Thursday, March 31, 2011

Demystifying the Vet Box

The other day, the Chronicle Forums had a thread started about the lack of knowledge about the ten minute box on the part of the CIC* riders at Poplar. Now, I know Gold Chip's CIC* rider had a good couple of kids to help out in the box, and all of those with us were educated in how to handle the box. However, we also had a lone Training rider accompanying all the upper level riders at Poplar, and her mom walked with Dante and I back to the barn after the box. She said something very interesting to me on the way back.

What she said was, "We love being here with all the upper levels because you all know exactly what to do and when to do it."

That gave me pause a bit, and I realized that something that had become routine for me was something that two years ago I was desperately seeking information about, reading books, and watching Youtube videos on.

So without further adieu, here's what you need in the 10 minute box, and what to do with it.

Equipment needed:

2 Buckets: These will be used to hold ice water. It's generally best if you have buckets with your colors. For instance, I have black buckets with blue electric tape on them. This makes them more easily identifiable as my buckets.

2 Sponges/2 Sweatscrapers: Two is best, because then you can have one person on each side of the horse sponging water on and scraping it off. My scrapers and sponges are also blue.

Halter with Number: I prefer to have an old halter (I actually use my everyday halter) with his showname on the name plate to help officials identify the horse. Also, the number must be present, again to help the officials/vet. While you can use an old bridle tag that you've flipped over and written the number on the back, I prefer to put blue electric tape around the cheekpiece and write his number with a Sharpie on it. The halter will get wet in the vet box, and wet bridle tag numbers are never fun.

Lead Shank with Chain: No matter how well behaved your horse is on a normal basis, after cross country he/she is pumped full of adrenaline and probably not inclined to stand still. Having a chain is essential for most horses. Better to have it and not use it, than need it and not have it. Even if you think your horse is worse with a chain over his nose, you can always just use the chain as a regular shank. You likely won't be the one holding your own horse (more on that later), so have some consideration for your helpers and give them the option to use a chain if the horse is being a bit bull-headed.

Sturdy Laundry Bag: This one is purely optional, but very handy. You'll find that most of the time in the vet box, the tack comes off and goes EVERYWHERE. It will be surprising how many of pieces of tack your horse wears and then you realize that you will have to carry it all back to the stables. I stick all of my tack except my saddle into the laundry bag as it comes off the horse. Boots with tape, bridle covered in sweat, saddle pad, girth, safety vest, gloves, helmet, everything. My laundry bag is a sturdy black one that has backpack straps on it, so it's easy to carry. Plus you can put all your buckets, scrapers, sponges, and halter into the bag to carry it down to the vet box. There, done!

Now you pretty much have everything you need. Optionally you can bring scissors to cut tape off XC boots, but the one time I did that, my helper accidentally cut through two straps on one of my boots. Now I just rip off the tape or just leave the boots on until I get back to the barn.

Before the event, you should be aware of your horse's typical exertion temperature, heart and respiration rate because it's good practice to measure these after gallops in the month leading up to the event. Also, by using a thermometer, you get your horse used to it so that in the vet box, he/she isn't throwing a fit over having a thermometer in their you-know-where.

Now, when you first enter the vet box after crossing the finish line, the vets and their assistants will come up and take your horse's temperature, heart, and respiration rate. They are usually pretty high, especially when it's hot or humid. The vet will tell you them, write them down and hand the paper to one of their assistants. Try and make a note of these, so you can get a feeling for how normal they are compared to your horse's normal exertion rates.

Your primary helper should come up with the halter and get the bridle off and the halter on. You and another helper should get the tack off as quickly as you can, except for the cross country boots. Although the boots trap heat on the legs, there are a couple of reasons to leave them on for the moment. 1) Some horses may kick out, still pumped up on adrenaline. Not only is it dangerous for a person to be near kicking legs, the boots will also protect their legs from their own kicking. Dante does this, and he's not a kicker, but when he's pumped up, it's not safe down there at first. 2) It's more important to quickly get water on the horse and begin cooling off the main portion of his body than taking extra time to pull off the boots.

If you have three helpers, one should hold the horse's head while the other two sponge ice water on and immediately scrape it off. Do not leave the water on! Scraping is the most important part of this process. While the water is initially cool, the horse's high temperature immediately heats it up. If it is not scraped off, it actually traps the heat at the skin. Therefore, by scraping the water off, you are literally removing the heat.

Make sure to get the horse's head if you can, and under the tail. These areas have thinner skin than most, and help cool the horse down.

After an initial sponge off, the helper holding the horse should then walk the horse in a large circle. The other two helpers should go refresh the ice water in the buckets. You should make sure to be removing your outer layers (vest, helmet, gloves) while the horse is being taken care of. If you don't have three helpers and are helping cool the horse down, use the horse's walking time to remove those items. Drink some water as well, most shows provide water bottles to the riders in the box.

Sometimes you will not really be permitted to help your horse until you take care of yourself (unofficially anyways). For instance, when I did the CCI* at Colorado, I was very out of breath at the finish due to a combination of a throat infection and the altitude. The FEI doctor made me sit down on a golf cart and drink a bottle of water while removing my vest, helmet, etc. I kept wanting to get up and help with my horse, but he wouldn't let me. Similarly, at Poplar, I was trying to get my bucket of water filled with ice water and the FEI doctor followed me while entreating me to drink some water, shed some layers. I felt fine, but he actually started to unbuckle my helmet and unzip my vest while I was trying to fill my bucket! So I finally stopped and promised to look after myself while others took care of my horse.

