Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Riding is all about keeping the horse between you and the ground

Had a lovely days hunting today. Had a hell of a time getting Connie saddled up because clearly she hasn't forgotten what hunting is about and she was very very naughty. My friend said she really is a pig and it's true. I have tried and failed to teach her ground manners, but she is fairly selective about when she wants to be mannerly. She is that horse you tell of for pawing while tied at the truck, walk into the truck, hear her start pawing, grow her from inside the truck, pawing continues, walk out of the truck and she is standing there looking at you with innocent eyes in the hole she just dug. Too smart for her own good, and probably a lot smarter than me.

She was reluctant over the first few spars but once I had gotten over a few we both hit our straps and it was all pretty easy. I also enjoyed having a chuckle at my friend freaking out about the tiny spars on a borrowed horse until she got a feel for the horse and trusted her more.

Unfortunately, another friend of mine, whom lives to hunt, had a tumble and broke her arm, which effectively ends her hunting season. Which really sucks. She is in hospital and her horse is tucked up at my place. It got me to thinking though, so often the falls that don't look that bad cause injury and the ones that look like all parties should be killed in process cause no injury at all. When I fell off of Kate at Foxton, I literally stepped off and didn't knock the fence or anything but my thumb is still giving me a lot of trouble and pain after 5 weeks, while I flew off of her at HoY and didn't even get a bruise. I didn't see the fall my friend had but apparently it looked pretty soft until everyone heard the bone break (I was at the top of the hill with my other friend drinking port and catching up). One of the softest falls my friend I was drinking with, resulted in her broken back. The worst fall I have seen recently, when both horse and rider came down in a showjumper after a monumental miss by the rider, where both horse and rider ended up in a heap on the ground and they bot get up and walk away. There seems to be no real rhyme or reason to it. It's not actually how hard you fall, it's how you land. Riding is a really dangerous sport. It's best not to think about that though.

As an aside after I was in hospital last with my sprained ankle, I ended up doing an ACC questionnaire on horse accidents and most people get injured at home, rather than at sanctioned events and most of the injuries that cause hospitalisations are head and limb injuries. Wear your helmets!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oh so not motivated

Uh it's terrible I know, but I'm actually a little sick of horses now the show season is over. I think that Connie and Kate are fairly horrified by the cutting down and withdrawal of their hard feed. Connie hunts Wednesday and Saturday and then I pull her back shoes and turn her out for at least 8 weeks. With the weather closing in and the days getting shorter I need to focus my time better, and right now that focus needs to be on Rascal and Bill. One sad thing about her not hunting is I'm going to have to get her fit for showjumping next season, instead of just carrying her hunting fitness through. Why hunt her at all? I hear you ask. Because she loves it. And it will be really nice for her to get on the truck and travel somewhere to just gallop around with a pack of other horses and be outside of the structure of showing. Hunting will freshen a horse up as well as a break will. That and after all the collect collect collect of showjumping she will just appreciate being able to jump out of a gallop I'm sure.

Opening hunt was last Saturday but it was raining so I passed. I'm a fair weather hunter only. I love the sport but I hate getting wet. At least in showjumping there is a chance of getting some money back :)

I have spent a lot of time pondering the delicious Kate and her recent lack of form. I have also come to a conclusion. I think she is sore. The first ride at HOY when she really ejected me, the ride was a forward five strides and I got there nicely to a good spot but off of a longer stride and she disappeared on me. She is only jumping when there is absolutely no out. The kicker is that one thinking about it I gave her the exact same ride at the start of the season to 1.20m combination (oxer in(I was very scared)) at Te Teko in the amateur and she just ate it up, while this time over a small single upright she didn't want to play ball. She has also been a bit stiff and cranky until she warms up. The other thing that got the old mental cogs whirring was that the stop in the last round we did at HoY, she stopped in a combination after a really good jump in, at a plain oxer. The double was quite long though and it seems she is quitting when she has to take the slightly longer distance- so when she has to jump bigger. Maybe she isn't and I'm just riding her badly but anyway I will take her over to the clinic next week and get her looked over. she is an 11yr old and she isn't exactly low mileage.

Bill is coming along. today I took her out and worked her in a strange paddock for the first time. It's hard by myself. I want to get her out and about more but it's better to take a young horse out with a grown up horse buddy and it's not that often I have someone to ride with. Still I try to have a little goal each ride that is something we haven't done before and we make progress. Rascal doesn't know it yet bu she is going to be my hunter/ possible dressage horse if I can overcome my lack of interest in dressage for the winter. She is pretty unfit and oh so dumb but at least she feels sound and good and she might be trying. On our ride today she freaked out a a road sign and then when I rode her up to the oh so scary sign she walked head first into it (That sort of intelligence puts you off jumping it over wire). Le sigh. Still must be done, she wont get fit by herself. Her first hunt will probably be next next Wednesday, though she wont be fit enough to do much, but it has some very small spars to start with.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Connie in the 1.20m

This is the photo I have blown up, framed and on the wall. It's cropped a little tighter but one of my favourite pictures ever.

