Monday, March 30, 2015

Prizes Worth Winning (HITS Edition)

Okie Doke.  Part II of the whole Ribbon/Cooler Debate.  I guess this isn't really a debate, per se, but rather applying my ribbon/prize standards to a large Winter Show like HITS Thermal.

When I went down to Thermal last year, it was my first time at a Big Show (Fnacy Name trainers, more than 2 weeks... thouands of horses, 100 horses in a division, at least 5 food vendors etc etc). 

I was a bit star struck.  My brain could barely comprehend that there were seven Hunter Rings.  What do you even do with that many rings? 

Then I quickly figured it out.  Some poor judge sits there and watches 80 horses jump their entire division, and 320 rounds later he rubs his bleary eyes and watches them hack.  For his troubles he is rewarded with a sandwich.

My jumped-into-the-deep-end brain was short circuited by the GORGEOUS, cresty, fancy hunters that seemed to be everywhere.  The Jumper Rings always seemed to have something 1.40m or higher going on and there was SO MUCH SHOPPING.

Last year I was also counting down the days until I had to stop riding, so I shoved all my hopes/dreams/expectation/nerves for the entire show season into three, sunny weeks. 

This year I went down knowing we could belong, knowing that I'd have to shove big dappled butts aside in order to get to the portapotties and knowing that three weeks in Thermal this year was just a warm up, not the be-all-end-all to my season.

Needless to say, whether it was a shift in perspective or just the insanely thick layer of desert dust on everything, I was decidedly less star struck.

Of course the fact that HITS upped their rates by 20% didn't help either.  I started the show off feeling nickeled and dimed and that didn't really dissipate.

HITS is run for profit, and it shows.  There are efforts to be exhibitor friendly and small gestures made toward hospitality, but really, it's a numbers game, and nothing takes the (bought and paid for) shine off a horse show like trying to cut costs. 

I'm sure the overhead of running a facility like HITS Thermal is through the roof, but when you realize there are no sanctioned Derbies (they cost money) or that top tier judges have started refusing the job due to less pay and smaller per diems... that perhaps the goal isn't to be the most glorious winter show on the West Coast.. but something else.

Seeing as how I'm diving down a dark, crappy tangent I'll get back to the prizes. 

First up, RIBBONS.  HITS earns full marks for ribbons.  They are appropriate for the show size, though I feel like they could stand to dress up their tricolors a tad (but I always feel that way... tri colors can always be more glorious). 
2015 Thermal Ribbon Hauk
All in all, no complaints on ribbons.  Good Job HITS.

First Place prizes..  Oy.  Thermal is the land of logoed prizes.  Picture frames, rags, totes.  All logoed so you can proudly advertise for them all year long :)

As someone who competes in the lower, unranked divisions and wins a decent amount, the prizes are totally acceptable to me.  This year there were coffee mugs, so I made a point of collecting those. 

(I have this problem where I hate hand-washing coffee travel mugs so I put them in the dishwasher and destroy them at a record rate.  Having endless backups is not only nice, but prudent.)
the 2015 Prizes.. mostly coffee cups, YAY
However, if I were campaigning a horse in a big Pro Division or a Junior in those huge Eq classes, I'd be a little sad if after beating out 70 top competitors, I got a .... weird makeup brush kit?

I'm not kidding about the weird makeup brushes.
WTF? who though that was a good idea?

Because what the lady spending $100k (gulp) on showing the whole circuit really wants, is a $2 set of makeup brushes that say "HITS."  Yes, I'm certain that Mrs. Hunter-Money-Pants is going to tuck that gem of a prize right into her Celine bag so she can use it while freshening up her Chanel lipstick in the.... portapotty.  (facepalm)

Even if we ignore Mrs. Hunter-Money-Pants, I feel like most riders are lucky if they even wave mascara across their face while at a show.  Makeup doesn't really make an appearance at the shows (well... Arabs and QH aside maybe) so this just seems like the weirdest prize ever on so many levels to me....