The point is, make sure you, the rider, are taking care of yourself as well.

Anyways, once the horse walks in a big circle, again sponge and scrape both sides. At this point, if the horse calm enough, you can take off his boots, which will help to further cool him down. Repeat the sponge, scrape, and walk routine.

After ten minutes, the vet assistants will come back to take your horse's stats again. If your horse has cooled down enough, you will be released to go back to the barn. Don't forget all your stuff! If your horse is not yet cool enough, continue the routine, making sure the assistants come check your horse's stats periodically.

If you ride with a trainer who has a group of FEI students, check with them before cross country to see if they have a particular routine or setup. Often, trainers with multiple FEI students will have a bucket station for their stables, help from other students not riding in the FEI divisions, and might bring all of your stuff back.

For instance, at Poplar, Mike brought buckets and sponges down for the Gold Chip horses. Jacob Fletcher (Area V YR who was running Intermediate at Poplar) and Elizabeth Crowder (Area V YR/FEI Groom Extraordinaire) crewed vet box. The Area V horses all came in at least 30 minutes apart, starting with Ellen Doughty's Obie, then Dante, then Heather's Maisie, then Alexa's Mitch in the one star. I brought Dante down, but left all of my tack and Mike brought all of the tack back on his golf cart later. So stables often work as a team to get all of their horses through vet box.

Rocking Horse 3 Show Jumping and Cross Country

Here are the videos for the jumping phases of Rocking Horse 3. They were posted quite a while ago actually, but it was while I was Poplar, where I was doing my best to keep you updated daily. In any case, here's show jumping.

51-Maggie Deatrick-Divine Comedy-SJ from CatchRide on Vimeo.

I obviously missed a few times to large oxers and Dante saved my butt. The worst was the blue oxer bending to the in and out. The seven fit just fine, but there was no possible way Dante could have gotten the one without the very forward six. I stand by my statement before that I think Rocking Horse's course designer should have not made the in and out distance quite so do-or-die, as I saw many, many horses who did not make the one stride. It's unfortunate when a course designer punishes the horse for mistakes the rider made.

Here's cross country.

51-Maggie Deatrick-Divine Comedy-XC from CatchRide on Vimeo.

One of my best cross country rounds for sure. Not much I feel that could be better about that except that I still need to pick up my shoulders more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poplar Place: The Heart of a Thoroughbred

Somehow, I found myself driving to Poplar at 5:15 am on Sunday. For those who know me, early mornings aren't my thing. Really early mornings very much aren't my thing. But I managed to drag myself out of bed and to the barn.

Unfortunately, Dante was extremely stiff and probably a bit muscle sore after his exertions the previous day. We jogged him up to see what he felt like, and he was definitely a bit funny behind...not as if he was lame, just as if he was stiff. We checked his legs and they were tight and cool, so I hopped on and spend about 30 minutes in the dark trotting and cantering to limber him up.

The time for the jog rolled around just after the sun came up. Dante was much looser, although not 100%. I think the hardness and the hills really got to him, and I know in the future I will hold him back instead of letting him roll.

We jogged up, and got held. The vet in the hold checked his legs and also found nothing wrong with him, which was unsurprising to Mike and I. Then I jogged him again for the stewards and we were passed on re-inspection. That was one of the more nerve wracking moments of my life, let me tell you!

I tried to get the equine masseuse out to give Dante a massage before show jumping, but when I talked to her, she said she wasn't coming to Poplar, because she thought that because it was the last day of the show, no one would want a massage! That seemed very strange to me, as I would think the day after cross country would by far be the most popular for massage. So poor Dante had to settle for handwalking and grazing.

I walked the course and thought it looked quite fun. The first line was a related distance, which I always hate because Dante isn't quite capable of the big stride yet. However, it was a very long related distance, either a long seven or short eight. So Mike, Heather, and I decided that instead of being set on a distance and trying to make that distance happen no matter what, I would simply ride to my eye and not count strides in that line. Everything else looked quite doable, and I honestly didn't think the jumps were particularly big.

During warm-up, I could tell Dante was tired and stiff. Very tired and stiff. I'm definitely going to try and handle things differently in the future for three days, particularly if the ground is hard, or there are lots of hills (even the Kentucky Horse Park isn't as hilly as Poplar!). However, he was jumping well, including a very large oxer at the end that I am convinced was Advanced height, as the jumps in the ring looked small after jumping it! I was also seeing my spot well.

In the ring, I knew I needed to give him an accurate ride to give him a chance. And I'm proud of my riding for the most part. I rode the first line to my eye and got a good stride to both the first and second jumps. Unfortunately, Dante tapped the second fence and it fell. Then he tapped the third fence, but it didn't fall. Then the fifth, and so on and so forth. We jumped by braille around the entire course, but other than the second fence, none of the rails fell. My poor tired boy was jumping his heart out, let me tell you, but he just didn't have the energy.

