailer, packed our stuff, cleaned tack, & bathed & clipped horses before we left at 1pm for Heritage Park Horse Trials. Before the weekend even began, I decided that our goal was simply to finish our first beginner novice event. There would be no expectations. We need somewhere to start and we need to know what we need to work on. This would be a learning weekend for both Dieter and me. 

I rode a practice dressage test on Friday evening at 5pm. Dieter warmed up well. But as usual, my reins got way too long during the test and he wasn't collected enough. We ended up with a 35.5. I had to shorten my reins more on Saturday and we could do even better! After our practice test, we walked the cross country course. It was backwards from other years. And the jumps looked HUGE!!! I knew they were beefing up the course and changing things around, but I didn't realize that the jumps would look like novice jumps! Even Taylor (who has been doing BN for a while) said that the jumps all looked big. Great. I walked the course twice and tried not to think too much about it. Overall it was a fairly early night. I stopped at Jimmy John's on the way home and was able to get to bed pretty early.

I got to the park early Saturday morning to feed the horses. Then I realized that I had forgotten my garment bag with my show coat... cue 60 minute detour back home and back to retrieve said garment bag. It was literally hanging next to my door. Idiot. I got back to the park and lunged Dieter. He did well. He was mostly pretty collected and paying attention. I think we lunged for about 20 minutes and I called him good. I let Dieter relax while I watched Samantha ride dressage (she ended up with a 27.6!). Then I braided, which takes me a solid hour. For a 5 minute dressage test. I got to the field just in time to watch Taylor ride from afar (another amazing ride with a 28.8!). These kids are giving me a run for my money!

I took my time getting ready and got on around 12:15. We had a nice long walk, watched Donna ride, and then started warm up. He didn't feel as soft and responsive as Friday, but he did fine. We went into the ring and I just tried to constantly remind myself to keep my reins short enough. We had some beautiful moments, but we also had a moment when I didn't go into the corner at all and was totally unbalanced and when he kept throwing his face up at the walk because I was messing with his face too much. Overall, though, the test went well. We ended up with a 30.5, which put us in a 3-way tie for 4th place.

I tried not to think too much about cross country. We have schooled BN jumps. Lots of times. And we've jumped everything Heritage has to offer. I just needed to treat this like a schooling with the objective of piecing jumps together. I watched Sam go XC, and she looked like a beast! If she can do it, I can do novice, surely I can manage to get around a BN course. I started to prep for XC as Taylor was going. She came back to the stalls as I was leaving. She said the course rode well.

Dieter warmed up well, despite a crazy warm-up area. We started jumping and the cross rail went fine. But then we plowed through the vertical. My bad. Too slow. And then he launched himself over the following oxer so high that I'm surprised my air vest didn't go off (we would have had a repeat of Sam's air vest incident several weeks prior). We came around and did the line again, with better pace, and it was fine. We took the 2 cross country jumps, Chris reminded me that there's nothing on course bigger than those jumps, and we headed over to get in line for the start box. They were taking us in any order we wanted to go. I had 2 riders in front of me and then it would be my turn. At my 2 minute countdown, I started walking Dieter in and out of the start box. I thought about the course and how I would ride to every jump, trusting nothing. And then when I came out of the start box, I had him cantering in place with my reins way too long (bad horse mom moment number whatever). I didn't even give him a chance to jump the first fence. He refused. I got my head in the game and gave myself a pep talk to remind myself that this is supposed to be fun. We're going to get it done, buddy. He took the jump on the second attempt. I had him going kind of backwards to the second fence, but he jumped it, despite my poor pace and me being too far in front of him. The rest of the course rode great. We had a good pace, he locked in on the jumps well, the twists & turns went well, and he didn't spook at the scarecrows. We ended up 3 seconds over time for 1.2 time penalties in addition for our 20 refusal penalties. We moved from 4th to 10th, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't be more happy! We had survived our first beginner novice cross country course! And it was fun! Team Morningstar deserved steak.

Chris drove us out to the stadium course so we could walk that before dinner. It seemed pretty straightforward. All right turns except one left rollback turn. We got back to the barns and everyone else wanted to walk horses and wrap before dinner. I decided to wait until after dinner so that Dieter could chill for a bit and so that it would be a bit cooler when I put his sheet on him. Chris bailed on dinner, which meant that Taylor & Debbi could bail on dinner, so it was just the Foggs, Cam, and me searching the countryside for a place to eat steak at approximately 7pm on a Saturday. Not an easy feat. We ended up at Cracker Barrel. After dinner, I went back to the horse park, wrapped, and walked. I found Lilly from CEC and we walked with her around the dressage field. Then I went home and went to bed.

Sunday was another early day. I got to Heritage around 7:30. I unpacked my car, made sure Dieter had food and water, and did chores. Around 8:45, Dieter and I took a walk up to the stadium area. We explored the warm up and the arenas and watched a few riders go, including some people we knew, like Camryn and Kris, before we headed back down to the stalls. Chris was walking up to stadium as I was walking back, but we took different routes. I asked her to warn me when I should start getting ready and she said to go ahead and do it. I took my time getting ready and making sure I had everything I would need before I headed back to the warm up. We did a long walk then our 2-2-2s to get ready. The footing in the BN area was horrible, but the footing in the novice area was alright. Chris was by the novice jumps, so I decided to take the cross rail there. She told me to move up to the BN area, where the footing was crappy and the jumps were tiny (I think some of the trainers had lowered them because people were having trouble). We jumped the tiny vertical twice before I realized that I had 1 rider before it would be my turn in the ring. I told Chris and she told me to jump the "novice" oxer on my way out of the warm up. We got to the ring as the person in front of us was going. As we cantered into the ring, the announcer came over the speaker and Dieter lost it. Our attention was no longer. Suddenly everything was scary and terrifying and the world was a horrible place. As we came to the first jump, he was looking at everything, and I didn't have a great pace. He refused. Again. First-fence-phobia. I circled him and then he took it fine on the second attempt. The rest of the course was alright. We couldn't agree on a pace. Some of the jumps were terrifying and I needed a ton of leg to push him to them and he attacked others with no problem. It was hard to tell if there was a common denominator, but we knocked several rails (3, to be exact). So we added 20 faults onto our 51.7 to end with a 71.7 and 11th place. As they were doing the course change, after we had taken some pictures, I sought out the steward to retrieve a completion ribbon. I know it seems stupid, but that completion ribbon means a lot to me. We have a place to work up from. We officially have a starting point. We've bitten the bullet and can only go up from here.

Yes. We didn't get a ribbon. Yes. We didn't have a perfect show. Yes. We definitely have improvements to make. But I honestly could not be more happy with this weekend. I am so excited about how far Dieter and I have come in less than a year together. He has taught me so much about how to ride dressage correctly and how to develop a horse and how nothing will ever be perfect and how it's the journey that's supposed to be fun, not necessarily the ribbons and winning. He is such a fun horse, and he is teaching me so much about riding and horses and myself. I have never in my life valued a completion award as much as I do after this weekend. This horse and I are going to be unstoppable once we get some miles. Watch out, eventing world!!! We're coming for ya!