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.

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