Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back to the Basics

Sometimes, things don't turn out the way you pictured them in your thoughts.

This is basically the summary of what happened to us at Jersey Fresh.

All season long, I was gearing to Jersey. Our dressage was improving at home and our show jumping was in sync. We'd had three amazing cross country runs in a row, and I felt that it wasn't beyond our capabilities to finish in the top ten or even the top five if things went extremely well.

Mostly though, I just wanted to get around and get a qualifying run.

Our problems began about two weeks prior. I noticed that Dante's lateral work was stiffer and less willing on his part. Dante has a weak right SI ligament, and while he usually begins the season with beautiful lateral work (for him), it tends to weaken throughout the season. I was hoping to make it through Jersey without it getting sore, but unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. So our lateral work went quite downhill literally the week we were in Jersey until I mainly thought to get through the right-handed lateral work. Lovely. (It doesn't affect his left lateral work at all interestingly enough. However, I had refrained from doing any lateral work in the previous week or two and so the left lateral work suffered from lack of practice.)

However, both my vet and I discussed at length and concurred that the ligament did not bother him at all for jumping, cantering, galloping, and most trot work save right-handed lateral work. We decided to go and let the chips fall where they may.

Sure enough, we got through the dressage test. That was about it. I had hoped to make up some points in the canter work, but we were both tense and the canter-walk-canters became canter-halt-canters which scored very badly. The scores were running quite high throughout the day, which didn't help my case any, and I definitely felt that the score was a few points higher than it should have been. However, I squeaked out a barely qualifying score, so at least there was that. I was through the first phase.

Onto cross country. Dante was amazing out on course, other than spooking a little at the second jump and the trakehner. Every other jump he just attacked and jumped as if he had been doing this level his entire life. It was a touch course, with riders like Phillip Dutton and Kim Severson falling off and retiring. Dante ate it up like it was a Novice course and we cruised in twelve seconds under time, no problem. It was amazing. So now we were up to four awesome cross country runs in a row.

After cross country, I iced Dante in the ice boots twice and jogged him up for Mike. Mike and Heather both thought he looked great and I thought so too, from what I could see while running next to him. We just jogged him up in stabling, not on the roads outside of stabling, but he looked great.

The next morning I got to the stabling at 6 am and jogged up Dante. So far as I could tell, he still looked good. Heather and Mike saw him job around 7 am and also thought he looked good. However, when we got out on the asphalt right before the jog, Dante took a few slightly funny steps. We got held, and the vet said he was a little short on his left front but couldn't find any soreness at all. We reinspected and I thought Dante looked a lot better on reinspection, but unfortunately, the decision didn't go our way.

Looking back, I think Dante was affected by the hard ground, but only a tiny bit...enough to be sound on the (very) slightly softer ground in stabling, but bothered by the hard asphalt in the jog area. If I had iced Dante that morning, I believe he would have passed with no problems. From now on, Dante will get iced in the morning before the jog, since he does seem to be affected by hard ground just a bit. I'll also make sure to jog him on the hardest surface available to make absolutely sure that he's sound.

Dante's had a long season, and he's on a long vacation now. I'll be working and in summer school throughout June, so he'll start back up in July. For the fall, we'll keep it as short as possible and only do three shows, Richland, Poplar, and Fair Hill CCI**, with Galway CCI** as back up. The vet will come out every two weeks to check out Dante and make sure he's on track too.

Hopefully, we'll be good to go in the fall.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fresh Starts

Wow, today has been a whirlwind of activity.

It began at 3:30 am, when my alarm kindly woke me up so I could catch my 6 am flight. I'm relatively certain that this is the first time I have ever seen 3:30 am from the getting up side of things, although to be fair, I knew of its existence thanks to sporadic all-nighters and the occasional party during college.

Still, 3:30am is incredibly early to wake up. Especially when your final exam didn't end until 7 pm the night before and you didn't get to sleep until midnight.

Okay, enough with the whining. I was able to catch a few extra Z's on the plane and ate some Poptarts for breakfast. The breakfast of champions!....Or not. After the plane landed, I managed to somehow end up with not only a lovely Toyota Camry as my rental car, but also a soft pretzel that the Enterprise counter was handing out. Yay lunch!