Then, coming to the last fence, which was right by the in-gate, I did something stupid. I had watched the rider before me run down to it, lean for her spot, and miss by a mile, punching through the rail. Since I sometimes have the bad habit of doing just that, I swore I wouldn't. And what did I do? I ran down to it, leaned for my spot, missed by a mile, and Dante had to punch through the top rail. Poor boy. So he had a rail and I had a rail. Luckily, everyone around us all had 2 rails so I ended up not changing position.

So, we ended in our first two star in 9th out of 33 starters. I'll take it. I would have liked to ribbon (they ribboned through 8th), but I still think finishing in the top third in a division filled with professionals and their future superstars is pretty damn amazing.

My flight wasn't until 8 pm, so I hung around and watched the Intermediate jump after the rain hold, and saw the CIC* as well. Congrats to Alexa Ehlers for her QR in the CIC* on In Any Event!

(The Intermediate show jumps after a torrential rain storm. In about 30 minutes the sun came out and you never would have known it had rained at all.)

Dante and I are home now. I jogged him yesterday afternoon and he looked a lot better. He'll have today off for sure, and maybe a nice walk hack tomorrow, depending on how he's feeling. He's definitely still a little stiff, but I know the last time I over-worked out, I was stiff and sore in places for nearly a week, so I don't expect him to be 100% yet. This week will be light hacks, some trot work, a little bit of dressage near the end of the week, and hopefully a gallop on Sunday if the ground is fine and he's feeling good again. We have four weeks from Poplar until Holly Hill, so there's no rush for him to be instantly put back into strenuous work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poplar Place: Kick It Up

Sorry for the delay in posts, but it's been a long couple of nights.

Cross country day dawned cloudy and overcast, with a constant threat of rain from 9 am until 7 pm. Of course, in the end it didn't rain until after 5, so we spent the day with lots of humidity.

I spent the morning walking the course one more time, and watching some of the Advanced ride. At first, I parked myself near the Indian Burial Mound that caused so many problems last year, wondering how many were going to take the new option. Well, only one of the first few even made it that far, as many combinations (including Buck and Reggie) were caught up at the waterfall bank in the middle of the second water. Luckily, they took it off the course after the first few falls, but it felt very reminiscent of the problems the Indian Burial Mound caused last year. I continued to walk my course, stopping to watch the Advanced pairs through their combinations and got to see some amazing jumpers. I also saw some problems, concluding with a chestnut who wanted nothing to do with the bounces at the first water, but was happy to jump an Intermediate fence backwards after depositing his rider on the ground. The rider quickly got up and was okay, at least.

Unfortunately, as most people heard, there was a lovely mare, Dekorum II, who had to be euthanized after taking a bad step on the Advanced course. My heart goes out to her owner and rider and all others connected to her. After that, I knew that no matter what happened on the course that day, I would consider it a success to have my horse happy in his stall at the end of the day.

Dante warmed up well, although I felt a bit squished in warm up with several pairs trying to jump at the same time, and no galloping room. One thing I dislike about Poplar is the relatively long distance between the warm up and start box. Dante, normally pretty collected before start, jigged the whole way over, and jigged the entire time as we circled the start box. Then he bucked and charged when the starter said go, which actually is his normal m.o. He loves cross country.

We came up to the first fence, a big log, and he jumped well. I knew it was going to be a great round, at that point, but I wasn't about to take anything for granted. We galloped up the hill to the second jump, where he spooked slightly at the windmill before focusing on the jump.

Then, there was a large hill going down , then a sharp run up to a panda jump, which was amazingly adorable, with tiny panda cubs on the backside of it. I let Dante roll a bit down the hill without checking his speed, knowing he was going to need the pace to get up the hill to the panda. Sure enough, he balanced himself up quite nicely and we hit the panda at a nice stride.

Next we turned (carefully!) to the moss covered trakehner, which Dante had no problem. That was the first jump we've ever jumped that had a blue flag on it, and I am slightly psyched that we have now jumped an Advanced trakehner! The fact that it's also a two star trakehner is fine, but not nearly as neat.

Then up the hill to a skinny that I jumped slightly on the angle, in order to create a straighter line to the first combination, which was probably the combination I was most worried about.

The first combination was a small ramp that you jumped slightly on a left to right angle, with two straight strides to a right handed corner that was filled with lots of brush. The trick to it was that a large cedar type tree that edged out into your line. I have a bit of phobia of trees ever since I was twelve and I was knocked off a pony by a tree branch, breaking my arm. So yeah, trees aren't my thing.

As we came up to it, I could feel Dante questioning me slightly, asking if I was sure. I told him yes, and he said, okay, I got it, but I still felt like he was confused by the brush corner. I think that the tree kind of blended in with the brush corner, which made it hard for him to define the jump, and then the tall brush over the corner made Dante confused as to what type of jump it was. I'm pretty sure the confusion was only evident to me, as he jumped without wavering.

Next we tackled the ditch and rails, which always frightens me more than Dante. It was a pretty big ditch, and although it wasn't as large as Greenwood's Weldon's Wall, it had no brush so it seemed more imposing to me. However, again, Dante jumped it like a champ.

Then we rode what I called the coffin for brevity. Actually, it was a ditch jumped at an angle, one stride to a wedge, then uphill for a REALLY long three or a holding four to another wedge. Dante jumped the ditch not quite at as much angle as I want, but close enough that we had no problem to the first wedge, and then I just gave a small half halt up the hill for the four to the wedge. It worked perfectly, and then we were on to the civil war camp.

