Monday, October 21, 2013

Checking boxes.

Spoiler alert!  Not without it's bumps but it went well, to say the least!
Boxes from my bucket list that is!  This is a doozey!  But I am not a fan of cliff hangers so I will leave the choice to you.  If you can't make it through the entire post in one sitting you can get bored and leave or you can even come back later and finish on your own time but this will be the entire coverage of my experience at Hagyard Midsouth Horse Trial and Team Challenge.  Kentucky Horse park was on my list.

 On my list for this year actually.  There are things that I thought I might accomplish this year that haven't happened but this amazing experience makes all of that completely irrelevant at this point.  Competing at Kentucky Horse Park was what I hoped to do.  Who would have thunk it would become so much better than that?!

This place IS all it is cracked up to be.  Horse Heaven
I am not sure where to start.  This event has been the culmination of years of work and you never know if that day will be your day.  Steady previously has always been excessivly tense in dressage.  We have been unable for quite a while to get scores better than the 40's.  Then straightness and steering in stadium have also been questionable for us.  Being at beginner novice height it didn't usually make an effect on our score because he could jump those jumps sideways.  Which is what often would happen.

I had not even realized until arriving at the Horse Park what kind of caliber event this was.  It was unlike anything I had ever been to.  We are not in Indiana anymore Toto, I mean, Steady.  Checking the forecast earlier in the week I was happy to see it was going to be sunny and in the 60's.  Great Eventing weather! 

The drive down was uneventful.  We arrived, unloaded and settled in.  I went on a short ride.  Steady was a little distracted but mostly quiet and obedient.  Two of my awesome eventer friends sweetly offered for me to share a room with them.  Yay for not sleeping in my truck!!  We went out to dinner, chatted until we were too tired then drifted off to sleep with thoughts and nerves of the horse show kind.

7 am arrived before I knew it.  With a 4:07 ride time you have time to have a leisurely start to your day.  But seriously no matter how late I ride I am always behind and rushing the last 20 minutes. This needs to change. It is too stressful.  Eventing prep alone is a sport in and of itself.  Wear this, change that, switch this for every dang phase.  4:07 dressage time and stadium jumping at 6 pm.  I meant to buy a stock tie pin at one of the tack trailers, didn't happen.  I was supposed to sew a button on my show coat, never happened.  Oh well we will make due I guess.  So much for that amazing weather report.  It was cold and rainy and cold.  Just the type of weather perfect for making horses high as a kite.  I took him down to the dressage area to lunge and I am sure glad I did because all of the action down there he was high as a kite.  I eventually got control of his feet and that was my goal.

After a whirl wind of getting ready and down to the warm up with about 20 minutes to warm up which was my goal.  Thankfully the rain had at least stopped but once you rounded that last corner of the barn to walk down to the warm up you were immediately struck by a fierce brisk wind.  Down in the arenas the warm ups were down right sloppy.  Soaking wet and soup like. Conditions were far from perfect to create a relaxed environment.  To my pleasant surprise Steady got right to work.  Listening, obedient and we even had some nice bending (for us) to the right which is our bad side.  Walk, trot, canter in both directions and lots of relaxed stretchy walking.  If all went to hell in a hand basket for out test I was still pleased because it was officially the best warm up we have ever had.  Then the bell rings and it is time to enter at A.  The test felt good.  NO really it felt REALLY good!!!  The only blip we had was he switched canter leads on our circle but he switched then switch back all without so much as coming above the bit.  I felt it during the test that though I had improved a great deal that I still get tense during a test and get weird with my hands which really scarified some of our bend in both directions but mostly to the right.  Still need to keep working at that.  I halted and G and tears welled up in my eyes.  I was SO proud of my boy for staying relaxed and doing his job.  I felt like a just came off cross country I was so damn excited.  I jumped off his back and praised him.  It was awesome!  But you never know how a judge will see your test and judge it so I was apprehensively excited to find out my score.
Dressage arenas.  Pipes in front are to fill the watering truck to keep the arenas waters.  No watering was needed Saturday.  They were a sloppy mess.

