Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wrapping up 2016

It seems to be a theme that I manage to delay blogging about a show for 2+ weeks - which results in summaries like "we went to a show"  and "we did some stuff."

Which is too bad, because as stuck as I've been on updates recently - I still totally value having them and the ability to go back and review them.  So I'll try. 


I enjoyed our two weeks at Paso Robles.  The park was great.  Footing held up well, staff was plentiful (and friendly!) and the schedule was realistic and on time.  Those things alone make for a pretty great few weeks playing with ponies.

Winds, however, was not his brightest shiniest self.  He wasn't awful, but I get so excited about showing him off that when he is a tad stiff or lackluster I get bummed out.  Not because he's bad - or even that he necessarily does poorly - but I when I know he's got more in there I end up a bit let down.

The second week saw much stronger pro divisions.  Folks made it back from Kentucky - and all the Green divisions about tripled in size.  So it was great to have some good competition and also see some new horses in the ring. 

Winds did fine in his Pre-Greens.  Not horrid, but not spectacular.  No major mistakes, but  he was jumping out his right side a bit and that killed us in the stiffer competition.

My rides were good.  We had one of our smoothest rounds to date and managed a blue ribbon in a big class of 25.  The second day our schedule got a bit off and I ended up going in on a very short warmup.  Winds wasn't quite working over his back yet and was surprisingly fresh in the ring which made for some stiff and jarring rounds.  We still pulled ribbons, but not great ones.


Below is the blue ribbon round.  I high recommend watching solely for the incredible commentary of one of our resident juniors.  She's rad, hired to provide color commentary at all shows from now on.


(FYI, when I went back in for my second round I promptly ate the first fence RIGHT in front of the judge, and killed our laid back vibe.  dammit).

For comparison, here's one of the rounds from the next day. Winds was still a very good boy here - Mostly I felt the tension, but where you see it come out in the video is in a few funky distances.  He felt a little sticky to my leg which resulted in him not moving up subtly when I asked - then all the sudden lurching in the last stride.  It was all a bit rough.  But I will say that we didn't have one sticky change all week - so that's a HUGE success in itself. 



Also, a clip of our Under Saddle for archival sake (very boring, not recommended).



We managed a respectable 4th in a class of 12 with a few REALLY nice movers.  Winds didn't hack his best.. I could tell he was tired, as the "downhill" side of the ring felt quite heavy and difficult - when in fact I know it's only a 2% grade.  Couldn't quite get him up and pushing as much as I like.  But he's a cute nugget.

All in all a great trip.  I'd revisit a West Palm show at this facility without hesitating.  Good food (and wine) and lodging and weather all add up nicely. 

My only real complaint? TARANTULAS. 

I don't do spiders.  and I really don't do well with big ones. 

in the stalls. 

and the dressing room. 

and the fields. 

nopenopenope.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Centeral Cali Classic - Derby Day!

Get it.

By Friday, Winds was back to his (mostly) normal self.  I bought him some new electrolytes, made sure he was taken out to a big field where he could roll, and hand-walked his legs off. 

The result was that on Friday afternoon for my rounds, he felt great to me and we opted to keep him in the National Derby.

The course looked good, the field was gorgeous and there was a COMPLIMENTARY WINE TASTING to keep everyone entertained (and happy) during the whole class.  (seriously brilliant).



Nothing worried me about round one and I was glad to see the course built up to height.  Winds needed something to catch his attention and I hoped this was it.

We were 20th to go out of 40, which gave me plenty of time to watch some trips before setting jumps for Winds.  The plan was to carry some pace, take all the high options and hope that the judges liked him a bit more than they did earlier in the week.






Given all my doubts from the Pre-Greens, I was extremely happy with a 85 + 4 for an 89.  It put us into 3rd place, and held 5th by the time John French got all six of his rides through and the Classic Round was done. 



Looking at the roster of entries, this was legitimately the first Derby where I wasn't confident that we would make the Handy.  There were some gorgeous horses, and unless Windsy decided to jump like old-Windsy, I really didn't think we'd make the cut.  So, to throw down a nicely clean round and be rewarded by the judge's was not only a relief - but really, really exciting.


The sun and heat of the show tricked me into thinking it was still summer (and not November), so it wasn't until the Classic round was drawing to a close that I realized how dark it was actually getting for the handy. 