I jumped the civil war camp fence, which was just a cabin covered by a white sheet to look like a tent. We then swung around to the sunken road, which wasn't as difficult as the sunken road at Holly Hill. Log, one stride down, one stride on the bottom, up, one stride to another long. Again, my horse made it look easy.

Next we galloped across the field to the biggest table on course. I always worry about these, especially that I won't find my spot. But I need to stop worrying, because Dante easily has enough scope, and for some reason I just get the perfect spot to these big tables. Dante flew over it, with no problem.

Then across the road (where I definitely cut my path in a bit tight on accident before crossing) to a simple skinny rolltop.

Up next to where the crowds gathered at the first water complex. The two star jumped a large fishing pole at the top of the hill, then balanced for six strides to a canoe drop into the water, three strides across the complex to a bank up, and two strides uphill to a wedge. I'm always nervous how Dante is going to handle water, ever since he was young and had water problems, but as usual he handled it with his usual courage. Such a good boy!

Then through the woods, to a small table that doubled as a sandbox, complete with plastic buckets.

Up to the top of the hill, we did the gnome village, which was two narrow huts set at a sharp angle with two strides between. I thought Dante was be awesome at this, but he actually was greenest at this combination, wiggling before the first jump and then wiggling between them. He jumped them because I asked him to, but seemed confused as to why they weren't jumped straight. He's usually very good at sharp angles, but I think he's used to only doing angles for stadium type fences. I believe the narrowness of the fences and also the width (not verticals) confused him, so I'm going to get Mike to move his narrow rolltops into an angled line so we can practice this at home.

Then the palisade in the woods (sorry, I forgot to take a picture but it was small and boring and was harder on my one-star course last year). A fast gallop through the woods up the big hill, and then over a tall but not wide table.

Finally we came to the second water, the last combination on course. First, a hanging log, then downhill six strides to a corner jumped into the water. Dante was good here too, although slightly looky at the water, but that water is very looky so I'm not surprised.

Then to the final fence, a tiny palisade, then up to the finish.

The ground was hard and it was warm, so I pretty much ignored my watch and let Dante pick his pace around the course. Apparently Dante's chosen pace is fast, because we ended up being the only pair to make time which I was pretty proud of. He was definitely tired at the finish, not being used to hills at all, but recovered in 10 minutes when his temperature was down to 98.5 F. If he had ever given me any indication of being tired, I would have made him slow down, but he never gave me any indication that he was so tired, jumping well to the last fence. I think I need to be aware of that, and may need to plan to go slow at certain times to give him a breather, because he will never indicate to me that he's tired. Silly thoroughbreds and their big hearts.

So I jumped from 24th to 9th, but the biggest prize was having my horse looking ridiculously proud of himself for the rest of the day. :-)

Then we iced and walked and iced and walked and braided. I came to walk him at 11 pm at night and he was sacked out flat, so I let him be. I did get to have dinner in Columbus with an old college friend from UK, which was awesome. A pretty good day, in the end.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poplar Place: In the Sandbox


Needless to say, dressage did not go as planned.

At Rocking 3, I discovered that the best amount of warmup for Dante was 20-25 minutes. Since my ride time for Poplar was 9:24, I got on at 9 am.

Only to discover that the FEI riders were not allowed in the main warm up, where we had ridden the previous day.

Um. Ok. Not great, but I guess we'll deal. Unfortunately, I spent the next ten minutes finding the FEI warmup, leaving me only about 15 minutes to actually warm up. Meanwhile, Dante is wide eyed because he is in a warmup he has never been in before (it generally takes about forty-five minutes to completely settle him in a warmup, so I always try to ride longer in the warmup the day before, which only works when I'm actually riding in the ring that I will warm up in). So tense the entire warm up. Great.

Go over to the main ring, and we get more tense. As I'm riding around the ring, I realize it feels like I'm riding a firecracker. Uh oh.

I managed to keep a lid on it for the trot work, and while our lateral work wasn't great, it wasn't really that below our usual standards. We just aren't great at lateral work yet. His medium trot was actually quite nice because all I had to do was let go instead of pushing him. Unfortunately, the walk work and canter work was tense. We mostly held it together, going for very conservative in our first medium canter. But the final medium canter, Dante GRABBED the bit out of my hand and galloped down the side, only relinquishing control when I wrestled him for the bit.


So yeah, 68.something, and I'm 24th out of 31. Someone notably did score a 91, so I was safe from being DFL.

Then Ellen and I walked the cross country course again, me taking pictures the whole way. I intended to post the course walk tonight, but other things got in my way.

I spent the afternoon watching dressage and unsuspectingly allowing my skin to bake to a nice lobster red. Hello, summer. Lots of beautiful dressage tests. Rebecca Howard sits the trot so amazingly well, I want to sit the trot like her one day. Clark's horse Loughan Glen is pretty fabulous too.

In the evening, a few of us went to dinner, then watched International Velvet in a hotel room. I had never actually seen International Velvet, and was quite unimpressed with the movie, although I thought random car explosion was random. And the fact that it was two hours was a surprise, as Ellen and I got back to our hotel at 1 am! Which is why no course walk tonight.

But here's a taste of the weather we've been getting here. Tomorrow's forecast? Scattered thunderstorms. Of course.

(The beautiful cross country fields of Poplar Place Farm.)