 But I must wait because scores won't be posted until later so I was to hear my score as I entered my stadium round.  Remember this is a team challenge  I will explain how it works.  A team consists of 3-4 riders.  Our team was on of 5? that was put together by the Indiana Evening Association.  There were several of us from IN down there.  I knew one of the members of our team KC and her pony Pablo Picasso she even is a blogger and knew of the other two and have seen them around different events but had never officially met.  Dressage your team members ride all at the same time, Stadium and cross country you go one right after another.  You are scored individually just like a regular event.  Each member being in a separate division.  There were 4 Beginner Novice division with about 25 per division.  And 25 teams. So that makes about 100 competitors just in the BN level!!  The event was huge!  I think there was something like 475 competitors! Team scores are figured using the best 3 scores from each team then add the scores together and the lowest score wins.  So you are rewarded as individuals and as teams.

Another whirl wind of getting on my horse and into warm up.  Warm up was a MAD house.  two different levels with stadium going on at the same time in different arenas are sharing one warm up arena.  People and horses are flying everywhere.  I was ran up on, cut off and I even thought we might kill a little pony because I clearly called the oxer and during our last stride person on pony cuts in front of the landing side of the jump.  Luckily our steering had improved greatly since last year and the pony was spared.  It was nearly time and our team headed over.  I was in division D so I was last to go on our team.  One by one each went clear!  Pablo the pony got bit rambunctious and even threw in a couple bucks for KC before the 2 stride. Each of my team members went double clear.  Then it was my time.  I had my plan in my head and was ready to execute!  I salute the judge and the buzzer sounds and I hear the announcer announce our names and our score of 33.3!!  Alright Steady we rocked that now let's do this.  We canter off and the first jump is a line Oxer and six strides to a vertical.  Smooth sailing.  Right turn to another oxer, good.  Left to the two stride combination(remember this has been a big mental obstacle for me) NO problemo.  Then a pretty tight left to a natural colored vertical.  Right at the our turn to the fence Steady thought that the fact we were headed back toward the gate must mean we were going out.  We had a moment. He wriggled, he scooted sideways and flipped his head I even lost a stirrup but I wasn't going out like this so stirrups or not we are getting this done, Dude!  I kicked on and kicked on and he caught sight of the next jump and took off to it.  Then a tight turn back to the left to a jump set on an angle which was necessary to get right to set up for the next jump an airy natural obstacle hard to the right.  Then it was right to number 9 and I remembered to sit up and ride to the last jump.  No quiting until we pass through the flags.  The last jump was beautiful and we were double clear.

After Dressage we were 5th in our division and our team was in 3rd!!!  4 double clear stadium rounds put Steady and I in 4th and our team in 1st!!!  Wooo fricken hoooo!  Team Veterans & Vixens is kicken butt!!!  Everyone from IEA was so supportive and congratulations were flying everywhere.  People who have seen Steady and I in the past were extremely impressed with our progress.  And Steady gets compliments left and right because he has turned into such a dashing, impressive gentleman.  His color is amazing right now.  Deep chocolaty brown with a sleek coat.  It was just an incredible feeling that I don't get to enjoy often in my world of housework and kids and wife duty.  I may have been a bit on the annoyingly excited side.  We went out to dinner at a great pizza place then wine and chatting into the night again.  Going over the cross country course in our heads and the excited nerves that come along with the most favorite phase of all eventers.

The team ringer score was by the amazing Squiggie owned by fellow Indiana eventer and blogger, Rachel.  Squiggie is the queen off all eventing awesomeness in the world.  Taking blue ribbons at every event she attends is a given.  Rachel was not in the irons the time as she has a bambino growing in the oven.  But she offered her up to a fellow eventer.  Their score was sumthin' ridiculous like 28.6.  Then Steady and I had the other anchor score with our 33.3.  The other two scores were a 39 and 44.  As we were riding in the bed of the truck to go out to walk the XC course they grabbed my leg so as to not let me fall out of the truck.  Not for fear of loosing my life but more so of loosing my  I can't lie it felt good to feel important.  But it did also add a strange extra pressure to the all ready high pressure sport.  Knowing that I would not just be letting myself down if I failed but my whole team.

