Thursday, November 28, 2013

What will become of us

Winter has become equally as busy despite the adamant refusal to move everyone south (I will regret
this later) for the winter season. It's snowed on and off again for two days, leaving my woods covered in unfashionable post Labor Day White.

Starting in December with a double convention days (USDF/USEA Area 8), each week is booked out with something to do, whether it be clinic, show, symposium, meetings, hosting and travel.

Before I even start making rounds I still have the horses.

Danzador, even through some awkward stages, is getting the knack of things. As a four year old, he offers a lot of glimpses into a really bright future. He just gets the lateral movements and has a really lovely balance point. More importantly, he never stops trying. The adjustability is being developed, which I think will come when he figures out more collected work. He's not going to be FEI five and six year old material but will be a good candidate for the Developing Horse or the straight FEI tests. He still has a lot of maturing he needs to do over winter and with some changes in the program he'll be just fine.

Sinari is still going on, she's come back into work and is regaining a lot of the fitness she lost. The little mare is pretty much getting the idea of the zig zags, and reeled off three's today without really thinking. The main goal is to push for the I1 next year and be schooling all of the Grand Prix work. She's working solidly every day, I just wish the footing would cooperate so we can get out of the arena more often, hacking up and down the driveway isn't what I call fun.

Reba's first year and a half with my team and her rider has come to an end, and I couldn't be more proud of what they've done in less than a half a season of eventing and showing. With Anna Kate in less than 10 overall events, she finished with minimal penalties and usually on sub 30 dressage scores. She won Beginner Novice at American Eventing Championships, was Reserve Champion on the Area 8 Leaderboard and started showing Novice at the end of the season. On a horse that has had barely a season of jumping and has only really returned to work last August this is very quick progress.

I honestly can't wait to see what next year, the second/third year of this project holds for everyone, in the meantime we're celebrating with some holiday downtime. The horses were chiro-ed on Tuesday and have had yesterday and today off. We'll return on Friday with some light work to finish out the week. Plus there's a few changes coming up that I'll announce when they're confirmed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You Gonna Fly

Tis the season for conventions 

I'm going to USDF's convention, which is conveniently less than a half of a mile from my house, to pick up my Silver Medal, and to USEA/Area 8 to meet up with friends, coworkers and watch Anna Kate pick up her ribbons for the season. All on the same day, within three hours of each other.  

Aside from one busy day, the time is also well spent on conducting business and setting the tone for 2014. It's one part social, two parts financial planning for my team and a whole lot of fun in between.

Convention is also the underlying reminder of what ribbons really cost. 

For every title, ribbon, trophy and award handed out, there are thousands of hours, dollars and opportunities spent for a brief, very fleeting, moment in time. 

While I'm thrilled to have earned my Silver, I'm reminded of the miles traveled with the pony, the struggles of a first year at FEI, the permanent hatred I have for fourth level, the clinics attended and hosted and the time away from home while I collect it and celebrate the newest lifetime achievement. 

Everything has a price, and horses, are no different. I'm very proud of what we have accomplished and no one can take that away. But occasionally, I hear the peanut gallery's voices singing clearly that it's not fair, and you've just have had better opportunities. 

I can easily say life isn't fair. 

But better opportunities? I made those with sweat equity.  

A recent post on Facebook reminded me how concerning the future generation of horsemen are going to be if they aren't clever enough or hungry enough to find ways to, as Tim Gunn would say, "Make it Work". 

We aren't all blessed with bank accounts and silver spoons. Many of us grew up in suburbs and with parents that could barely tell the difference between a snaffle and spur (but were lucky that they didn't say no to doing crazy things), but in the end, the dollars didn't prevent us, we just made it work. 

It's disappointing to say the least that many insert-your-age-here somethings would rather lament instead of going forward, asking questions and give a little to get a leg up, then complain at the suggestion that they go work and earn their place at the table. 

Go and volunteer, go ask organizers if they need a hand for anything (the answer is usually a relieved yes), start covering events for your local equestrian magazine, attend class, go to shows and watch, scribe, run, put on events, network, DO STUFF. Change begins with the individual, and to be have a say in it, you need to step outside and do something. 

There is nothing preventing you in this world to going out and going after opportunities. There will be times where people will say no, there will be times where you (and many others) question everything you do, the quality you have; there will be times where that plateau for training and riding stretches out longer than a country mile. But, if you don't keep going, you stop being apart of what you want. 

So, question is then, how bad do you want it? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

How quick are you gonna get up?

The season is officially put to rest.

I got back on Thursday evening after I drove home from William Fox-Pitt's clinic that finished the day prior. I can barely remember how Friday was spent, except that I ended up at the barn riding that day and I was happy to be back to some version of normalcy.

With 200 plus people on both days, and some fun situations in between, it was well worth it and I had a blast. But somewhere between the final airport run and getting turned around on Route 50 because of construction traffic, I hit the wall.