To top it off, my alma mater, UK beat their number one seeded opponent, Ohio State, tonight in the NCAA tournament. Elite Eight, here we come! CATS CATS CATS!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poplar Place: Georgia On My Mind

Poplar Place has officially begun!

Yesterday, I boarded an American flight to Atlanta that was delayed for an hour after boarding due to mechanical. Great, that's what I want to hear right before we fly somewhere. Luckily, with no further complications, I landed in Atlanta, picked up the rental car, and drove the 90 minutes down to Hamilton. (Thank God for GPS on my phone, I never would have made it from the airport to the highway without it!)

I got to my motel, the White Columns in Pine Mountain, about 15 minutes from Poplar. White Columns is very charming (re: old). It's quite adequate though, and close and not expensive. I like all of those things!

This morning, I woke up around 8, and made my way to Poplar. I got to see the beautiful Georgia forests on the way there, something I had missed the previous night when I drove in the dark. The entrance to Poplar was quite beautiful in the morning light.

I set up Dante's stall, organized my stall front, picked up my packet, and generally hung around for a bit before getting on Dante with an 11 o'clock flat lesson. Dante was pretty wide-eyed at first, stopping a few times on the way to the ring to take it all in. He chilled out a bit and put some good work in before both he and I got tired. Once I got tired, my body collapsed and he began to get a bit tense. I really need to think of my own body as needing to be uphill in order to sit correctly. His body will follow mine.

Afterwards, Dante had a nice bath (which he is generally not a fan of), my tack got cleaned, and then we did the in-barn vet inspection. Next, I ran into Columbus with YR Jacob Fletcher, his groom Elizabeth, and Ellen Doughty of Pegasus Eventing to have lunch, where we enjoyed sandwiches at Atlanta Bread Company and ice cream from Marble Slab. Yum!

Next up was the coursewalk with Heather. I love walking the cross country course for the first time, the excitement and anticipation both dissipate and builds with every fence. The dissipation happens as the mystery of what the course will be is slowly revealed, but the building occurs as I imagine myself jumping each combination. The first cross country walk is one of my favorite parts of the weekend.

The course looks quite fun, but I'm going to talk about it tomorrow, when I take lots of pictures.

Then Dante got braided and was forced to wear his hoodie. Poor guy, embarrassed constantly by his owner. Went to dinner, again in Columbus, came back, and took him for a walk.

Then we hung out at the trailers for a bit while Jacob entertained us by playing the Yes Game. The Yes Game is where Jacob stares at you and asks you an outrageous question (dirty, toilet humor, you name it) and you have to answer yes and you cannot laugh. Quite entertaining.

Tomorrow's an early day. I ride dressage at 9:24, not too early, but early enough that I have to wake up early. Oh well, I have plenty of time to walk my course a couple more times!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rocking Horse 3 Dressage Recap

Here's my dressage video from Rocking Horse 3. Honestly, straight off the bat I feel that it's the worst of my three Florida tests (I feel that Ocala was the best other than the momentary lead swapping). Of course, it scored the best by far.

Hello, Intermediate Rider division.

51-Maggie Deatrick-Divine Comedy-DR from CatchRide on Vimeo.

So first off the bat, I realize that my hands are much bouncier than they were. My elbows definitely need to be softer. I also need to think uphill with my own body.

Then we go into shoulder in/haunches in right. Helloooo, dropped right shoulder. Much worse than the previous weeks.

Definitely a momentary lack of rhythm over the center line in that weird squiggle medium trot. I'm still trying to find the line between pushing for an 8 and losing rhythm.

I got more angle on the haunches in left this time, the haunches in right still needs more angle. We're also still working on shoulder in left to be relaxed; for some reason I get very stiff and then so does he that direction.

Wow, do I look loose and sloppy at the sitting trot. My only excuse was that I had done no riding, and therefore no sitting trot in the previous three weeks, and only at Ocala in the two weeks before that. Bad excuse, but I do remember getting very tired very quickly. I'm thinking I'm mostly going to warm up at the rising trot for Poplar, because I am still not in shape, although hopefully better than I was at the point this video was made.

I did a better job of not leaning forward to get the reinback. Still stiff on his part, we've been working on that a bit.

I could actually see a difference in my medium canter to the left this time. I felt like I was galloping, and I still feel like I don't see THAT much of a difference. Amazing how that works. We'll keep working on that obviously.

My position at the canter seems much better, including my shoulders. Although I still need to get my hands out of my lap.

Wow, waay too many steps at the trot to the walk. I was trying to be careful to make sure we didn't accidentally halt instead and to make sure to pick up the correct right lead. He's been a little funny about that lately, feels like a strength thing. He's often just a bit sticky picking up the right lead on a straightaway, particularly if its after a simple change from the left lead. If I'm in a corner or on the circle, he has no problem.

I have to admit, my medium canter to the right doesn't appear any more conservative to me than the medium canter left. Oh well, I felt at the time that I couldn't push any more, so I'll push as hard as I feel I can and that's that for now.

I felt that the second simple change had much less trot steps. I definitely feel that he gets very four beat in the canter when I try to collect to prep for the simple change. I think it's a strength thing, it's pretty hard for him to drop his hind end enough. We'll keep trying to build his collection strength. He used to be very four beat in his normal canter and it took about a year of correct work to get it to be three beated. So we'll just keep at it and maybe this time next year it will be three beat!

