Thursday, July 31, 2014

Colorado Day 10

Day 10 was all about redemption.  I woke up with an “I AM NOT A TRAIL RIDER, I JUMP HORSES OVER STICKS FOR FUN AND I WILL DAMN WELL ENJOY IT” attitude.  In other words, I needed to shake off the Colorado blues, and go out and ride my best.  I felt like this was a grand plan until I walked up to the ring to inspect my courses.  It was handy day in the A/Os, which is a class that I can either nail, or completely blow.  It never seems to be anything in between for me. 

The day was set up with no warm up, and the handy going first.  As I looked at my courses, and the jumps in the ring, my hands literally started to sweat.  I was staring down my biggest fear of all, which is a canter directly away from the in gate to the DREADED hay bale jump.  On the bright side it was not astroturf.  On the not so bright side, DC and I have a history of jumping hay bales which is not pretty.  I don’t know why, but he finds them to be the SPOOKIEST kind of jump out there, second only to giant astroturf walls.  


I think at that moment my text to Matt read something incoherent like.

Haybales, ring, canter, handy, 911 911 911 911. 

I’m only exaggerating the appropriate slight amount. 

His response?

You own the haybales. 

At this point I feel as though the haybales own me and not vice versa, but I’m glad someone is confident. 

I toddled around basically doing nothing except thinking about the dreaded haybales until it was time to show.  One track mind.

When I did finally get on, DC felt absolutely great.  We had experimented with a different hoof packing and a little bit of electrolyte and vitamin paste, and honestly I felt like he was moving and feeling about 100% times better than the day before.  He was never ever sore or off, but his body just felt looser and more comfortable.  The technical footing is great for being all weather, not so great for feet. 

After warming up, I walked up to the ring, took a deep breath, and was sent off with a typical Mattism “Have fun rider.”  I stepped into the ring, and immediately picked up a beautiful right lead for an approach to the DREADED hay bales.  Good canter, good canter, there it is, the jump, there it is, slightly gappy DC jump NOW.  And jump he did. 

I know, it seems like I’m making a bigger deal out of these haybales than they ended up being, but honestly, it’s 80% a mental game for me, and this was a moment that I FREAKING CONQUERED.  After that, the world was my oyster.  I had a lovely left lead roll back to an Oxer, a fantastic inside turn to a vertical in of a line, followed by another lovely right lead roll back.  Next was an inside turn up the inside line, to an immediate left hand turn to the trot jump (trotting only 5 feet away, go me).  The finish was a long bending line, I was a little close coming in and a little long coming out, but quite honestly it was hands down the best trip I had turned in in Colorado.  I even got a whistle from Matt.  Whistles are hard to earn.  As I walked out of the ring, he says to me “Haybales, owned.”  Truer words could not have been said.

My second trip was also quite good, though I did have one bugger of a swap to a left lead line.  But overall, super.  I jogged 2nd and 3rd.  Well, I jogged, DC dolphined, played, squealed, and then took at least 5 normal trot steps so the judge could watch.  Thank God. 

Someone was both feeling super proud of himself, and super good.  

For me, I actually managed to jump my horse over sticks in a reasonable way, which seems to be the singular goal.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Colorado Day 9

So yeah, I was all caught up and stuff, and then…..well…I wasn’t.

So therefore, I’m very late with this blog, and the rest of the blogs that are to come. But hey I’m sure someone out there is still reading right?

Day 9 started as a fairly unremarkable with hardly any emotional shenanigans from yours truly.  Sadly it did not end that way. 

I arrived at the show at a very reasonable hour of 9 am, with plans to once again do a little watching, a little shopping, and a lot of reveling in the amazing Colorado weather.  I succeeded in doing much of the above, including playing with a French bulldog puppy at one of my favorite show vendors Exceptional Equestrian.  Seriously, this woman gives me a bad addiction for all things cute and unnecessary in my life.  And she has a puppy.  I think it’s a marketing ploy. 

I also got to watch TJ bring home his second champion in rusty stirrup in as many weeks. 
When it was time to finally get on I decided to play it smart, and load myself up with my ring side back pack (a new addition to my showing necessities that I now cannot live without), throw a cooler on DC, and hand walk him up to the ring.  It only took me two weeks, but finally the light bulb went off.  Walk the horse to the ring, and eliminate all stress of back and forth!  Well, it almost worked; we only ended up heading back to the barn one singular time due to ring delays and a trainer that was supposed to be in 4 places at once. 

