Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rails Can Kill

September 29th, we get home from Juniors Over Jumps tired, triumphant, and looking forward to our next show.  It comes quickly and four days later our poor ponies get loaded on the trailer again and we leave for Woodside.  Brit got two days off, a quick jumping lesson and back on the road we went, good thing my horse loves being at shows.  Compared to the chaos of Juniors, Woodside was much quieter with our smaller group that consisted of two horse show veterans, a ball of nerves, a rated show first timer and a not-quite-a-teenager.

The morning we were leaving for Woodside I had to drop my younger siblings off at school because my mom had a meeting or something and couldn't.  The plan was that I would do that, run home, finish packing up my stuff, swap to the truck, fill up the truck, run to the feed store for shavings, and then drive up to the barn to hook up the trailer.  Originally we were going to leave at about 10.  Theoretically, this should have worked just fine, except when I got back to my house, I discovered I was locked out.  Yep, locked out, what a great way to start the day.  You see, I don't have a house key, because we just never go through the front door, we always go in and out of the garage, which has a key pad.  Well this keypad has a battery, when the battery runs out then the garage door won't open, and since I park outside and don't have a garage door opener in my car as an alternative, that means I'm stuck.  So I freak out and call my dad, who tells me to try and open up the keypad to check the battery.  To do this I need a phillip's head screwdriver, which I don't have, so I am sent to the hardware store to pick up a screwdriver and a battery.  About an hour after I originally got home, I replace the battery and actually get in my house.  This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day, running up against the clock.

So we get to Woodside, unload, park the trailer, reserve a spot for Lauren next to us using a couple of chairs and a cardboard box with "Reserved for Lauren LoPiccolo :)" written on it (stuffed with my shoes so that it wouldn't fall over), and then proceed to wait for Lauren to get there.  At about five, Lauren finally gets there and Dana and I do a quick ride.  Now nobody else had to braid the night before, except for me.  I had a ride time of nine something, and a total of three horses to braid out of the five my barn brought to Woodside.  So Brit got the world's fastest bath (about a total of ten minutes, including spraying, shampooing, rinsing, and tail), and then was plucked in front of a hay bag so I could braid.  Thank goodness for headlamps, because at this point it was getting pretty dark.  I had just finished braiding down when I get told "we're leaving right now to go to Olive Garden!" Wha?  I'm still braiding guys, and I have two more to do tomorrow, both of which have difficult manes (one which is extreme).  Next time, give me a heads up before the "leaving right now".  Fastest pull up/knot job ever, funny though, when I was done I ended up waiting on some of the younger girls.  Seriously guys?

Dressage Video is here!
Couldn't get the players to display properly without wanting to insta play every video the moment you open the page :/

Friday morning we wake up early so I can braid Jax, horse number two, before his ride at too-darn-early o'clock.  Jax is a new horse to Dana, she imported him from the Netherlands rather recently and this was her first show with him so we had no idea what he was going to be like.  He wasn't all that bad to braid, but he is really sensitive up near his poll, especially with people he doesn't know that well, and his crazy fluff mane takes tons of quick braid.  Afterwards, Brit goes out for a quick lunge, I tack her, and we go to warm up.  Warm up was relatively uneventful, except I nearly had a collision with David Accord.  Brit and I were going around in a circle and she drifted out on me, David cut in just a little bit and when I tried to get Brit to turn sharper she decided to drift more.  I yelled "Sorry!" and he responded "Thank you".  Thank you what? It didn't sound like sarcasm, so it must have been a genuine, just not totally sure what it means haha.  He was still much nicer than any professional I've nearly collided with before (which granted has only been two, David one of them).  My test ended up going fairly well, despite the fact that Brit really perked up around the court and I felt that I was getting run away with, but hey it still looked nice!  We scored a 34.6, good enough for 5th place after dressage.  Dana had a nice ride before me, although Lauren described it as "water skiing" since Jax decided he was going to be perky too.  After my ride I braided my third horse, Danny, whose mane was absolutely awful since Adi had pulled it short but left it too thick.  I had to space my braids really close to get them in and he ended up with twice as many braids as Brit!  The other girls went much later in the afternoon and I am going to modify a bit that little Lauren's grandmother said in that "If they aren't bolting, popping, or throwing up, it looks pretty good to me!"  By the way, there is too Lauren's in my barn, big trainer Lauren LoPiccolo, and Lauren Oliver, affectionately called little Lauren. Anyway, little Lauren had a nice steady dressage test and scored quite well, Adi had one of her better ones and broke into the 30's (which she was stoked about), and Mackie had nice trot work, Wilson was just a little enthusiastic about the canter.