Basically I would give HITS a B- on First Place Prizes.  They are totally fine for ammys in smaller divisions riding 12 rounds a day... But less acceptable for serious rated competitors. 

But if they had me starting to get skeptical about their First Place prizes... they got me back with the Championship Prize.

These they do better on.  The standard Coolers (COOLERS!!!) are actually quite pretty.  Navy, with gold cord and a nice large embroidered logo.  My only beef with the cooler situation is that they (apparently) don't change the coolers year to year.  I don't mind a theme, but either change the fleece, or the cord, or maybe even just embroider the year on them so that they don't all look the exact same.

Full marks for Champion Prize

I haven't gotten this year's Grand Circuit Prize, but last year it was another lovely cooler with double piping and was a pretty tech fabric instead of the regular fleece - a totally acceptable prize in my book.

Terrible photo, but... here.
The Grand Circuit Cooler is definitely higher quality than the regular Division prize, which it should be.  Though, oddly I ended up preferring the Division Cooler solely based on the fact that Prair looks sharper in Navy than she does in Gray.  The Grand Circuit prize does win points for being somewhat water resistant which is darn handy in the PNW.  I end up keeping the Grand Circuit cooler in my tack trunk for use as a rain sheet when we are showing at home and inevitably caught in a drizzle at the back gate.  

So, even though it's not the perfect color combo for Prair, I think HITS does well in this category as well. 

Again, I don't mean this to be a bratty, blue-ribbon-entitled diatribe, but rather a total op-ed on prizes from a true ribbon-addict. 

I reiterate that most of us (me included) don't show for the actual ribbons or prizes, but rather the opportunity to demonstrate improvement with our beloved horses and try to cram all the benefit and progression of hours and months and years of training into a 2-5 minute performance. 

But, when you're paying anywhere from $500-$3000 for the privilege of that public performance, sometimes it's really (really) nice to have a pretty ribbon or prize at the end of the day too.

Friday, March 27, 2015

SB's Ammy Hour

Huge thanks to Sprinkler Bandit for asking us to participate in her hugely entertaining "Ammy Hour" series over on her blog.  I've always enjoyed reading the posts, and have often found my next favorite blog to follow via the series. 

Based on the number of hits I know I get from her blog, I'd wager that most of my readers are already quite familiar with her story and totes adorbs OTTB, but if you aren't, I can't recommend it more. 

Great mix of humor, humility, tack ho'ing and general pontification on the craziness that is Horse-Land.
So much cute. So much delicious tack
Just going through her list of interview questions was actually an interesting exercise for me in terms of self-reflection which is something I've been doing almost zero of since the wee little baby came along.

Anyway, big thanks for the interest and shoutout!


Gingham and Prair

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Princess P

Princess P was a name reserved for Pia when she was at her most...opinionated and self assured about how life *should* be.  And Frankly it's a name that's never really fit Prairie's personality or tendencies, but OMG - today, it fits.

So I had a good flat lesson (meaning, we WTC both ways, I felt moderately effective and the mare didn't flip me off too many times) and I figured that since she's had a couple days of hard work in a row, it would be a good day to put Prair outside again for the first time.

I booted her up in case she acted like a lunatic.

I switched to a light sheet in case all her antics got her sweaty and warm.

I even gave her a small cocktail in hopes that would take the edge off enough to keep her from jumping the fence and galloping to the next county.

Then I prayed.

I prayed to the horsey gods that she wouldn't undo months and months of painstaking rehab work with one dumb flying mare move.

And then we took a left out of her stall instead of a right and we headed for the open sunshine.  We jigged.  Prair threw her head in the air like a terrified, dominant llama, and we jigged toward the closest (smallest) paddock.

Then, because there is some metaphysical law that states all paddocks must have a large puddle by the gate, we stopped.  Because Prair hasn't had to do a puddle since Spring 2014 and it just wasn't going to work for her.