The track was interesting.  A trot fence immediately in front of the in-gate was an early question, along with two opportunities for some TIGHT slices.   The first option was to slice the trot jump (actually much closer to the in-gate) and go in front of that un-used vertical on your way to #2.  No one attempted this until about halfway through the round, then almost everyone followed suit. #2-#3 rode straight forward, then #4, #5, #6 had three high options in a row that weeded out the horses not quite capable of holding their balance together for multiple 3'6" fences in a row (the scopey ones had no issue, and it provided a nice place to ideally show a lot of brilliant pace and BIG jumping efforts on a large step).  #7 was straightforward, with a possibility of a tight slice and return to #8 for your final high option.  No one opted for the final slice, and while it looked real tricky, I was hoping someone would show off.

When you *really* hope your horse doesn't spook at shadows....
Because a few riders had multiple horses (cough, Frenchie, cough cough).  the whole round was out of order which made keeping score hard.  Windsor rode back 10th, and had a nice trip.  They took the first inside turn, and laid down an otherwise correct round.  Nothing crazy, but really lovely.  I swear in person his exploded over the oxers like crazy - in the video it looks like a normal jump.



I thought that the base score of 82.5 seemed low relative to the other scores tossed out, but since Windsy held his brain together and didn't bat an eye at the low light or crazy shadows - it was enough to move us up to 3rd overall.

love him.
The thing that's crazy impressive to me about this result is that Windsor has yet to place below third in a Derby. 

He's for sure not the fanciest horse in the field, but he is brave, and he is consistent, and he has yet to say no to anything he's seen on course. 

That said - I can see where we are leaving some points on the table and I think that as his skills continue to improve, he'll be even more fun to watch in these classes. 

I nearly had my trainer talked into doing the $25,000 International Derby that closes out the show this week, but it would ruin his eligibility for the First Year Greens in 2017, and as much as I can't wait to see him take on those big courses - I'll just have to wait.





Monday, November 7, 2016

Central California Classic - Windsy's Disappointing Day

Our introduction to Paso Robles Horse Park was a good one.  We left Seattle in dark drizzly skies early Tuesday morning and landed in warm, lovely sunshine in time to get everyone schooled up.

First impressions of the show park were good ones.  Nice infrastructure (read: Bathrooms).  the turf fields looked amazing, and all the other rings, both warm up and show, were GGT footing.

The horses had hauled well and seemed perfectly happy with the weather and the energy of the facility.

Specifically, Windsor schooled beautifully.  He looked stellar on the flat, and even better over fences.  Soft, forward, light off the ground.... just lovely.

Snooze in the evening Cali Sun.
So, my expectations were high on Wednesday when he came out of the stall for two Pre-Green rounds.  The 3'3" division was pretty soft with only 4 entries (two of them being our barn..) but, somehow low numbers never decrease my enthusiasm for his rounds.  (I was surprised by the low counts especially since the 3' division was a robust 14, and there was a strong 11 in the First Years...).

Halfway through his first round it was clear that something was off.  He was sulking in the corners, swapped off his lead in a line and just looked stuck.  I keep describing as a robot falling down a hill.  But apparently that visual only works for me, because I get really odd blank stares from folks when I say that.




The second round was equally off and just a tad bizarre.  Nothing looked "lame" per se, but Winds was not jumping like Winds - and certainly not like he was the day before on schooling day.



I got on a few minutes later for the Under Saddle, and expected him to feel much worse than he did.  He felt stiff - but not egregiously so and he hacked well for me, reaching through the bridle and moving out when I asked...

When I got back to the barn I checked to see if he had been getting his Previcox.  You may recall that I was first introduced to Previcox with Prairie to help support her back, and keep her happy and working well while we built her topline back up.  Anyway, our sports medicine vet loves it as a happy, low impact NSAID during shows to keep the horses happy. It's less tough on their tummies than bute, it doesn't require a needle, and it'd legal. 

All good things.

Anyway, I picked up his baggie of previcox and it was immediately clear he hadn't gotten any.   I support Winds with 1/4 a tab a day at shows.  I have no problem disclosing that since I support myself with considerably more advil on a daily basis to keep my knees functioning like knees... ;)

So, while all the panic-owner-alarm-bells were going off like crazy in my mind - I was significantly calmed by the fact that perhaps he was just stiff and sore from a long haul, a small portable stall and no turnout.