That afternoon Lauren and I went on a course walk, and overall it looked pretty nice, there were some tough questions, but we both felt that it would be good for Brit and I.  I was certainly hoping so, because I needed Woodside as a qualifier for my year end goal of doing the Training 3-day at Galway, if I had a stop on this course then that goal wasn't going to be reached.  Of course I had all day the following day to contemplate every single way I could possibly ride the course while I fidgeted just waiting for my time to go at 5:32.  I was the VERY last horse on course.  I know I complain about early ride times, but I would SOOOO much rather go early than late, waiting around all day just sucks.

Saturday.  Little Lauren, Adi, and Mackie all show jumped in the morning.  Two of them ended up owing Lauren shaved ice for leaning at the last fence.  Then I got to play the waiting game, sitting around watching upper level cross country, and counting down the hours until I could maybe, just maybe, consider tacking up. Finally my time came, and I got on for cross country.  Over the weekend I had developed a sore throat, so I asked the girls to have water at the warm up and finish since I knew that I would probably be about choking by the time I came off cross country.  Brit was super in the warm up, and next thing I know I'm in the box, being counted down.  Then we are off, people are yelling my name, they are announcing that I am the last horse on course, and I'm over the first jump and the girls of LLE are screaming their heads off.  It was fantastic.  Brit had a hard look at 6 because the shadow on it was awful, and again at the drop, but I'm pretty sure she's never even been off a true drop before.
AHH! Scary number six with it's giant shadow on the other side, don't touch it!
But the point is that she may have looked, but when I said, "yes let's do it", her response was OKAY! and she then jumped without question.  In the combos she is turning into a cross country machine, nailing her striding and homing in on the next element.  I love my mare, and apparently Adi loves me.  She followed me around the course screaming "I love you Haley!" as she stumbled around trying to catch her breath.  Apparently she was good entertainment for the jump judges.  At the finish I screamed "We're going to the Training 3-day!" or tried to anyway, I practically didn't have a voice.  Thank goodness the girls were there to catch me.  I got to hand Brit off and down water so I could actually sort of talk again, and Adi became my personal coat rack.  I ended up just two seconds off the optimum time, the closest in my division, this was good enough to bump us up to fourth.
One of my favorite pictures.

Sunday.  Show jump day for Dana and I and cross country day for the other three girls.  We all went within the span of about an hour, poor Lauren was running back and forth between warm ups, trying to make sure everyone got jumped and ready to go.  Rails had been falling all day, I feel like Woodside has a bit of a reputation for courses that make people drop rails... great.  Brit's greatest weakness is her show jumping. She will jump the snot out of oxers (see example picture from the show below, but she just doesn't stand off verticals very well, especially when they are small, her canter can be difficult to maintain, and she can be a bit slow with getting her front end up.
Giving a bit more effort than needed over an oxer. For her, this is only a mild effort, it can be much worse!
We've been working hard on improving it and have already come a long ways, especially considering that I've only had her since May, but there is always more to do.  That's one of the most interesting things about this sport, I don't think I've ever met a horse and rider that didn't have a weak spot, and I probably never will.  Warm up was good, the ring steward there does such an amazing job getting everyone where they need to be a regulating the warm up.  When I'm finally in the ring and listening to the buzzer go off, I'm feeling pretty good. First jump goes great, but then it's a long bending line to a vertical.
First jump on course, looking good!
We nail the distance and then... she doesn't pick her dang feet up.  Really Brit?  Next jump is great, after that is the triple combo, I get the canter I want early and I feel like we are going to nail it, until she dies on me the moment right before the jump in. Crap.  It was a long one to one, perfectly doable with an oxer coming in, but not when you are sucked back and chippy.  We got two and took the second rail.  A smack on the shoulder and we got the one on the way out.  At this point I am freaking out a little.  A little more than halfway through the course and we have two rails.  I start doing quick calculations in my head about how many jumps I have left and how many that means that I can't get rails on to get my qualifier.  Placing is out of my mind now, I just don't want to get more than sixteen faults.  I ride my butt off to the next couple fences, and try my best to get her back after the giant oxer to not knock the last rail, but it doesn't happen.  Last rail is down, but we only came out with twelve faults.  I"m going to Galway!!!!