Naturally that meant I couldn't pick my way along the fence line and hopscotch myself through the puddles and to the other side.  No no, instead I had to march my (freshly polished, sniffle) boots through the puddle and drag the big mare behind me. 

Then I gave her a treat, unclipped the lead and scurried out of the way.



and I mean, nothing.

She stood, snorted at her neighbor twice then walked herself into the run-in shed and stood under cover.

To be clear.  First time turned out in eight (+) months - and the mare... turned herself in.

I will truly never understand mares.
Prairies go here.  away from puddles.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Circuit Awards

For some reason, this year Thermal felt more productive but not more successful in terms of ribbons.  Prair was without a doubt a better Hunter than she was last year, though it's questionable as to whether I was a better rider or not given the whole took-a-break-for-a-baby thing. 

All in all though, we still held on to a couple of Circuit awards.  For the second half of the circuit we snagged a championship in our Eq (lol) and an Reserve in one of our Hunter divisions (I forget which one).

Our Eq points were enough to win the Grand Circuit Championship which is pretty cool, so Prair gets at least one more HUGE tri-color to pin on our wall. 

To be honest I go back and forth on how excited I am about an unrated Eq championship.  On one hand, neato burrito -  even at the baby level, the horses and riders (for the most part) at Thermal are more competitive than what we see at home and it's an accomplishment.  Frankly just getting to the ring is an accomplishment....

On the other hand, I feel like it isn't that impressive or noteworthy to be (what feels like) the only one who hangs in the baby leagues for long enough to rack up enough points for a win.  It seems like more people show one or two weeks and then move up to something bigger. 

So in a way, the award almost feels like a participation ribbon for not progressing.

Cynical I know, but that's my current read.  I love the ribbons and the circuit award coolers are usually pretty snazzy, but it makes me feel like we should be doing more.

That sentiment is probably more of a reflection on my competitive mindset than anything.  If I'm not winning (or rather, doing "well"), I am (understandably) frustrated. 

However, when we do win - Instead of enjoying the accomplishment I feel like we should be doing more, or worry that we're sandbagging.

In a way, it's nice to hear the vet say she wants us to hang at 2'6".  At least then I feel like I have permission to hold steady for a bit and not beat myself up about moving back up to our former 2'9" or even 3' height. 

In the end all of our work is more correct and more relaxed than it was last year, which if anything should make this award mean more, not less.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Red Light, GREEN Light!

Our Rehab/Training schedule these days feels a bit like a school yard game of Red Light/Green Light.  One minute we're in a holding pattern, the next we're back at it....

Prair's check up today was great.  She was a tad stiff starting out, but we experienced that earlier in her rehab and it seems to be a direct result of standing in a stall.  all..... day.... long. 

There was no sign of the weight bearing reluctance on that left front and Prair happily (and evenly) trotted tiny figure eights.

So, the current plan is - back to normal.  Still holding at 2'6", but full work to that point should be good. 

We did discuss her shoeing a bit.  I've had some concerns about how quickly her heels are contracting in the bar shoes, and I know that while the bar provides support... pinched heels cause their own heel pain.. which is counter productive...

Vet agreed, but doesn't want to change anything crazy before a show, so at her next trim, Prair will try normal shoes again, and possibly a shorter trim cycle to try and stay ahead of those heels.. Prior to the bar shoes, our farrier did a really nice job opening her heels up so I'm hopeful that will be a fairly easy process again...

Also, in really, really exciting news - Prair has been CLEARED FOR TURNOUT. 

She won't get to enjoy it until next week since we decided maybe put her back to work for a couple days (get some of the wiggles out) then let the mare go in a (small) paddock and enjoy the sunshine. 

