Friday, January 13, 2017

Man I'm bad at this

I don't know where my blogging voice has gone, but it has vanished.  I feel a little like Ariel when she trades in her oh-so-lovely singing voice for somewhat useless getaway-sticks so she can be on land.

(it's possible my kid is watching a lot of Little Mermaid these days.  like.  A lot.)

Anyway, It's not for lack of fodder.  I have a relatively entertaining call with the pet psychic to report on (spoiler alert, Winds was THRILLED he made the Christmas card, and the cat was pissed I moved his chair for the Christmas tree...) and some really fabulous year end awards that I'm proud of (including a Horse of the Year award).

And we even have soundness drama as we are chasing a very subtle, very sneaky ghost in pursuit of physical perfection.

But I just can't seem to sit down and get the stories all the way out. 

For that - I apologize.  I'm really hoping that 2017 sees the rebirth of my snark and ability to find 5-8 paragraphs on any given ride or piece of equipment.

At the very least, I hope I don't get worse - because that would be sad for me.  I relish looking back at old blog posts, and 2016 marked a low spot for my own personal record keeping.

Thanks for sticking with us, and I hope we have some fun adventures to report on for 2017.  Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 in Review

Man, my blogging voice has just dropped off the face of the earth.  I do have some fun updates (uh... like another call to the pet psychic!), but since I have a few moments, I wanted to sit down and do a year in review post since I'm feeling festive and reflective.

Jan 2016

January saw an onslaught of gear for the new horse.  We bought, we oiled, we reviewed, we used.  It was fun.  I set some goals for Windsor and myself and we started making plans.

I also realized that in the first two months of riding, Windsor had yet to be a jerk.  He was even, polite and proving himself to be a trustworthy amateur partner, something I had never really experienced.  Such. A. Dude.

Feb 2016

We start working on our foundation.  Lots of lateral work, lots of small courses. Lots of adjustments for yours truly.  Windsor gets stronger and seems to enjoy the work (even if there were no 1.40m fences in sight..)

March 2016

March saw the start of show season.  Windsor was prepped, I realize we have a nearly entirely new wardrobe for the show ring, and we get ready for California. 

Prairie found a new home as a mama.
love you. miss you.

We dig into Windy's holes in his training and explain that yes he really does have to carry a 12' stride even if we were going slower than he was used to, but all the work paid off well when we got to Blenheim and had a great first show out together.

April 2016

We start off with another week down at Blenheim.  I move up to the 2'9" and Winds kept marching around the 3' Pre Green Ring.

We figure out he is NOT spooky or silly (while cantering through a herd of geese on course).  In fact, he's a really, really easy horse to show.  I still feel like I am driving on the wrong side of the road, but I get some confidence.

At home we rest, enjoy some cold rainy days and formulate the rest of our season.

May 2016

We continue on quest to strengthen Winds' topline and get me to stop bracing my g*d d*mn hands.  It's a struggle.

We go North to show for one week at Thunderbird.  Windsy moves up to the 3'3" Pre Greens, I show the 2'9".  He gets reserve in everything. Points for consistency?

And it rains. 

Like 6" 
So rainy.
It takes me a week to dry out and warm up again - and a month for my tack to recover.

June 2016

(Apparently I only blogged about shows... huh).

June it felt like everything started coming together.  We show two weeks up in the mountains, and Winds was a stud.  He claimed his first championship in the 3'3" Pre Greens, won my Classic in the 2'9" and entered his first derby, and WON IT. 

I nearly died.  All of my horsey dreams came true in one show.  All of them.

The second week, he managed reserve in the combined Pre Greens, Champion in my division and another blue in another Derby.  We probably should have retired right then and there.

I start to realize that Winds is maybe part unicorn.

July 2016

Windsy gets some down time, enjoys the big, grassy field all day and gets ready for a week of showing up at Milner Downs.

Milner is fun.  It feels like camp.  Everyone is nice, the field is gorgeous and the staff is so welcoming.

Oh, and Windsy goes Champion in the Pre Green and Champion with me in the 2'9".  We skip our Eq and enter the Canadian Derby.  He pulls down a score of 100 and claims second place.

Somehow we end up winning more money than the show cost and I go home with MONEY IN MY POCKET.  I didn't know that was a thing that could happen. (It doesn't happen again)

August 2016

I lose my brain and add an extra show in August.  We show two days at Evergreen Classic in the PG and the Derby.  Winds is TOTALLY off his game in his division and just looks bored and blah. 
Cutest Trot fence ever.
But, true to form he perked up for the Derby and pulled down a 3rd in a large field.

Then he had a week off to enjoy grass before hauling back to Thunderbird for two more weeks.  We get lots of reserves (again) both in the Pre Greens and my divisions.  but the Headliner is definitely another 2nd in another Canadian Derby, and another 3rd in another USHJA Derby.

Dude has some Derby Chops.

September 2016

September we (again) took it easy until Zone Finals, which we hauled into for two days only.  Windsor told us he didn't mind showing indoors, and once again, got a little casual about his job at 3'3".  He had two GREAT rounds, and two crap rounds which sort of blew up the division.

October 2016

We spend ALL of October at home, which is the first month without a show since February.  I realize this is INSANE and we relish our routine at home.  Not a lot happens.  I'm traveling, Winds rests and we lose a bit of our fitness (or at least I do).

November 2016

We head to Cali for two weeks in Paso Robles.  Gorgeous show park (aside from the tarantulas), great footing and lovely weather made for a really nice capstone to the year.  Winds and I put in some really solid rounds and I feel totally ready for the move to the AA's in 2017. 

Winds manages to win the USHJA Pre Green Challenge as well as snags 3rd a big National Derby.

December 2016

Life plays catch up with us and Winds isn't the center of attention for a few weeks.  We've been working on lots of flat work, poles and extra carrots. Nothing too exciting, but that's fine by me. 

Points lock in for USEF and WSHJA, and it looks like Winds will be the Zone 9 HOTY 3'3" Pre Green as well as Zone Reserve for National Derbies. 

Also, Champion Supermodel
For our local org, he is the Grand Champion for 3'3" Pre Green, 2'9" Low AA and Low AA Equitation. 

Definitely a fairy tale year full of lots of learning and great opportunities to show.  I'm not sure our schedule will ever allow us to be on the road so much again, so I'm glad I've got lots of ribbons and pictures and videos to commemorate such a rare and uninterrupted season!

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. 


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.

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