(even his "stiff" is pretty decent)
Thursday, he jumped considerably better.  Not brilliant.  But better.  No lead swapping (which was a relief), but certainly not his best. 






He jumped his last two rounds of the division, (snagging one first) as well as the USHJA Pre Green Challenge.  Usually they announce the scores for that nice and loud, but I barely coaxed the gate attendant into telling me that Winds had a 77 and 80, which seemed unfortunately low for him, or at least, VERY beatable. 



So I was shocked (but thrilled) when he won it.  With $225 to the winner, it was a nice bump in the pocket to at least pay for (most) of his rounds.

So, to sum up - Nice facility.  Great warm up.  Crap first day.  Better second day, and a little walking around money to help boost my spirits.

Next up - my Low AA's and the DERBY.




Monday, October 31, 2016

Points (oh god, points...)

I am a self confessed satin-hoarder.  I meticulously keep and display EVERY ribbon that is earned by one of my beasts.  I think it stems from a satin deprived youth as an eventer where at best I brouh home 4 ribbons a summer. 

So even though my garage is literally wallpapered in ribbons (thanks Hunters!), I imagine my continuing obsession is akin to someone growing up hungry and then never being able to leave a bread basket behind at a restaurant.

Maybe that's a tad dramatic - but the anxiety in my chest that starts if I think someone accidently took my ribbon or god forbid threw it out... is real. 

Really, really, real.

Anyway, for all the neurosis surrounding my ribbons - I've never been that keyed in on points. 

Mostly I think that's because I've always let the horse dictate the division, or level - and if we were ready to move up, we moved up and I didn't worry much about sprinkling points around in different divisions during the same season.

In fact, when I think about it - aside from 2016 every single show season I've ever had has either been split across multiple divisions (or levels) or ended early by an injury. 

2016 is literally the only time that, aside from the first show of the season, I've hung out in the same division all. year. long.  And really racked up some points in the process.

So it turns out, I am obsessed with points. I just never had enough of them to care before.

(Prairie's Stirrup Cup Win from 2013)

Windsor has had quite the season - and that makes it, well... a bit more fun to point chase. 

At some point, maybe back in August or so, it occurred to me that not only was I leading my meager Low AA Hunter and Eq divisions, but Windsy was leading the Pre-Greens for our local organization.

That prompted me to look at USEF and my eyeballs nearly popped when I saw that those same points had him leading the Zone HOTY and sitting second in the Derby standings for our Zone (top 50 nationally). 

The problem with becoming aware of this information is that it has wormed its way into my subconscious and meant that now I'll be sitting on the couch, streaming something totally un-related with The Boy and suddenly I'll be like, "I wonder if Windsy is still winning his divisions."

The answer is no.  He's not. 

The last few months (and remarkably inconsistent outing at Zone Finals where there were bonus points to be had) have meant that the leaderboard is flipping and flopping around with almost every show.

Winning year end awards has (to this point) never been a priority for me.  I've never used it to define my competition goals, or even used it to set my competition calendar.  But, I can say that now that they are in reach - I'm keenly aware of how well we need to do in California to put us back on top again. 

I do take pride in the fact that Windsy has scored more points at fewer shows than many of the other horses we are against.  I feel like there should be some horsey-batting-average stat that takes the frequency of competition out of the picture. (though I have no idea how that would work).

I'm also impressed with his mark on the Derby leaderboard, since nationally - the horses surrounding our rank have done upwards of 10 or 12 derbies, and Windsy only got to four USHJA classes this year. (that being said, the horse sitting in second nationally only went to four as well... which is IMPRESSIVE).


Points are a hard thing for me to get too wrapped up in.  Mostly because the best way to get a lot of points is to just show a ton.  Even if you aren't always winning - just pulling down mid range ribbons all summer long will start to stack up. 

If you don't want to live in your car at horse shows all summer, Tri-colors give you a decent point boost - so consistent Champion or Reserve wins, can make up for a lighter presence on the circuit.

However, if you aren't always on top - those extra weeks back, to back, to back (ugh) are pretty much your best bet.

So we will see.  If by some miracle Windsy stays on (or close to) the top of his USEF rankings - it'd be pretty cool to have a USEF ribbon from a rated division.  That would get a special spot on the wall for sure.



Related Posts with Thumbnails