I stuck around for the awards anyway, I didn't think I would get anything, but it's always nice to be supportive.  I went in the arena when they presented and as it turns out I was eighth, just one out of the ribbons.  This is becoming a habit for me.  I think I need to petition horse shows to bring in the eighth place brown ribbon because I would have SOOO many more ribbons if that were the case.  The number of times I've been eighth place I'm pretty sure is about equal to the number of times I have placed anywhere else.  All was not lost, however, because Robert Kellerhouse, the organizer of the event at Woodside, recognized the fact that I had stuck around, and came over to talk to me.  He asked me my name and about my trainer, and told me that he thought it was really neat that I stayed for the awards even though I didn't get anything.  I was directed to go to the office later, where he would have them get me something for showing good sportsmanship.  Wow, I never expected that to happen, and I came out of it with a nifty event at Woodside hat, maybe they will even remember me now, who knows.  Either way, I could use the good karma, with Galway coming up, I need all the luck I can get to be able to come close to placing in my division that has twenty seven generally very competitive riders.  I have learned though, that rails kill.  If I had been clean I would have been second.  Second!  The highest I have ever placed at an eventing show was third, and I was so dang lucky.  Excuse me while I go impress to my horse the importance of picking up her feet in show jumping, or she will never see another cookie in her life.

Galway is going to be amazing.  The same group that went to Woodside will be there, and trainer Lauren herself will be riding her new amazing horse, Diego.  I'm the only one who isn't running novice, so at least I'm spicing things up a little.  I'm sure I will have the most awesomely epic ten minute box crew there.  I am so looking forward to it, and blogging about it is sure to be fun!  Maybe I will try to do a daily thing when we are there, I'm sure there will be lots to talk about!  Until next time, this equestrian is off to drill into her horse that she must pick up her dang feet!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Juniors Makes Me Feel Old

So it's been a good long time since I've posted here.  Yeah I know I'm lame, I know I suck, I know I said I wouldn't do that again, but guess what?  I'm back!  I know, you're just beside yourself with excitement right now, everybody around you must be staring because you are bouncing up and down in your seat.  Take a moment to check around, take a deep breath and assure them that you aren't insane.  There, that's better. Now that you have calmed yourself, let's get down to business.  With a couple of horse shows in my future, I expect there will be a lot to write about, so there should be more activity here, so let's get moving.

Juniors is a big show for LLE for a lot of reasons.  One, it is a small cheaper unrated eventing show that is a great outing for the less experienced kids.  Two, it has a nice move up course for those of us looking to bump up a level.  And to top it off, it was Lauren's first horse show "back" since the arrival of adorable little Lacey.  I decided to take Brit so that she and I could have a nice place to do our first training as a team, but in doing so I realized one sad fact: I'm no longer a junior.

When we got our packets Adi went through hers and exclaimed that she had a glow stick in it.  I immediately went through mine and was quite disappointed to not have received the same, although all the other girls did.  The reason?  I'm not one of them anymore, I'm no longer a junior.  Such a sad day that I am now too old to ride with the juniors but must be called a senior instead.  I mean, what the heck?  Now that I am no longer a kid I must be old?  What's wrong with the term amateur?  Or adult?  Eventing just isn't kind to their non-junior members.  I suppose I just need to get to prelim so that I won't be labeled as a senior anymore.  Way to make me feel old.
Group photo after awards
Getting horses, kids, equipment, and parents still with their sanity intact to Eventful Acres was quite the job, but ultimately everyone survived Friday evening. Brit and I had a nice quiet little dressage workout.  She was very confused about where she was, as she has never been there before, and sometimes would whinny during our ride.  Funny thing is, she whinnies but never moves her head when she does it, so it's more amusing than it is annoying, because it really doesn't affect what I am doing at all.  Unfortunately however, Adi and I both rode at the crack of dawn, and needed to have our horses braided that night, so out came the headlamps and the yarn.  I quickly got Brit done while Adi struggled for some time with Danny.  She even asked me for step by step instructions on how to cut the yarn pieces.  Seriously.  Eventually Adi gave in and I finished Danny's mane, which looked quite horrendous but at least the braids were in.

