Monday, March 3, 2014

Thermal V - The Rest of the Weekend

What a blur! Not having The Boy join me for the second week resulted in less videos, fewer pictures, and most importantly way less snacking between classes.

Somehow both Prair and I survived, but there is less to show for it and there may have been a few mood swings (on both our parts).

This will be a bit of an epic post because I'm not sure I have the mental capacity at this point to organized multiple posts.  I got home late last night and have two days at work to catch up on life before zooming back to the show on Wednesday am.  (YAY!).  As tired as I was coming home last night, when I woke up this morning I already could wait to get back for one more week... horses, man.  Such a drug.

Let's see... So.  Friday.  Championship.  HOLY MOLY.  Would would have thought! I was basically on cloud nine as I drove back to my hotel that night to meet an old friend from college.  I'm just so freaking proud of Prairie for learning her job so quickly, and adjusting to literally everything being thrown at her.  I'm still struggling to figure out how to ride this new horse, but even that is beyond enjoyable.

Saturday was a long day for us.  We were scheduled for a fun 2'6" medal first thing, followed by our 2'3" Hunter division and a 2' Eq later in the afternoon.  7 rounds over fences and two flats.  (eesh).

The Medal was really, really fun.  My only regret is that we didn't really have a course before hand to get our pace and rhythm established.  There were fun rollbacks, bending lines and even an end fence (oh my).  I chipped pretty badly to one fence, didn't rate one of our lines well and had a late change in a bending line, but our rollbacks were beautiful and Prair was a really good girl.  I want to ride more courses like that.  So fun.  Really it's motivation to move up so our Eq courses stop being the exact same as our Hunter rounds.

But I digress.  The course was fun, the class only had three of us from our barn, so in a weird way it felt like our own personal schooling class.  Prair and I pinned second.  The lady who won had a really nice ride on her totally cute gelding.

Here's the second half of the Medal.  Not so bad! (not so great)

Then it was on to the Hunters.  After a few more practiced lead changes, Prair felt great. There were 24 horses in the division, so warm up was... a disaster zone, but I thought we navigated it ok.  Our first round was obedient but a little rough.  I just sort of felt like I was riding the gas or the brake, but not staying steady.  we didn't pin

(In fairness I cannot remember if these are the 2'3" or 2' Eq videos.  The courses were the same and the heights are nearly impossible to differentiate... ) 

The second round we got way more dialed in and came out with a blue ribbon.

The third round I don't remember what happened, but we didn't pin.

Our Under Saddle was two hours later and PACKED.  The judge pulled 6 of us to the middle of the ring (I think 6 on her card, judging by the other horses there) and let the rest of the class work for a while before keeping two, dismissing the rest and then having the 8 remaining re-work the second direction.  Prair was totally confused as to why she had to go back to work after lining up, but she was good and we won.

What's interesting to me is that in every Under Saddle class this weekend (I rode in three), we won (Yay!) but I also felt like she was low, flat and strung out.  She must be moving better than last year, beceause we often didn't win our Under Saddle classes against significantly less competitive horses.  Maybe what feels low and heavy now is still more engaged than we were before?  I suppose the fact that Prair is relaxed has a lot more to do with it to.  In Thermal I've been able to pretty much always float my reins during the hack - which is definitely a new feature.  

I think there's part of me that still doesn't totally understand/strive for the ideal Under Saddle frame though.  I often find myself oohing and aahing over horses with a more uphill/knee oriented movement in their canter and am shocked when they don't pin higher.

Anyway, our two first place ribbons were enough to snag a second championship and a second COOLER!  I'm really proud to have pulled that off in such a large division (with some realy cute horses), but really I'm just thrilled that since I have two HITS coolers I don't have to feel bad about using one all the time and it getting dirty/worn.  (grin).  I will admit to being a cooler addict, and also a little obsessive about keeping them pretty/clean/whatever.  They are our trophies!

Saturday Loot and a snuggly, snuggly mare.
Moving on...

We went right into our Eq division and I was finally feeling like I'm letting go of the braced/tense position that I've been stuck in for so long.  I'm starting to carry my hands a bit higher, and also doing a better job of staying in my heel before/during/after fences (small fences help!).

This division was much smaller (10 horses), so an 8th place ribbon isn't quite as impressive, but Prair and I managed a 2nd, 1st and 8th over fences (totally good for us) and a 2nd on the flat. The girl who beat us on the flat beat us both times over fences as well, so we ended up Reserve (RESERVE!) and we had a great chat.  Her horse is beautiful and fairly similar to Prair (although much smaller) and has been consistently kicking our ass over fences both weeks.  I really like the pair, she rides beautifully and it was fun to chat a bit as we collected ribbons.  I really, really, really, enjoy when you break the steely competition glare and get to geek out with other competitors and make friends.  Hunter Princesses can be nice too :)

It was another great day, I was feeling really tuned in with Prair and calm enough to really focus on my own riding and eliminating the small errors that were killing otherwise really nice rounds.  

Sunday I woke up a little tired (shocking).  We were only slated for one division (our 2'6" Hunter) which went first thing.  There were 30 horses, so in reality it was going to run for 4 hours before we had our Under Saddle, but we signed up for the first group at 8am.  Prair was good... but starting to dull to the snaffle.  She was still light, adjustable and responsive, but less.... sensitive than she has been so when I asked her to whoa for a distance, she did.... just not that much.  