I pulled over at an overlook and just sat there for awhile, wondering what I had just done and what it will mean. Probably sat there for a solid 10 minutes just looking out before my phone pinged with people sending on media, Facebook, and emails of congrats (Virginia has sketch signal and I guess things catch up when you stand on top of a hill). I found myself wishing for my horses.

The ponies didn't make the trek with me and earned some time off from the under saddle work. Prior to leaving, they were working really well. But at the clinic I found myself really wanting to ride in what little down hours I had and experiment with what was going on.

The horses didn't mind the absence so much. 

Prior to taking off, Danzador was working a little passage in hand and doing more than a solid training level/first level work, we even schooled a green change here or there. The last day with him was spent trying to find his gear for the lengthening, the horse doesn't quite trust where all his feet go yet, and can only give a solid five steps, but at least it's progress.

The last few days have been spent stretching and just getting him back in gear but yesterday, for giggles, we put him through a trail horse clinic. After the initial snorts and spooks, he became almost bored with the process as he tried to eat the tarp, the flowers, the sparkly confetti things.

As much as I raise dressage horses, they are horses first. They need to be exposed to a bunch of things that make them good citizens. Often times, as riders, we forget that, we try to sterilize the environment to make it safe, when in reality we're only doing ourselves a disservice. I also believe that submission, one of the core tenets of the sport, is first developed on the ground.  What you do there also reflects what's being experienced in the saddle.

I think he's missed the work, and the attention because he's come back looking more mature with a better trot and walk, his canter can be a tad scrambled but he's willing to collect and hold himself together. His walk canters are coming along very smartly. He's ready to do a show very soon.

Sinari's post hock injection work keeps improving, she's way more comfortable in the work and has returned to the level that she was at prior. We're still taking stuff slow, she lost a little bit of fitness due to the compensation she put her body through, but already she's lighter and softer in the bridle, she's not stuck in the back and she's happy about the work.

She's comfortable handling the three's and two's again, and I've been working on cleaning up the pirouette work. It's coming, it's just going to take time. But already she's willing to sit and wait more, just needs the strength. But already things are looking up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

I'm heading down a busy week of travel and riding.

First on the menu is the final prep for William Fox-Pitt's clinic, I'm pushing just over 200 people (riders, sponsors, auditors) for two days- during the week. It's by far and away the largest weekday clinic (if not clinic, Edward Gal was large, but not like this). This means packing the car, coordinating, doing laundry and having barn coverage.

Also during my trip out East I get to meet up with some old hunt friends that I met at Breyerfest in 2012. These guys are awesome and I haven't seen them in two years. So, I'm using this as an excuse to ditch the dressage gear and go have end of the season fun. I have a feeling that I'll be wrangled in to something that goes across country. I also get to see an old high school riding buddy and another few good friends. Either way, I'll be fine, hopefully alive after all of it.

It's also the week I generally start planning travel and shows.

On the docket for 2014 is air tickets to Europe for February to Holland for the KWPN stallion show and also co-oping it into a few other things. I would like to graduate with my L, and campaign the youngsters a little on the East. I will most likely make an stop in Canada at some point as well.

This week is also a heavy week for vet work.

While Danzador is clipped for the next few months, Sinari still needs to be clipped. Normally I'd have this done same day as the others but the one foible about Sinari is that she's petrified of clippers. No amount of coaxing, convincing will ever convince her otherwise. So drugs are necessary. Which means calling the vet out. 

We're going for a two for one special.

After a recent chiro session, we found that Sinari was also hyper sensitive on her hock and hock points.  This is a horse that's in six days a week of work, upper level work and has had joint support throughout her career (a daily oral, and a bi-monthly Adequan until Adequan decided to do some interior decoration of their plant then over to Legend) plus regular body work and has a good farrier. She goes on good footing, has properly fitting tack and everything has been done within reason.

But at 14 the work is hard, and has come time to inject the hocks.

I loathe injecting for the sake of injecting. I've been in barns and situations where the first answer is the needle and not really sourcing the issue (ill fitting tack, questionable footing, lack of development, no support, ect). My vets know this as well, as does the majority of my team that I'd rather avoid doing the unnecessary until options are exhausted and the horse dictates.  

Right now, she's dictating. She's still a little uncomfortable in the work, her normal good changes are sticky, the departs are a little rough going and she's not as fluid over the back. Then after her chiro work, she started telling us directly where it hurt. To make her comfortable for the next few years of competing/training, this is necessary.

After a decade of work, it's time. I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten away with it for so long and to have an honest horse to tell me when it's time. The injections went undramatically.

Danzador is doing exceptionally well, he's maturing into a fabulous young horse and gaining topline and fitness. He's so easy to ride, and as he's expanding his horizons, he continues to really try to figure things out. The other day he started doing changes, while they're green and all over the place he's getting the idea. He also started playing with baby half passes and park a bus in them pirouettes. While I still feel Sinari is smart, this guy is a brainiac sponge.He's just that quick to pick up on things and go for it. It's interesting, and very surreal when you have a horse that at four, can pick up on your mistakes quickly.