Saturday morning dawns bright and early and I have to drag myself out of bed at 6 am when it's dark out.  That's just not right, if it's still dark, I should be sleeping.  Ah one of many joys of horse shows.  So I get up and go outside and every other girl is already up, running around in their pajama pants and sweatshirts, how come I wasn't invited to the party?  Horses get fed, Brit gets groomed and then goes out for a quick jaunt on the lunge line, comes back, gets tacked, and then I change and get on.  I get over to warm up and discover that I am in fact late and had not realized it.  My first reaction is to demand why nobody started screaming at me that I had to get my butt to warm up and couldn't spend ages carefully wiping off Brit's face like I had all the time in the world.  I mean really, yell at me guys, sometimes I just have no clue.  Lucky for me, they hadn't even started yet since the dressage judges were accidentally given the wrong tests and were quite confused when the first rider came in.  One fifteen minute delay, a nice quick warm up for Brit and I (if only that was more literal, I exclaimed to Lauren at one point that I couldn't feel my fingers), and we went in to have a lovely, quiet test.  I kept things toned down quite a bit because the grass was a bit slick and as soon as you left the edge of the dressage court to say, do a circle, you were suddenly playing the "dodge the holes so you don't fall on your face and die" game.  Overall though, it was nice, and although our score didn't quite reflect the test and the comments were borderline laughable to the point that we questioned if the judge actually watched my ride.  Below is my test, which I think scored around a 35?  I don't quite remember now and I believe that test is floating around the back of my car somewhere....
Everyone else went on to have great dressage rides Saturday morning and then show jumping started at one.  It was a classic Eventful Acres course, twisty and turny with fences set a bit small, quite nice for horses and riders new to the level.  I went in determined to get a clean round out of Brit, whose show jumping is her weakest phase.  Everything was going great until she just got a bit tired at the end and ended up with two rails.  That first part of the course though was so much better, and Lauren was very happy with our progress, just keep pushing forward, and maybe someday we won't be getting those.  Below is our show jumping round, behold its beauty!  And the sound of Brit's lazy feet nicking rails because I forgot to remove sound... whoops.
Also worth noting: Adi--my fellow training move up who is also the twelve year old super rider that makes me feel bad about myself sometimes, seriously, that girl can ride!--she managed to produce a double clear round with her horse, Danny, who is notorious for making show jumping a game of pick up sticks.  Nice one girl!  Little Haley, Amanda, Mackie, Maddie, Chelsea, Ellie, and Brooke also had great rounds.  Unfortunately Shayna ran into some trouble with Buddy, but she went and rocked it when she schooled it later and showed us all how to hold your chin up and be a good sport and a team player, even when things don't quite go the way you expect.
The group photo from Saturday night dinner
Saturday evening after horses were fed, wrapped, and put to bed and everyone had walked their courses in anticipation for tomorrow, everyone got tickets to the catered dinner onsite.  The kids all got together and carted their food out to a jump on the cross country course where we proceeded to generally mess around and maybe eat some dinner.  At some point we decided it was photo time, above you can see the result.  Why is it that none of us thought to get in the giant hole next to Adi's head rather than crowd around the edges?  Afterwards Adi and I went to meter our course, mostly for Adi's benefit since the course hadn't really changed that much since the last time I had run there.  The cross country looked nice, and I thought it would be a great place for Brit and I to do our first training together.  Mackie and I also did some Assassin's Creed style running, which she thought was Naruto or something, but it was totally Assassin's Creed, who doesn't want to be Ezio?  I was told later that the sixteen year olds of the group had a conversation about whether or not they would still be playing these games in three years.  The answer?  Apparently somebody told them to look at me.  Thanks guys, even though Juniors wants to call me a Senior I guess I'm still a kid to you haha.  Later that evening the girls went off to play "Hunger Games" which really ended up turning into "everyone hunt down Adi and Mackie".  Originally, I had agreed to play, but ended up running into an old friend and went to chat with him instead and just watched while the girls ran around the cross country course.
Adi being dramatic at breakfast
Sunday morning is another early one, although for once, the younger kids had to get up and go first.  Heck yeah!  So the girls that went a bit later in the day had a nice group breakfast.  Mackie opted for a bagel while Adi had a fight with some Joe's O's.  Many a Joe's O sadly ended up on the ground... or the table... or over the fence... Let's just say that they went everywhere because Adi sort of lost her marbles when she put sugar on them.  Then she started glancing over dramatically at Mackie.  I sat there laughing and taking pictures, what a great supervising adult I am.  A bit later I got to stud Brit, a process which I haven't had to do since I ran at Inavale two years ago.  Interestingly, it wasn't as bad as I remembered and it went rather quickly.  Before I knew it I was in the start box about to go on cross country.  There's nothing quite like waiting around that start box, listening to the timer count you down.  Only other eventers know what I'm talking about, that anticipation coupled with the nerves and the adrenaline.  And then you leave the box and it hits you, you're on course and there is nothing more embarrassing than getting a stop at the first fence so ride your butt off!  Brit was a bit wiggly on course at first, but settled in after fence two and was amazing from then on out.  She didn't question anything that I pointed her at and nailed the striding in all the combos.  I was so happy with the way our weekend ended and I felt that our move up had been very successful.  Adi also had a hugely successful move up and all the other girls had great cross country rounds as well.
The crazy version of the first group photo
Even though we didn't all end up with ribbons we all got great positive experiences from the weekend and came out better riders and better friends, what more could you ask for?  Now with Juniors done Brit and I are one step closer to the Training 3-day at Galway.  Woodside the weekend after Juniors determined our fate for that show and guess what?  We made it baby, we are going to the 3-day.  Stay tuned for a post on that soon :) Until next time, this senior that wants to still be a junior but is glad that she is an adult but feels that the USEA needs to come up with a better word for non-juniors, is out.