Monday, March 21, 2011

HOY- an Epic novella because it's raining and I don't want t go outside.

Photos are too dark to shrink- but if you click on them they should come up full size and you can enjoy Connie and Kate in their full glory.

Ahh Horse of the Year. Finally, after 7 years, I once again came through your gates as a competitor and not a watcher. I bounced up the driveway to meet my friend when she stopped in to pick up me and the ladies. We arrived at HoY about 3.30pm on the Monday and being at a show for 7 days really does make for a long week. I really struggled in the heat but managed to ride either late in the day or early in the morning so I missed the worst of it. (The pictures are all from the Friday 1.15m class)

I had a fairly ambitious entry schedule, but I made it easier on my self to accommodate the fact that it was my first HoY in years and I might as well enjoy the end of my season. So anyway, monday it was a 1.10m class down in ring 3. Connie jumped well though a little half assed and I got her deep to an oxer in the jump-off and took a rail. also I stopped in the round because a rail was down but everyone yelled at me to keep going so I did. I think I would have had time faults and the judges were kind to let me continue. Kate started really well, jumped strongly, and I made the five strides down to the fifth fence and all of a sudden I was out of horse. I remember thinking that this was really going to hurt but I cleared the fence, albeit alone, and landed rolling so I got up no harm done. Must have looked good though because the judges looked horrified, but I assured them I had landed on my padded bits. I guess I had let my contact go a bit maybe, but mostly I have no idea what happened, she really stepped out on me in the last moment. I'm sure I used to be able to canter down a line to a fence even if it was a bit scary.

The Wednesday we started in the 1.20m class. Connie really prefers the bigger fences I think. She felt amazing. I just overrode into a 3 fence line and had the first rail. Still got an amazing photo of her jumping a 1.20m oxer, which is now on the wall nicely framed and blown up to A4 Size. I have been desperately wanting to get a really nice photo of her over the bigger fences and I'm delighted to have it. Kate was stopping at the oxer in the warm-up so I didn't start her after I ended up straddling the practice fence. She jumps if I have vice leg on and super amounts of contact but I'm starting to wonder if she is sore somewhere. I know as a TB she likes to be held together and that, but I need to be able to canter down a stupid normally strided line on her- i'm sure I used to be able to do this earlier in the season? I wish she would tell me i she is sore, or just sick of it, or whats going on. I might flexion her when Kim is back in the weekend and I even wonder if I might get hock x-rays because she does seem like she is lacking some power perhaps? She feels sound though and full or pep, but she isn't so keen to jump anymore.

Anyway, the cure for bad rounds is shopping! So I brought a new riding Coat. 50% off a Pikeur! I couldn't walk away! I didn't wear it for ages though because I felt like it was too flash for me. I also got a new saddle blanket, ordered new long boots and got two new show shirts. (I don't often buy things for myself and obviously I went a little mad) Though to be fair my current coat cost me $100 second hand and my boots are 8 years old and falling apart. And with HoY being so hot I was sweating through my show shirts really quickly. Oh and the fresh made juice stand under the grandstand did a roaring trade with me. MMMM juice! Thursday was a 1.15m class for Connie and again she four faulted but jumped well enough. Kate was in the 1.10m class and actually jumped clear when I really made sure I never let her contact go until she left the ground but she was sticky off of the ground and while I was rapt to complete with just 4 faults for a circle looking back it wasn't a great round.

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Yay for Friday. Though after 3 days I was starting to think home would actually be quite nice. Three day shows are the norm here so HoY is lots longer than I'm
used to. Anyway, my sister and a friend and my ex were all there to watch and stuff, so we went for a massive epic match of mini-putt while we waited for our classes. It was another 1.15m class and again Connie had another rail. It was my fault though, got a bad spot to the upright and sat up and waited for the 6 strides instead of really riding to get the 5 strides. That meant we didn't jump into the double big enough and she took the back rail of the oxer on the way out. Really it was very generous of her to even try make that huge leap. Kate warmed up super and started well. Though looking at the picture above with her over the first fence, she doesn't look that happy does she. Anyway she started ok, got a great ride to the double, definitely made the distance and she jumped the first and basically landed in a stop and had made no effort for the second element. I got chicken and retired, jumping the first fence on the way out. So I don't know. I have never known Kate to chicken out a normal no fill oxer, and she is normally really bold through her combinations. Luckily for me I got to spend the night in a friends motel and had a fabulous soak in the tub which help with my sore falling off muscles and meant I got some decent sleep. Apparently the showgrounds were really noisy.