The Camry and I zipped up I-95 because we were on a deadline. Bafflingly, it appears that PA and NJ think you should be driving only 55 on the highway. Luckily, the other drivers on the highway agreed with my withering assessment of the speed limits and I was able to make good time and arrive at the Horse Park of New Jersey just before noon.

Since the jog was in two hours, I got straight to work. Heather and Bonner had kindly already bathed him for me, so all I had to do was braid him, groom him, wrap his tail, add quartermarks, touch up his clip job, and polish his hooves before the jog at two. Oh, and I had to look cute myself. No problem!

Then comes the part where I'm dumb and I arrive at jog 20 minutes early and have to walk in so many circles that my feet get blisters from the shoes I purposely bought one size too small so that I could jog in them. Go me.

Luckily Dante jogged up quite well. Dante's not the best behaved at jogs, but not in the way most horses are bad. He jogs readily enough, but really wants to stay a half pace behind me the whole way down the lane. So I tap him with my in hand whip, and he happily speeds up....and then I can't stop him. It's not as if he's running away with me or anything, but he just blithely ignores the eggbutt snaffle in his mouth and tries to keep trotting into eternity. Thanks horse.

But we looked damn good. No photos yet though, the parentals don't arrive until tomorrow. Bonner's mom got a few and of course the show photographers were there so I hope to end up with a couple nice ones.

After the jog, I hopped on (after changing out of my dress). I was just planning on giving him a light work, but it took us longer to get in sync than I thought it would. The heat got to me a bit, and since my ride time is 4:10 on Friday, I need to get used to it. Finally, at the end I got over the heat bump and he got over the 'I don't want to flex today' thing and we got ourselves nicely in sync. Hopefully we will have a bit better time of it tomorrow, having refreshed ourselves of the concept of dressage today.

Now, I could have waited until tomorrow to walk the cross country course, but that's one of my favorite things of the weekend. I love the discovery of new things to jump and the anticipation of cross country day. So I set out to walk the 9 minute, 14 second course.

Wow, it's long.

It's also lovely, set primarily in a beautiful emerald field. I can see why spectators like this event, as you can see the majority of the action from one vantage point. The course winds back and forth at least 4 times through this field. Now, this also makes it difficult to figure out which jump is yours and where you're going after. I definitely accidentally walked the first three jumps of the CIC** before realizing my mistake. I also got lost at least twice trying to find a jump, became confused due to some roping, and almost gave up while climbing a steep hill at the end. But an hour later I finally finished and I am so glad to be here.

(The fields of the Horse Park of New Jersey.)

I'm going to try and get a coursewalk up at some point, but that is not tonight. I will say that I am very excited about jumping the bank complex, the coffin, the brush fence, the trakehner, and most of all, the keyhole! The course looks great with lots of galloping room. My main concern right now is that the ground is pretty harder, and there is no longer any forecast for rain. I really hope they aerovate the ground.

Tomorrow will begin with our coursewalk at 8 am with Mike. At 2 pm, my parents arrive so I'll go pick them up and then from 4:30 to 5:30 is ring desensitization, so I'll go ride then.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Down to the Wire


It's been a whirlwind of a week, but it's almost over now.

The horses are currently en route to New Jersey. Heather stopped overnight in Illinois and texted us that they each had huge 20 x 24 stalls to stretch their legs in, so that's great. They left yesterday morning, so it's a very long drive. Dante will probably lose some weight on the trip, but I planned for that and we managed to actually make him slightly over on his condition. He left Texas probably a 4.75 and he'll probably arrive in Jersey as a 4.25, all muscle and no fat. Perfect for carting my butt around a nine minute course.

(Dante shows off his fancy new earnet during our last trot set.)

He was pretty good last week, but we weren't quite clicking in the dressage on the final day. That's okay; everyone has off days. Hopefully we had our off day and now we will be completely on for Friday's dressage test. He was awesome jumping (although I made a few mistakes) but I'm confident that we will have a great show jumping round. The goal is to finally have a clear round at this level! Then, on the track on Saturday, we did sprints down the long side of the track. He was okay for the first couple sprints of each set, but every time Maisie crept up on his side, he'd get mad and grab the bit and haul off with me. By the end, he was genuinely running away with me down the long sides, which was a new experience for me (with this horse anyways). I'm thinking that in the future it would be a better idea for us to do sprints by ourselves..... Silly thoroughbreds.