Regardless, we stood nicely and quietly waiting for our rotation.

By nicely and quietly I mean the typical “hi my name is dc, hi you over there what you doing, can I play with your bag, how about the sponge, I like sponges, do you have a whip, I play with whips, I like to bite, here I’ll bite your water bottle, yes so fun yes hi.”  There is a reason holding DC at the ring can seem like a bad idea.

Our warm up was honestly less than stellar.  I just didn’t feel exactly on my A game, and as we all know feeling on my A game doesn’t always result in amazingness so I was a bit concerned about what our trips would be like.  And honestly, they were another group of just ok.  And I was awarded with…..just ok.  4ths and 5ths abounded. 

One fact about me is that I am NOTORIOUSLY hard on myself.  I really want to do well, and ride well, and WIN ALL THE RIBBONS.  And once again in as many weeks as there had been horse shows, I simply let myself down.  I’d like to say that I went on with a devil may care attitude, but in reality I was seriously contemplating taking up trail riding.  I mean I’d never take up tennis, I lack the eye hand coordination, but I bet I’d be one fierce trail rider.  Matt somehow managed to talk me down off my ledge of my new found goal of trail riding excellence. 

I took the rest of the afternoon to watch some of the Woodhill riders, and catch up with the working student at Woodhill, Miguel.  Miguel is one cool kid who works very hard to have opportunities to ride, doing anything he can for more time around horses.  As we were sitting there chatting, he says to me “I have a confession to make.”  I’m thinking “ok this is about to get awkward.” Then he says “I read your blog, and I love it.”  Well…don’t I just feel famous now???  If Miguel is reading my blog, that means maybe some other cool junior kids are too.  Or at least they were until I didn’t write for 20 or so days.  Oops.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Colorado Day 8 – 4th of July!!!!

Look how almost caught up I am!

First I have to say.  I love 4th of July.  I love summer, I love fireworks, I love watermelon, I love America!!!!  Ok love fest over, but really, 4th of July is probably my most favorite holiday.  I even have nails in support of the Red White and Blue.

On my flight to Denver that morning, there were four members of the Armed services on the plane.  The pilot took the time to honor their service, and spoke to the spirit of 4th of July.  Pretty cool. 

Sarah picked me up from the airport and we headed directly to the show.  My only agenda for that day was to school DC, but somehow managed to pass the time with various antics such as….

Admiring TJ’s equal love for the 4th.

Can’t you tell how enthused he is?

And holding Luna for Courtney

Courtney and her sister Madelyn are two of the girls that ride at the barn TJ was located for his previous lease.  I got to know that entire barn family pretty well, and they often referred to me as an associate barn member.  Since the two girls wanted to do some out of state showing this summer, I recommended coming along for some fun in Colorado with Matt.  They came for the last two weeks, and I can't wait to hang out with them!  Goofy, fun, and loveable are the three adjectives that come to mind when I think of these two gals.  (yes they read this blog, yes they might have bribed be to say awesome things about them, but yes, it's all true nonetheless). 

I finally got on DC in the late afternoon, moseying on up to the warm up ring to do a little schooling.  For this week, Meghan, Matt’s assistant, had gone home, so Matt was alone with 21 horses, 14 riders, and 7 different rings.  It was going to be a busy weekend for sure.  Matt was signed up to do the Ride and Drive which was of course starting right at the same time that I was supposed to school DC.  We put our patient hats on and proceeded to wander around the show grounds waiting for the walk to be completed. 

When Matt made his way back to our warm up ring, he was dressed to impress with a 4th of July shirt that was not to be believed (more on that later).  We schooled beautifully, and didn’t want to spend too much energy, so at six jumps we called it a day.

The Ride and Drive is a super crazy fun event that they do in CO one week each year.  The horse jumps a series of 1 meter jumps, any knock downs are added as 4 seconds to the time.  Then the rider jumps off the horse, jumps down a bank, through a set of military style tires, and then on a golf cart navigates a course of golf cart jumps, water, reverse, and cones.  I wish I would have thought to take a video, but at least Phelps Media got a great pic.