Saturday was a rest day for them but I rode Connie bareback in a halter and led Kate over to the polo grounds so that they could graze for half an hour which they seemed to appreciate. Though I was regretting the bareback halter decision when they both came back jiggy and spooky and being stupid. Damn horses. That night the showgrounds were again super super noisy. It's because a lot of the classes are finished and people are celebrating the end of the show, but my big class was still to come and I was pretty annoyed that I was constantly being woken up by drunk talk outside the truck at 2.30m.

I woke up on sunday feeling like a Zombie but with plenty to do. I got my hot chocolate and walked the course in my PJs. Which was funny because the course builder was like I knew someone would walk my course in PJ's. It was a really good course. Lots of questions but not to big, so a great course for the amateur of the Year class. So Connie was groomed and had her studs put in and saddled up. I watched the first three go and then went to Bridle my horse. couldn't find my spurs or my helmet and was in a frantic flap especially when I could hear them announcing the horse four before me while I was still bridling up. Anxious canter to the warm-up , three warm up fences and I was in the ring. Over one and two I was definitely still a little cautious so I made myself ride up to the 9 strides to three. Good jump over the wall and down the next line. she wasn't as tired as she was on friday but was still a little flat. Then our boogy fence- The treble. She hit the first element hard but then jumped really well. I was delighted when I turned back to the next fence that the rail was still up. Over the planks and then the double and I refused to get chicken and still boldy took the last. I was so delighted I nearly cried having jumping my first clear round all season in an amateur class- especially as this one mattered most to me.

I was so nervous for the jump-off I really was. I was going to go inside the wall but sort of knew Connie wasn't capable of it. I had a super jump-off as well she was clean and and turning tightly and was bold to her fences. I changed my mind halfway round the turn to then go outside the wall. and the stride was there but
I didn't ride up enough and had a stop. She finished really well though. she jumped super it was only my fault. Still I was rapt to have jumped a clear and being right up in the competition.

And now? It's all over. After 7 months of working through the season and looking to HoY and working on being better and stronger, it's all over for the year. Connie and Kate will do a couple of hunts and then be turned out, though I need to investigate Kate a bit. Then I will focus on rascal and bill. Still I feel a little lost now it's all done. Still only 5 months and we start again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bills Third Jumping session

This occurred before Horse of the Year so for my blog to appear in good chronological order you will have to wait to hear about HOY! Though I will let you know that it was very very hot and dusty.

So I got brave and bill had her third "jumping" session. She started poorly though when she took off over a little fence about two metres early and took a real flier. I was scared by this and she frightened herself a little bit too I think. But with a slower approach she learned that it's a lot easier to get right to the base and pop over.

I worked really hard on staying out of her way as much as possible and never catching her mouth and I feel like this was the most relaxed session she has had because I didn't get in her way. Every so often she would pop over a fence and I would be like yup there is a some real power here.

She was at all phased by the fences in whatever form they appeared, though they were all tiny. Soon she was trotting in, doing a tiny half canter stride and popping over the fence and cantering away really kindly and relaxed. I was pretty happy she was placing herself more at the base because she loves the long take-off and I want to knock that on the head quickly.

Still I couldn't have been happier with her. Now I really need to start getting her out and about more, have one jumping session a week and have her ready to stat next season :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I found this picture of Squirt from the NZ Dominion Post. No one has been named yet, but most people know who it is I think. There are whispers that there is proof and this person will be caught. That would be great.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I had actually forgotten how much work young horses are lol. I have been spoilt by Connie and Kate but now that Bill is really starting to get worked I have been reminded just how tricky it is. Especially as she is a rather witchy and opinionated little Girl. She has been going so well though. Yesterday she had her first solo ride down the road and apart from moving in slow motion so she could take it all in she was really good. Very bold and confident.

Today everything got schooled. With breaks in between of course it was very hot! Kate feels off in her right fore again but worked through it. I wonder if she is getting tight in her back again. I hope not because she felt solid as three days ago. Once she worked through the shortness she actually worked really well. Connie was as per usual fabulous and tried quite hard to stay collected in her canter which she finds really difficult. I do love her to pieces when she is really good.

Bill is just starting to work on proper grown up horse schooling. Straightness and forwardness and roundness. On the right rein she is really really good and gave me some really nice trot work, forward and light on the contact but soft. She wants to fall in a lot though, so she is also learning that now she has to bend her body around the corners rather than motorcycle. She is quite hinky to the left and it's also my weaker direction riding. I had forgotten how one sided young horses can be! But she had some really nice moments and we even did some cantering where she used her butt as opposed to the bury your head and go really fast to compensate for different rider weight balance. Which is good because with her head buried and her big old butt power cantering I feel like I'm riding a slide!