Again, too much trot before the halt. Then he does his usual thing where he swings his hind end way off to the left. But the judge says his shoulder falls right. So that's pretty interesting and I will experiment with trying to control his shoulders more instead of worrying about his hind end at the halt.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gear It Up

(The track, one of Dante's favorite places.)

Dante has been very good this past week, although I am still feeling rusty in dressage. We went to gallop at the track, which I love because Dante loves. My dressage video from Rocking Horse 3 was posted last night, so I'll probably do a post on that tomorrow. I'm also going to try and blog each day at Poplar, since I have internet connection at my hotel.

As I begin (or continue!) packing for Poplar, I realize that I must share my OCD with the world. Why? Because my OCD in terms of organization at shows makes my life ridiculously easier, and it can make your life better too!

Just kidding.

Seriously though, I am known around Gold Chip as the OCD organization person. There is nothing I love better than buying new containers that fit within other containers so that I can further organize my things.

To begin with, I have a show trunk, which is 100% different than my normal tack trunk. I love those big black Stanley toolboxes to use as tack trunks. Lots of storage, a tray for small objects, and wheels and a handle. Also only $60. What could be better?

I got into the habit of using a show trunk when I was a working student in Maryland and we did lots of one day shows. When you work 7 am to 7 pm in the six days leading up to the show, there isn't a whole lot of time to throw show things together. Having a separate trunk that was pretty much packed and ready to go at all times made my life 100% better.

So inside my show trunk I have a smaller container with all of my show horse boots, another container that holds a small grooming kit, and third that contains travels sizes of show sheen, fly spray, shampoo, etc. After each show, the grooming kit is run through the dishwasher, the bottles are refilled, and the boots go to the laundromat (since my washer has an agitator). Another container has the poultice, rubber glove, and 4 paper lunch bags which get replenished before each show, boot polishing supplies, and two more even smaller containers, one of which holds bucket hooks, straps, and clips, and the other holds tack soap, conditioner, and sponges. On top of that lives a small wash bucket, scraper, and sponge, my two helmets, and my stud kit.


Then I have two large rubbermaid containers. The short one holds my blankets for Dante (dress sheet, irish knit, and back on track) and miscellaneous items (like jacket, rain jacket, baseball cap, and sneakers for Poplar). The tall one holds my saddle pads and standing bandages, pre-organized in the order that I will need them, with my tall boots on top.

(A portion of my show gear.)

I also bring a folding step stool, my coat bag, a bridle bag, and my Game Ready. And of course my two saddles.

What I pack in my suitcase is a whole different ballgame. I used to not be so worried about the clothes I packed when I used to drive to all the far away shows. Now that I'm forced to fly, I try and micromanage my clothes so that they fit in one carry on.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Fungus Must Die!

So one of the things I've only briefly touched on so far is the fact that most of the horses with Gold Chip picked up a fungus in Florida. Something about the sand in the paddocks, and irritation of skin, all combined to make a perfect storm of fungus that literally erupted all over Dante the Tuesday before Rocking Horse III. Except not on his face, neck, or most important not on his legs!

(To backtrack four years, the first summer I owned Dante in 2007, he had scratches (the fungus) on his legs all. summer. long. I battled and battled and battled with it but it only went away when the weather got cooler again. Since then I have never had the same problem. Pretty sure it was because I was a first time horse owner, so I was going to keep all my equipment super sparkly and clean, even if I had to scrub his boots with soap every single day. Looking back, I think the soap was a bad idea.)


So Dante arrives home and he looks like a sorry beast. He has bald patches on various parts of his body where the fungus had already been and was now gone. He had bumps on other parts where the fungus still clung tenaciously. He was also quite ribby. I don't think the hay in Florida did much for him nutritionally.

Ok, ribby was my first concern. We upped his grain, and most importantly, upped his hay intake to as much as he'll eat. Dante has been back in Texas for a week, and he's probably gained 50 lb already. No longer slightly hollow through his haunches. He'll probably need another 150 before I'm satisfied.

Next concern was the fungus that still clung to him. The only product I have ever found that immediately gets rid of fungus is MTG, pictured below. It's pretty gross stuff. Extremely greasy and smells strongly of bacon. You must apply it with a glove or your hand will feel slimy for the next 2 days. But the stuff works. The next day, the fungus curries right off. Of course, then you're left with a bald spot, but you can only hope for so much.

Finally, the bald spots. Well, not much I can do about that. Luckily it's shedding season, so his new summer coat is growing in quite quickly to the bald spots. He still won't be the most beautiful horse at Poplar, but by Jersey Fresh in May, he should be his usual gorgeous self.

On riding notes, we had a pretty low key week. After doing our trot sets on Wednesday, we did some dressage on Thursday and Friday, jumped Saturday, and did gallops yesterday. His gallops current consist of a 20 min trot followed by 3 x 7 min canter sets. He needs to be at 8 min before Jersey, going by my rule of thumb for gallop sets.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ocala II Dressage Video

As promised, here's the dressage video for Ocala. I can definitely see my position contorting, especially on the haunches-in. My hands are still in my lap too. Unsurprising, considering I wasn't riding between shows! But Dante is home now, so I can improve myself as well. The angle on the haunches-in was better than at Rocking I, I could barely see any haunches-in on the first video. My extensions at the trot were a little more even, but I could barely tell on either video that I was doing medium canter! Obviously we had those two points where Dante swapped behind, I think it was because he was a bit tired, we warmed up just a few minutes too long. And of course the halt, my fault! and then the wrong lead. Apparently that was both of our faults, as Mike felt that he is a bit more reluctant to pick up the right canter lead from the walk on a straightaway. As a result, I need to make sure I really establish a right bend before asking, which I'm pretty sure I did at Rocking 3. We'll see when the video comes for that!