That shirt y’all.  That shirt. 

I actually considered doing this with TJ, but I didn’t perhaps think it would be his best set up for rusty stirrup……so I remained a spectator.

After that, Courtney, Madelyn, Sarah, and I all took our horses out for a graze.  I tried really hard to get all four in one pic, not so successfully.

But I did get an awfully cute one of yin and yang hanging out together.

That evening I met up with some friends for dinner and a few fireworks, excited about showing over the weekend, but mostly excited about FIREWORKS.  I really do love fireworks.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Colorado Day 7 – Rain rain go away!

In my last blog I mentioned an evening of winding down at a campfire in the camper park.  By winding down what I really meant was sipping on wine until 1 am swapping stories about showing in days of yore.  It was a good time, and sooooo worth it to get my mind off my aforementioned awful riding. 


The next morning my 7am to the show call did not look so good on me.

That is officially my “I’m the luckiest girl in the world and I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for anything else” look.  I swear that was exactly what was on my mind.  You might ask where exactly I took this picture.  Well I couldn’t bear the idea of going straight to the show without a morning wake me up chai, so I stopped at Panera.  My stop at Panera ended up being an hour long pep talk of how much I love doing this, and how I needed to get my butt to the show.  It took a while, but it worked. 

First order of priority that morning was to purchase Himalayan salt blocks for my boys.  Yes. They are spoiled.  Yes. I bought them salt blocks for their show stalls.  No. I don’t mind the fact that I was hanging DC’s in his stall he just about pushed me down in excitement to get to his precious block of salt.

He has a serious obsession.

I spent some time at the show watching a few rounds, looking at my photos (the photog got some GREAT ones), and finally going up to the jumper ring to watch the group of Junior jumpers from my barn go.  Since Matt had a little down time in between the Junior Class and the Low A/Os, I took the opportunity to pick his brain on my anxiety and riding issues from the day before.  I think that being a trainer must be one of the more complicated jobs in the world.  Human emotions, horse emotions, equine welfare, sports psychology, and riding all rolled into one. 

Unfortunately the break in time between classes meant that Matt had a direct conflict with my division.  The “plan” went something like this.

Go first go first in the division! HURRY GET ON NOW.

No, wait, he can’t make it down, go back to the barn.


Nope, sorry not going to happen, you’re on the list for last now.

With as many back and forths, I had plenty of time to snap a pic of his adorable blue braids and head puff.  Who says hunters can’t have fun?

Hurry up and wait is a particular specialty of mine.  Fortunately, my friend Zheila came to watch and keep me company.  We chatted for a bit, when she said to me, “you know that storm behind you, it looks kind of nasty.”  Um, what storm?  I turn around.  Oh THAT storm.  As we the division was winding down, the wind started picking up and things started to look really bad. 

I hopped on DC and got exactly 4 warm up jumps done when they called the show for a weather break.  UGHHHHHHHH  This was the third time I took my horse back to the barn in one day!  Poor DC.  On the bright side he sure did look pretty with the stormy background.

Sooooo I hung out at the barn for another eon (hour) before the storm passed and we were able to start again.

DC felt really pretty good in the warm up, considering all of the back and forth and waiting, I was honestly fairly pleased.  For the show I had two hunters and a second classic round.  It was one of those days where simply SOMETHING happened on each course.  Our first course we had a smashing round going and then on the long approach to the oxer a banner flapped right as we were at the base of the jump and DC jumped more sideways than straight and over.  On our second course a girl fell off in the ring next to us with a whole lot of yelling and people screaming whoa, I can only imagine the horse was running around wildly never to be caught.  It distracted BOTH of us (concentration is key) and left a meh of a line, scoring a 76.  The last course the line closest to the gate DC somewhat decided an early exit might be the key to being the winner.  This gave us a huge drift to the left and a crooked jump coming in, and scoring a 78.  So, we ended up with blah, bleck, and blah. 

It’s not to say that those weren’t respectable scores, just nothing that’s going to leave me with blue ribbons raining down in a parade like setting. 


Spoiled?  Nah. 