It is such a mental game.  I can't help but feel confident going into XC but then I know how quickly the tables can turn and you can land flat on your face when they do.  One day maybe I can take it all a little less serious but I guess I don't feel I have that luxury when I get out to one recognized HT a year.  I put all my eggs in one basket so to speak and I just want to do it the best I possibly can.  So far I felt that is exactly what we have been able to accomplish.  Perfect?  NO.  But our best we have to give right now?  YES.

XC ride was at 3:34 pm so another pretty leisurely day.  I walked the XC course 3 times and was able to watch several Novice horses go.  Then I went out to watch a fellow IEA team go.  Before they came through we saw several horses come through in BN out of at least 6 and I maybe saw 1 clear round.  That was not the best to build the confidence in how the course was going to ride.  It was a strange course I thought.  No flagged water question.  No flagged ditch question.  No jump in particular stood out as looky.  Maybe the squirel at jump #1 but I wasn't too concerned about that.  But the real questions on the course were the terrain.  You had several ditches to go through.  We went down into the Rolex Hollow then up two strides to a coop.  A lot of hills, an A B combination on a 45 degree angle.  And #4 proved challenging for many and it looked like it would.  It was a stone wall and after was a steep incline at the top was a large arbor complete with winding vines.  The arbor was distracting but I felt more than anything for the horses that steep incline right after didn't give them a clear view out.  Then if you didn't swing wide after 3 and instead cut a little of the corner the horses just did not get a change to comprehend the question before it was upon them.