After the gallop on Saturday morning, the vets came out and Dr. Anderson watched Dante jog up. He loved his condition, said it was the best he'd ever looked, and pronounced his front end sounder than ever. (We've had problems with Dante's feet before.) The hind end, while completely sound, seemed to have some stiffness, so we decided to have Dr. Willard perform acupuncture. That's a new one for Dante and me and I was fascinate as the wires were hooked up all over them. Dante seemed to fall asleep in the crossties during his session, so I know he was enjoying it! When I get to Jersey, I'm going to find the masseuse and Dante will get daily massages to keep that hind end loose. I've also got my Back on Track sheet ready to use, and Heather brought the Equissager and the magnetic therapy blanket, so Dante will get a turn in all of those.

(The lad falls asleep during the acupuncture session. The vet's assistant was joking about how 'crazy' he was.)

On the home front, I've merely got four finals until I am boarding a plane for Jersey early Wednesday morning. Two today (Monday) and two tomorrow, then I'm done! I still need to do laundry, pack, and dye my hair on top of studying, but it'll all happen. I'd rather take a final than study for it, so most of the painful parts are over now. Then my flight leaves DFW at 6 am, meaning I'll probably have to wake up at about 3:30 am to go to the airport, but I arrive in Philadelphia at 10:30 am and it's only a quick 1 hour drive to the horse park!

Jersey Fresh, here comes Area V. Are you ready?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

This week has gone by in a bit of a blur, though part of that may be lack of sleep. With Mike and Heather gone to Rolex (more on that later), Dante and I were on our own. I think we had a pretty good week, with a 2 x 30 trot set on Thursday, two dressage schoolings on Wednesday and Friday, a jump school and a 1 x 20 trot set on Saturday, and a wonderful 3 x 8 gallop this morning in the only rain-free hour of the day we have had here. Seriously, it has been raining all the live long day. Not just raining, but monsooning and hailing. We need the rain desperately though. While it rained quite a lot last Sunday and Monday, by yesterday the ground was hard again. Then it rained again overnight and stopped right when I woke up this morning and we got a good gallop in on perfect ground before the lightning came back.

(The best weather that Gold Chip saw all day.)

And of course, I have spent the last four days watching Rolex and it has been awesome. I am so awed by the talent of the Brits; seems like they are out for a lark instead of winning a four star. Tiana's test was lovely, and although she had an unfortunate test cross country, I thought that they were the mistakes of a green pair, and definitely looked capable of tackling another four star course. I have no doubt we'll see them again next year, probably winning the whole thing this time. I was in love with Hannah Sue's cross country ride on St. Barths, who made easy work of the deceivingly difficult course. And I nearly cried along with Sinead (and probably everyone watching) after her clear show jumping round that moved her up to the podium at her first Rolex. So proud of our young up-and-comers!

And of course, I am incredibly happy for my assistant trainer Heather Morris, who completed her first Rolex this weekend with the talented Slate River. Her dressage test was poised, Roe looked like a machine on cross country, and her show jumping round was perfect. Go Heather and Roe!

Of course, now I get to compete against Heather's two star ride, Sportsfield Maisie Grey at Jersey. :-)

Oh, and up next: the week from hell. I have one week of classes left and two days of finals. Here's my to-do list, for both packing and classes:

  1. Machine Design test tomorrow
  2. 20 page Machine Design group paper due tomorrow
  3. Machine Design presentation on Wed
  4. Two Heat Transfer homeworks due
  5. Paper for Thermal Projects due
  6. One pre-lab and one post-lab for Lab II
  7. Two chapters of Machine Design to read
  8. Four chapters of Marketing to read
  9. Several sections of Heat Transfer to read
  10. Study for four finals packed into two days
  11. Four finals next Monday and Tuesday
  12. Pack for Jersey, both horse and rider
  13. Clip Dante: face, poll, feet, legs, tail
  14. Go to Dover and look for new breeches and a jog chain
  15. Accessorize jog outfit
  16. Go to the laundromat and wash Dante's XC boots
  17. Dye my hair
Hmmm....maybe that's not so bad now that I've written it all down....