277-Maggie Deatrick-Divine Comedy-DR from CatchRide LLC on Vimeo.

On the plus side, Dante is home and I got to ride him today! I just did 2 x 15 trot sets, using my saddle, a borrowed girth, and old breastplate, one of Mike's bridles, and Jessica's spurs over my Duberry's. The reason for all the hodgepodge tack was because when I got to the barn, the tack room was completely empty except for saddles! Apparently Mike is now bringing all the equipment back from Florida now, and should be back in the morning. He really goes above and beyond to make sure we are prepared, both at home and at shows.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rocking Horse 1 Dressage

So I decided to buy every dressage video I can get my hands on and Katherine Breunig at CatchRide kindly uploaded my dressage videos from RH1 and Ocala 2, even though I didn't buy them until late. I'm going to try something I haven't seen before, and I'm going to put my dressage test online, including all of the comments. I plan on studying these videos very intently. Today I'm posting Rocking 1, Wednesday I'll post Ocala 2.

65-Maggie Deatrick-Divine Comedy-DR from CatchRide LLC on Vimeo.

In a first viewing, I see right off the bat that my shoulders still aren't back enough and my hands are still way down in my lap. These are two things that, believe it or not, I have massively improved on but I obviously still have a long way to go. I need to work on more angle in my haunches-in obviously, and I've been trying to be less conservative with my lengthenings as well.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Finally, I get to update! This past Wednesday, I once again made my way down to Love Field and flew into Orlando late that night. My flight was relatively uneventful, thank god.

On Thursday, I had an 8 am jump lesson with a couple other Intermediate Gold Chippers who had flown in the day before, and then flatted at 10 am. Normally I would be strongly opposed to doing so much riding the day before Dante was to do both dressage and show jumping. However, I haven't ridden in three weeks since Ocala. My eye for jumps is rusty, and Intermediate is NOT small. So knocking off some of the rust is pretty much a necessity if I have a shot in hell of jumping respectably around the show jumping. We had an okay jump school (my eye got better for sure by the end) and an okay dressage schooling. The other problem of having my trainer ride him while I am gone is that we are less in sync for dressage. Also, my trainer's idea of light in the contact is different than my idea, because I don't have man muscles. So Dante was a bit heavier than I would normally have him, and we just weren't quite clicking.

I must say at this point that I will be so, so glad to have him home where I can ride everyday again! This not riding and then showing thing is NOT easy.

Then Dante got a nice bath using Microtek, because he suddenly became covered in fungus on Tuesday and now is sporting several large bald spots. He looks like some sort of strange Appaloosa. Apparently quite a few horses got it, but mine was the only chestnut, so he looks the strangest. It didn't seem to bother him any, but he was not the most attractive specimen this weekend.

On Friday morning, I got up quite early for my 8:07am ride time. I got on about 7:45, and this turned out to be the EXACT perfect amount of warm up time. Just as I felt that Dante and I were collected, up in the poll, and responding well to one another, the person before me halted and I began circling the ring. I have started circling the ring at a canter, because he stays more relaxed overall. I then come back to the trot before we come down the center line and his trot is much more forward and fluid.

Dante was a very good pony and we did a pretty accurate test with no big mistakes. It wasn't the most stellar test we have ever done, because we still felt slightly out of sync (and I was tired from sitting the trot!), but it was pretty good. I even got an 8 on one of my medium canters because I really pushed for it. I thought I pushed for the other one too, but the judge wrote 'conservative' and gave me a 6, so again, I need to see the video to see what the judge is seeing.

Then I hopped off and walked my stadium course once more. The course was pretty interesting, to say the least. It began with an oxer, then a rollback to a vertical for #2. After 2, it was a sharp left turn to an oxer at 3 with four normal strides to a vertical at 4. Then came the fun line. After 4, you cantered down the short end of the arena and then did a roll back to a large oxer with a liverpool at 5, six forward bending strides to the right to 6A and 6B, which were a vertical, one forward stride to an oxer. Then turn right to a triple combination across the diagonal, roll back left to another oxer, bend right to jump a vertical on the angle, right to a swedish oxer, and right bending seven to the final vertical.

The six strides to the one stride ended up by far being the toughest line. While it walked a bit forward, it rode VERY forward. At least one horse packed two into the double (while leaving it up!), many put seven into the six. The trouble was that if you put seven into the six, there was almost no way to make the one, even if it was a nice seven. But many horses had to run to make the six, and got too flat, pulling one of the double combination jumps. There were lots of falls, lots of stops, and lots of rails at those three jumps all day long, both for prelim and intermediate. To be perfectly honest, it was kind of a terrible line, but it would have ridden MUCH better if the one had been a normal 12 foot stride. Then riders could have opted for the six or the seven and put in a nice one.