As my friends started to go they, one after the other, just rocked the course and made it look like cake.  That was all I needed to see.  They had amazing rides and they rode it like they should have and it looked very ridable.  Now it is game on!  We headed back to the barns to get ready to take our spot in the start box.  On our way out to the warm up Steady was little by little becoming more and more overwhelmed.  I could NOT get him to stop looking out into the distance.  He was getting ancier and ancier.  By the time we made it all the way out there he was in full blown melt down.  I couldn't get him to walk.  He was putting his nose to his chest and prancing left and right and any way but straight.  Until the moment that the explosion started going upward.  I couldn't get forward motion and he started bouncing up front and I felt a scary moment coming so I emergency dismounted.  I didn't know what to do.  I moved his feet for a few minutes from the ground trying to get his attention on me.  For what ever reason he COULD NOT stop gazing out into the distance.  Yes we were on the top of rolling hills and you could see very far out.  No he is not used to anything but flat ground but I did not see this coming AT ALL.  So I am not even on my horse 10 minutes until I need to be in the start box.  Not to mention gone over any jumps.  Rachel convinces me I need to get on and let him gallop.  Hahaha ok I may trot but not convinced galloping is going to happen.  Trotting helped, a little.  I did get over two itty bitty cross rails before another melt down began.  They said I was next and I headed over just as my team mate was heading out of the box.  Steady did NOT like that at all!  He wanted to go too.  I was desperately hoping someone that was close by could just hold him for the few seconds we need to wait.  This is a casualty of eventing alone.  I need a team!  Or even one support person would be nice. The start box people seemed terrified of him.  I mean yes he was acting like a loony bin but anyone who has ever evented can hold a horse acting like that.  Then the fit got bouncy again up front and I hoped off again before I got that infamous Steady rear that I felt coming.  He wasn't being mean he just had mentally checked out.  He was honestly overwhelmed and his answer to that is move his feet and the faster the better.  Serious thought of withdrawing were running through my head.  And I think there was a good chance if my team wasn't counting on my that I would have.  So start box people again no help say, "well if he can't handle this maybe you shouldn't be doing this sport."  Lady can you just shut the F up an hold my horse.  Well no I can't hold a horse but I will give you unsolicited advice on your riding discipline.  "well you need to go" says the lady.  Don't get me wrong I am eternally grateful to the volunteers but at that moment she was not my favorite.  I desperately needed someone to hold him one second, that is all I needed so I could jump on and GO.  Mounting a 17 hand horse in jumping length stirrups from the ground as he is dancing around in circles is just not possible for me or anyone I doubt.  But if I could have 1 second of stillness I could be on.  Finally some lady appeared out of nowhere she may have been an angel and unfortunately in that moment I did not get to properly thank her though I did say thank you.  She came up held him I swung a leg over and I was through the start box.  We trotted the first jump I was really still concerned what was about to happen.  I thought he would exploded on landing, it has happened before when he was far less excited than this.  But upon landing he just galloped off steady and ready for action.  I was struggling a bit to get him back to me in front of the jumps but he was not out of control by any means.  Jump two no problem.  Down hill long gallop over the roadway to jump 3 we had some crookedness in my attempts to hold him back.  But in hindsight I feel my biggest fault this whole XC course was holding him back too much.  #1 lesson to take home and work on is I need galloping lessons.  That is where pretty much my only fear on horse back lies is speed.  I took the wide turn around to 4 which gave us plenty of sight to what was coming.  It was like he wasn't even thinking about the jumps at all.  Just sailing over them.  We went up the steep hill to 5 then you had to go down the other side through a little stream then over a brush fence to the left.  Next jump 6 little blue house then a good galloping stretch up a slow incline.  This was the first place I actually let him go and it felt really good and it also made him so much easier to pull up to balance for jump 7 and I think it was just more effective because he didn't feel like he had to fight me all the way to the jump.  Take this lesson home, think on it, work on it, change it, Amy!  Stop making your horse think he has to fight you on XC. Over the log at 8 then on to the hollow.  He got to the top and was like, "whoa, where did the ground go?".  He immediately slowed to a walk then we trotted through the hollow but I knew I needed momentum up and out to the jump so I kicked on and he cantered forward and he weaseled just a little at the top but went over with no issues.  Down a long decline to jump 9.  He took a pretty long spot to it but since these jumps are pretty much another canter stride to him it was not an issue.  10 was a table down another hill through a ditch to 11 A&B  A was a roll top with a hard right to a log pile to the left.  He pulled up to a trot when I  forced the turn then off to 12.  A big green roll top the a pretty sharp turn to the left through a low area.  Steady is well known by those who know him by thinking he knows more than I do at times or all the time.  He thought we should go straight and I had to give a bit of rude awakening that no indeed we were going to go left.  He does listen and he is not being belligerent he just gets on a roll and thinks he knows what he is supposed to do next. He happily does what I ask next it just takes a second for him to get on the same page.  And by this time my upper body is really getting tired from holding him so much and my riding is not it's best.  My hands are way too high and I doubt I am communicating with my body properly.  To the left through a low spot then to the right to another log.  Through another ditch and to jump 14 the last one on course.  And the screaming began.  I was inexplicably happy and relieved that it went so amazing.  In less than 6 minutes I went from thinking my horse might just kill me in warm up and I should withdraw to sweeping through the XC country course like it was a walk in the park. The extremes were great and made it all so much more exhilarating.  Normally after a XC run horses even Steady is calm and quite proud of their accomplishment.  And I knew I had purposefully not conditioned steady at all for any of it because too much condition on him makes him high strung.  So between the high energy warm up and the course I thought he would be tired out at least a little.  Ha, silly me!  I seriously think he thought that was his warm up because he was not done.  he was still waiting for the real jumps to come along.  He was so dancey and prancy on the way back I had to get off and walk him to the barns which was a long haul.  Oh Steady you are amazing and crazy and highly intelligent and pig headed all at once. 

We ended and made our way up to 3rd individually in a solid competetive field of 25 and 1st out of 25 teams!  Veterans & Vixens dominate Beginner Novice Team Challenge.  We ended on our dressage score of 33.3! 

Hey guys I've got good news!  Even in all the excitement I managed to not only start my watch but also the helmet cam!  So here it is..fair warning I talk on XC A LOT so if you don't want to hear my annoying chatter turn down the volume.  And after the rainbow jump beware the screaming may blow your speakers.
And please after about the 6 minute mark and the course is finished hit stop because I forgot to turn it off and trust me you don't want to hear me hyperactively gabbing halfway back to the barns.  I tried to trim it on youtube but it is taking forever.


  1. Ooh, he IS a good boy! He just flew over those jumps like they were nothing...not one of them made him go "HUH?!!! I don't think so!" He was definitely wanting to go his own pace though. ROFL! Good ride!

  2. I got pulled up at the top of that hill, super kid had a mental breakdown and started rearing and everything, don't mess with these ponies when they get on a roll. Congrats on the ribbons!