So we had a few bobbles, and at least one annoying biff in each round.  The first round we had a beautiful first fence, but missed our change and cross cantered the second.  The second round saw a remarkable chip going into a line and the third was pretty clean actually... just not top 8.  I was feeling a bit frustrated and like I didn't want to end the week on such a lackluster performance so I opted to add a little 2' Classic before the day was out.

Before the Classic, we had our Under Saddle which Prair was all sorts of pissy about.  I noticed on our (long) walk down to the rings that she was a bit more... interested in... everything.  She was still walking calmly on the buckle but her ears were glued to things she hadn't been paying attention to like golf carts, and dogs... and children.  When we got to warm up she shook her head something fierce so I leaned forward to poke her earplugs back in.   Of course, it turns out she wasn't wearing earplugs so I basically just poked her in the brain which elicited a very annoyed snort and glare from the side of her eyeball.  

No earplugs.  Well, that certainly explained her sudden interest in all things everywhere, but I was sorta proud to know that even without them she was still a calm cucumber who wasn't prancing, or antsy or poorly behaved... just a little more keyed up.

So I called our grooms who instantly ran up with earplugs and installed them in her giant mare ears.  But the mare was just... annoyed.  Unlike the rest of the week she was pawing and irritated and refused to stand still and snooze.  She was on her perfect prep (just like every other day) but nothing else and nothing different.  We continued to warm up and she just felt a little heavier in my hand and annoyed which carried over into our class.  She was just a tad heavy in my reins, and very annoyed at all the other horses.  There were pinned ears and tail swishes when we were in traffic, which was all the time since there were 30 horses bowling around the ring together. 

When we lined up the mare was insufferable.  She was stomping and shaking her neck and jigging.  I figured that if we were on the card we were rapidly moving toward the bottom as Prair wasn't exactly exhibiting "pleasurable behavior."

Somehow we still won.  We shouldn't have, but we did and I gladly accepted our only ribbon for the division.  

Walking back to the barn I was thinking that maybe the mare was cooked and that adding the Classic was going to be a huge mistake.  In fact I was pretty sure of it. 

But N thought it was a good idea and really, it was two rounds at 2', we could handle it.  

We did opt to put her back in the baby pelham (tiny shanks, rubber mouth) and see if that gave us just a hint of increased response.  We also remembered to put her earplugs in at the barn and that combo resulted in a happy, snoozey mare who gave no inklings of her earlier agitation.  

The classic was a good idea.  It went well (enough). and although we totally got our butt kicked by 8 year olds on adorable ponies, I'm glad we finished on those rounds.  Prairie was a really good girl, but I was overcompensating and pretty much rode both rounds with more pace than I needed which gave us some funky spots.  Our first round we scored a 68, and our second round we scored a 74 (respectable) which put us 9th out of 12.  Certainly not our best placing of the week, but definitely a good exercise for us. 

Also, we got really good information about what makes Prair anxious (no earplugs), as well as learning that she doesn't necessarily calm down right away when you fix that particular issue.  


  1. I am just sick with jealousy!!!! (hey I'm admitting) so stoked you are doing so well and that you took this trip to the desert with the wondermare!

  2. So many champions!!!! I'm crazy jealous too, but those are great rides and you deserve it.

  3. Wow, just wow. You guys are amazing! Congrads on ALL THE THINGS!

  4. How phenomenal! I'm so so excited for both you and Prair!! You guys just look awesome and you can see in the videos just much she has become a hunter princess herself :-D

  5. Wheee this is so exciting for us living vicariously, I can't even imagine how excited YOU are!! Congrats :)

  6. So many ribbons, so many coolers! Your black mare needs to have a chat with mine, let Libby know thats how its done!

  7. I have to say, my favorite part was the "so I basically just poked her in the brain" comment. LOL! Also, congrats on all the satin!!!

  8. You guys are going to have a closet full of coolers pretty soon!

  9. Wow! What a great week! Congrats on all the ribbons!

  10. More coolers! What?? I am ridiculously jealous- If I'm honest about it it's not so bad? Right? And I LOVE reading about the fun you guys are having!

  11. I've been loving these posts... huge congrats on another cooler!!

  12. Woohoo another cooler & sounds like plenty fab rounds went in with lots more info & learning to digest as you build on your lovely partnership!

  13. So I've told Stampede that your horse has proven that a kissing spines horse can still be good at horse shows, we'll see where this gets me, lol.
    Congratulations on all of the awesome rides, coolers, ribbons, and memories!

  14. I'm so, SO proud of you and Prair! I'm glad you had some great rounds, scored a ton of satin and 2 coolers (squeeee!). I think big shows like this one allow you and your horse to really figure each other out, and that seems to be happening for you guys. Keep the updates coming! :)

  15. Can I just say that I so look forward to these posts? :D Cuz I do.

  16. How cool! I love reading about your exploits at HITS! What's really neat to me is how much you have learned about show management from this long show. That's really invaluable!

  17. Two coolers!! woot!!

    So happy for you and how well you are doing!!

  18. Wow, how super awesome. So exciting!

  19. Nice! Congrats on the ribbons and coolers!!! :D You guys are awesome.

    Now I'm going to show my ignorance.... ear plugs?? They wear ear plugs?? I had no idea...


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