Humming and hawing what classes I do at HoY. At the moment my first class out for both of them is the 1.20m and I might have a crack at it and then go down in height if it doesn't go well for the next days. The only way to get better at the 1.20ms and get over my fear of them, is to do them. Shouldn't be as big on the first day anyway, or as technical. We will see hey.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Some people really really suck

A horrifying incident took place in the weekend, of the like I have never heard of happening at any show I have been at. Someone actually harmed a horse overnight. Squirt, who is a palomino showhunter horse, had creosote smeared (dabbed, poured, rubbed?? I don't know) on the left side of his face near his left eye. This has caused the horse facial burns, and when I walked past him at the vets truck in the morning I noted the horse with a sore swollen weepy eye and face, but I didn't know what I was looking at until the rumour mill kicked in later that day.

What makes it even more sickening is that the horse had gotten a chemical burn the week earlier at Foxton, but the owner thought maybe he had come into contact with some sheep dip. Now, however, it looks like the horse may have been attacked earlier. Why you might ask. Apparently Squirt is currently third in the Showhunter High Points series and I guess someone else doesn't like that. The horse was treated and did compete that day though I think. It is going to get worse before it gets better I think.

The worse thing is that a crime like this is nearly impossible to find the guilty party, regardless of how much everyone thinks it's one individual. It's a tight knit community on the show circuit and definitely there are few people capable of this. Unfortunately, the chances are that there aren't any witnesses and without proof this person can never receive the life long ban that this person deserves. Even more maddening is that if there was a witness I doubt they would come forward because as someone said to me you then run the risk of your own horse being harmed. It's an ugly situation.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Series Finals in Hawera

Oh Hawera I don't think I have ever had a good show here. I was feeling pretty confident after last weekend at Foxton and maybe that was my downfall. We arrived on Thursday night and settled in and woke in the morning to a grey day that turned into pretty heavy rain by about 9 in the morning. Kate started out in the 1.10m class and had a rail and a stop. The stop was my fault because I underestimated how much she would stall at the gate and so didn't ride up soon enough and didn't make the distance. Then Connie came out in the 1.20m class and was a complete egg. I don't think I rode her that badly and I think for once I'm going to say she didn't do her half of the job. She was good over the first fence, didn't lock onto the second and had a rail. I circled off of the third the first time because there was no spot. The second attempt she jumped in ok from a decent spot but landed and was never going to jump the second part of the double. I don't know if she was finding the going deep (it was starting to cut up) or what her deal was, though in thinking she probably needed a more aggressive ride to force her focus.

Kate was in the same 1.20m class and started pretty well but felt like she was struggling in the ground somewhat. I learnt a lot from this round though. 1. She can clear an oxer from a really deep spot if I stay committed. 2. She is chicken to Wavy planks. 3. I am chicken to plank oxers lol! She actually tried pretty hard but I did a good job of getting in her way. Finally I got a terrible ride into the treble and addedin the one stride distance and circled out for the big E. Guts. It was really nice to see and meet Sally who is a reader, I just wish she could have seen the girls (and me!) on form.

That night the rain came back so heavily the sound of it on the roof of the truck was deafening and we didn't sleep very well. The ground in the oval was getting really deep. A guy who trains racehorses said that ring 2 was grade 8 heavy which is really really heavy. Still Connie had been changed to the 1.05m class. When I tried to saddle her up she went ballistic and after 15mins hanging onto one front foot trying to put her studs in (She had keepers- it was only a matter of screwing the keepers out and the studs in). I wasn't going to let that foot go though. Still after that much hassle I gave up on her and didn't do her other feet. I certainly wasn't getting under her to do tha back ones. The joys of working with a fair weather horse eh. Anyway by the time I got her to the ring I was really wild with her, but she actually jumped really well. (More aggressive ride though) she was even committed as through the combinations and we did an awesome jump-off with super tight turns and a full on gallop to the last to jump it on an angle to win the class. For that I pocketed a cool $90, which is crazy prizemoney for a open 1.05m class. Connie. When she is good she is very very good but when she is bad she is horrid. The ground out in ring 3 was actually really good and Connie didn't slip despite having no studs in three feet.

Kate then had the amateur class in ring 2. Had a stop at the first (Why why why am I scared of triple bars, they are so easy to jump) because of a bunny ride but then she jumped quite well. She never felt happy or confident though and I was having to ride her really hard to the base and still wasn't sure she was going to leave the ground. In the first combination it felt like she really sunk into the ground and she took a stride and hurled herself at the next fence. I retired after that, because to me it just felt like she was finding the going too hard. No point killing her before HoY and it's not like I wasn't miles down in the series. Something seems to happen when I know the fences are 1.20m and I make silly mistakes. It's just like a mental block and I need to just get over it. So Hawera was really not my show. We didn't start on Saturday because it was raining again and actually hideously cold. With a 4 hour trip home it was actually nice to be on the road fairly early and get home before dark.