So, the second week of Colorado wrapped with some good, some bad, some really not good, but overall still the most fun show I’ve attended.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Colorado Day 6 – Suckage & not so much Suckage

We all know that a green horse can be like living in a Forrest Gump movie, an adventure at every turn.  And we all know that DC has certainly had his green moments over the last 6 months.  But what we haven’t covered is how much it sucks to have a horse that is downright awesome and amazing and perfect in every way, but your riding is so bad that you feel like you should take up tennis.   If only I had any eye hand coordination at all, that might have been my back up plan for Day 6. 

Since TJ had already done double duty of a derby and rusty stirrup, Matt and I decided that it would be best for me to not do a division on him.  No real need to tire him out further, and he had another day of rusty stirrup yet to do in finishing his division. 

This left me with a plan to only show DC, and a warm up and two hunters to do.  I got to the show a bit early, and decided that due to a burned forehead the day before, I needed to buy a hat.  And buy a hat I did.

I know, everyone is jealous of my pink and orange visor, seriously cool there. 

Since DC was being so great, we chose not to hack and save a little energy for my classes.  Amazingly enough, there was absolutely no drama getting ready for my classes.   For once I simply got on, walked to the ring, and warmed up.  Perhaps the lack of stress and panic was my downfall, as I can honestly say that my riding was just flat out terrible.  My first class started with a left lead going away from the gate.  I kicked for all of my might for a gap, and then did the sensible and logical thing and abandoned the leg at the base and dove up the neck  in an incredibly graceful way.  Cardinal sin of jumping, abandon the leg and jump up the neck.  My saint of a gray horse faithfully leapt of the ground as best he could with the monkey clinging to his ears.  I’d love to say this was the biggest issue of the day, but it was not.  I saw nothing, I rode to nothing, I was underpowered when I needed to be supportive, I was overpowered when I needed a soft ride, I was just bad. 

Walking out of the ring Matt was no where in sight.  When Matt is truly disappointed in you, he wanders away from the in gate, and takes a minute to provide feedback.  I tell myself it is to give the rider a minute to compose before discussion, but in reality it’s likely more a combination of shame and a desire to collect himself and try to find some sort of inkling of a positive thing to say.  This day, he was across the aisle and over by the warm up ring.  I knew that was a bad sign. 

Me: “There you are.”

Matt: “yes, here.”

Me: “so um.”

Matt: “yes, um is just what I was thinking.”

Me: “right.”

Matt: “your canter started well?  That’s about all I’ve got.”

From there we had a long discussion about how I am not trusting my decisions, second guessing myself, and generally look like a lost puppy atop a horse. 

I went in for my second round with much trepidation.  There’s nothing more mentally crippling for me than not trusting a decision, changing my mind, and having a worse outcome which then results in not trusting my decision. You can see this is a vicious cycle that I have a hard time climbing out of. 

My second trip did improve for the first three jumps, and then one of those tricky long approaches to an in and out had me making about four different decisions at once.  Once again it was ugly, I won’t talk about how ugly but a winning round it did not make. 

For my last round, we had a handy.  Matt tried a different tactic telling me to just relax and have fun!  In my ever so bizarre place of that day, I then put the utmost amount of pressure on myself to GO HAVE FUN.  I plastered a smile on my face that would rival Toddlers and Tiaras and cantered into the ring determined to HAVE FUN.  It was fine, not great, not even good, but no major horrible mistakes and I’m sure that I HAD FUN.  Or something. 

I ended up jogging 5th and 5th, so I mean it wasn’t world ending, but I certainly didn’t feel successful. 

Thankfully I had a full day of agenda left including…..

Watching TJ bring home the rusty stirrup champion AND win the classic!

Ice cream social!

Admiring Tino for his love and care of my beasties

Watching the pre-Grand Prix entertainment

Seriously these guys were crazy.

I think I was so mesmerized by the flying flag horses that I forgot to get any pictures of the Grand Prix, but I didn’t.

The day finished up with what is probably my favorite part of the Colorado shows, and that would be the exhibitor party.  They had a camp cookout for the entire show, live music, roping demonstrations, and a MECHANICAL BULL.

The evening winded down (or up? depends on your perspective) to a campfire in the camper park.

Other than that whole sucking at riding stuff, pretty much a perfect day in Colorado.