Unfortunately, I went quite early, so I only saw a few people ride that line. My plan was to jump the liverpool oxer and immediately turn right, cutting most of the bend out of the line, get there in six, and jump the double on the right side.

In the end, my show jumping was better than RH1 and Ocala 2. I made decisions. I also missed a few times. After the second jump, I turned left much too sharply and all of a sudden, there was jump 3 (the oxer) with a terrible distance. I had no time to correct anything and poor Dante saved my sorry behind, packing in a tiny half stride and leaping over the oxer. Clear. Good boy! Then I wisely decided to put five in the four stride line and we jumped the vertical clear too. I got moving forward again, and then came the tough line, where my plans promptly went out the window when I found a long spot to the liverpool and got jumped out of the tack a bit in the air when Dante made a big effort to clear it. By the time I got myself sorted, we were two strides into the turn and we ended up making a nice seven. Which would have been great, but the distance in the one stride was so long that he flat out couldn't make it, and got one and a half where there was no half. So we went through both top rails on the oxer. Then jumped clean around the rest of the course. I would have been so ashamed, but my ride through there was sadly NOT one of the worst rides through there all day. It seriously was a showcase of the Bad and the Ugly through there, all. day. long.

(He's trying to steal candy. He knows exactly which tin it's in.)

While the weather had been almost hot all morning, it started to rain in the early afternoon. And rain. And stop. And rain. And stop. Finally, at 4:30, we couldn't wait any longer and we started our course walk for cross country, huddling under golf carts and wielding umbrellas. (Of course, thirty minutes after we finished the course walk, the sun came out....)

The course was pretty nice. Lots of tables and gallop fences. Gallop fences for the first four jumps, then an oxer bending right to a skinny that was either a forward three or short four. I decided that Dante and I would do it in a short four since it was still early in the course. Gallop fence, then skinny table bending four left to a corner. Gallop fence, then our first water combination. The first part was this tiny jump on a slight rise with some brush on top, then a good drop on the backside and what we originally walked as three strides direct to a wedge through what was basically a large puddle. Then trakehner (Finally I get to jump one of these in Florida!), table, and a quarry combination which was two small rolltops set on the tops of knolls with quite a steep incline and rise between them. BAT table again, then the second water, which began with a hut, turn five strides to a roll top down into the water and straight across in seven strides to another wedge. Then table, table, then to a coffin that was one to one straight. Then another table and then an interesting corner combination that was either a six or a five (depending on your bending line) from a palisade to a corner, then a forward three to an angled fence. The last fence was another table. We also thought the time was going to be quite tight, because we were short 170 m of the finish when we hit the number of meters written on the course map. Heather told us to go as fast as we could safely go, because at this level, that is basically what you need. Key word is safely!

I got up early the next morning and walked the course again with Jacob, then we both got ready to go. Heather rode the course first on Cherye's horse Maisie and we ran into her coming back. She had jumped the first water in four and the final corner combination in a short five. Now Maisie has a massive stride, so if she got four in the water, I was sure Dante would too. I decided to make a decision on the corner combo as I was coming to it, since it was late in the course when Dante's stride has opened up quite a bit.

I also wanted to make sure I rode every. single. fence. Especially the second fence!

Our cross country round was PHENOMENAL. Okay, we had two times where we were galloping up to a table, I knew we were on a half stride and tried to get Dante to add one, and Dante said nope, we're taking off HERE. So on the whole course, we had two long spots to smaller tables. Other than that, it was foot perfect. I have never had such a good round in my life.

Found our spot to all of the other gallop fences. To every single combination, I had Plan A in my head and rode accordingly, and every single time Dante responded perfectly and we rode Plan A with style. He was AMAZING. Love this horse, so much! Then, after every jump, I put the pedal to the metal and we galloped. Dante is fast, let me tell you. His stride isn't as long as it could be, but he moves like lightning. Then we would come back three or four strides before the next jump, then immediately move out again. He didn't feel tired in the slightest.

We ended up twenty-two seconds under time. Oops. Seriously though, I did not think for an instant we were going to be that much under the time. I never once felt unsafe, I felt that we came back correctly for each fence, even the two tables where Dante disagreed with me on the take-off. I asked multiple people (who are knowledgeable) afterwards if it looked like we were going too fast and they told me that although we were speedy between the fences, we didn't look at all unsafe because we set up for the fences. I would never have thought twice about it if we hadn't been SO far under the time. Sometimes though, what you feel and what other people see are two very different things, and in no way do I want to be an unsafe rider.

Heather did tell me that I need to get my shoulders UP before fences. I do have a terrible habit of not bringing my upper body back enough. I need to start working to strengthen my core because a big part of that is that I literally do not have the strength to lift it.

(Dante is bored while he's stuck on the Game Ready after XC.)

Overall, we ended up in fourth, only two points behind first place. No rail and we would have won, but oh well. We also scored in the 30's for dressage (35.6!) and even though it was in the IR division instead of the OI division, I'll take it! Still working towards jumping clean in SJ, but that's all on me, not on Dante.

So the conclusion is that Dante is a rockstar, my strong point is cross country, and I'm very glad that they will be back from Florida on Monday. In the meantime, I have a machine design exam on Monday and a make-up heat transfer exam on Tuesday. Ugh, now I have to study. But after this week, I have spring break, and then Poplar the week after! Dante and I will be going for our first CIC**!