  3. I am so happy and excited and proud for you and Steady! You are such an amazing team! Congrats!!! You have come such a long way. I am so happy you both got to show everyone what you're made of. :D I love the video! It was fun going along for the ride. :)

  4. Woot woot YEAH!!! Go you guys! :D

  5. He definitely looked like he was having fun! I know how it is to have an uppity horse who just wants to go - people seem to think they're crazies, but they get the job done, no problems! Congrats on your ribbons!

    1. Haha Yeah I should Have Said, "So You Have Obviously Never Watch Rolex. Because Those Horses Are Nuts In The Start Box And They Are Kinda Good At ThIs Sport.

  6. Love it! What an awesome accomplishment. Congrats to you and your team!!

  7. Congratulations! That is just awesome!

  8. Oh my gosh!! How exciting!!! Congrats for sure. And I love your talking him through the course. You were so positive. I get WAY too negative with my mare when she gets the idea she knows best. My dialogue is sort of littered with four letter words being used as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. I am so amazed with you ability to come out of such a scary warm up, and frustrating start box experience with such positive energy. REALLY congrats to you!

  9. I'm with Horse Crazy, I think you did an AMAZING job - I would have disintegrated into a ball of nerves and tears if I had to cope with all that in the Start Box (and a hearty EffU to the unhelpful lady, thankyouverymuch). You guys rocked!

    If for no other reason, you eventers all have my extreme regard because you actually remember those courses. Ye gads. Said brain, having already disintegrated in the Start Box, would totally have failed and I guarantee I would be stopping on course, looking around and going, "Um... where next??" If I'm capable of doing that in an enclosed riding ring I can't IMAGINE what would happen on x-country. Yikes.

    Congratulations on such a fun and fantastically successful outing!

    1. I just have to chime rely on volunteers and my guess is the woman was probably a volunteer. I've volunteered as a jump judge and at the start box many, many times and for many years. Volunteers are NOT PERMITTED to assist a rider, period. In many cases, assisting a rider can also cause that rider to be eliminated. Unfortunately, in this litigious society, assisting can become a liability not only to volunteers, but to organizers and riders.

    2. Jenn I completely agree that is why I said that "I am eternally grateful for volunteers". I appreciate them being out there and fully understand the event could not go on without them. So please to misinterpret my frustrations in that moment as a lack of respect and appreciation for volunteers. And volunteer NOT PERMITTED to assist a rider um, that is not all together a true statement. There are certain things you are not permitted to assist them with but to say you cannot assist them at all is completely wrong. If a rider falls off mid course does that mean a jump judge should make no attempt to catch their horse? What about if that rider is permitted to remount and continue on course and gets a leg up from a jump judge. That does not eliminate the rider and it is absolutely assistance. I fully understand the ins and outs of volunteers and each year put in my many hours myself. But I would NOT have been eliminated had the volunteer held my horse while I mounted before I even entered the start box. As soon as I saw her face I instantly knew she was not a "horse person" and told her never mind she shouldn't hold my horse if she was not confident about it. But if you feel you would have handled the situation differently then good for you. In that moment for me all I knew is I needed to get in the saddle atop my very tall horse that could not stand still. That I did not want to foil the entire event up to that point just because I needed a split second to get a leg over. Any one that implys that they can ride my successful exracehorse better than I when he has his "moments" I gladly offer them my spot in the saddle to show me how to handle it better. I have yet to have someone brave enough to take me up on that offer but you might just be the first. So truly anytime come on out cause God knows I could use the help. I make NO claim to be an expert, faultless or to not make many many many mistakes. This blog is proof of that. I am just an honest, hard working person who loves my horse and the sport of eventing and am fumbling my way through it. I always do my best to be completely transparent and openly honest about me, my horses, my training, the highs, the lows and my feelings on all of it. So please try not to make judgements on me based on my admission of my faults and weaknesses. We all have them it is just that not all of us are brave enough to admit when we screw up.

  10. Thrilled for you that you had a fantastic experience at KHP! Many more to come for you and Steady - I am sure of that :)

  11. What an awesome way to end the season! Congrats!!


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