I'm excited for her.  It's been so long

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Prizes Worth Winning

A fairly regular topic of conversation at shows in our barn surrounds Prizes and which ones feel special or worth winning. 
Merlin likes Satin too
Inevitably some of the ladies who have been in Hunter Land for a while talk about how much classier the prizes used to be, and how they used to be meaningful mementos of past victories.  I understand that there are so many classes and so many divisions that if shows really held themselves to the silver plate standard of years past, we'd all be paying $400 a division and grumbling about entry fees more than we already do. 

However it is an interesting topic.  I'm grateful to be surrounded by women in our barn who love their ribbons and trophies almost as much as I do, so I feel less like a greedy Grinch and more like a normal ammy who somehow enjoys the process of watching cold hard cash turn into cheap, shiny ribbons. 

Before I dive further into this (not researched or educated) post, I want to clarify that if horse shows disappeared off the face of the earth (tear) I would still ride, still enjoy the process of learning and progressing (and not progressing).  The grooming sessions, the rehab work, the tack hoarding, the smell of the barn, the early mornings etc.  I love it all with or without ribbons.

But since there are ribbons - naturally I have developed an un-authorized opinion on them. 

I'm a believer that prizes, (inclusive of ribbons) should serve as a way to remember successful outings, and should reflect the level of accomplishment that they represent. 

To me prizes in Hunter Land fall into three distinct categories. 

First Place Prizes
Championship Prizes.

There is a definite challenge for show managers in picking the right level of lux on all three.  Go too cheap and you piss off your competitors who paid good money and want to feel that their efforts are valued.  Go too over the top and those neck ribbons and 4' long streamers seem cheapened when you only had to beat one errant pony to collect them. (though I've never refused either...)

Ribbons seem like the easiest prize to get right.  If I were Ribbon Queen of the World, I would encourage everyone to stay traditional and add an inch to the streamers or a fancier rosette for every couple hundred of horses at a show. 

Fun show? Single streamer with a small rosette. Small schooling show? Simple 6" ribbons are fine.  Larger rated show? Please bump that up to a 10" streamer and maybe a layered rosette.  Big AA show with more than 1000 ponies playing around?  I want tassels and something that stands out - at least for the tri-colors.


(The exception that proves this rule are the exceptionally simple class ribbons handed out at Devon)
Totally lovely ribbons for a Schooling Show
In contrast, ribbons from an AA Show
Things I don't like include, novelty color ribbons that clash on your ribbon wall, weird rainbow or tie-dye style ribbons, two streamer ribbons (no explanation for this, I just don't like them?), remarkably cheap streamers (think the plasticy fabric that made up the participation ribbons from your youth soccer team..). and anything with a white plastic button.  I strongly prefer the look of same color buttons with embossed logos. 
Novelty ribbons get exiled to the end of the ribbon wall...
Really, I feel like most equestrians cherish their ribbons.  Many of my barn friends (across disciplines) write notes on the back of them so they have a diary of sorts that notes large classes, great rounds, funny stories or whatever.  Part of my satin obsession stems from growing up as an Eventer, where I was lucky to show two or three times a year, and strived to bring home one, singular ribbon at the end of the weekend.  Perhaps if I started as a Hunter I wouldn't hoard my satin so aggressively, but as a ribbon starved kid, I will continue to compensate and enjoy hanging each and every ribbon in the garage. 

First Place Prizes are more controversial. 

At our local shows I always pick up the $10 gift cards to my favorite tack shop.  It's fun at the end of a show (or season) to save up and put them toward a pretty new pad, or show shirt, or bucket of fancy treats for the mare.  It (almost) feels like I'm earning back prize money (lol), and I enjoy stacking up my little gift cards like poker chips.  (though I do feel like an idiot when I'm purchasing something large boots, cough cough and literally swipe 35 $10 cards through the register one at a time... its the equestrian equivalent of the little old lady paying for $100 of groceries with pennies and nickels)

Aside from gift cards, there seem to be two schools of thought with regard to First Place Prizes at our regional shows.  The first is a focus on logoed, usually horsey themed items that you can use around the barn.  Brushes, totes, water battles, etc.  A few shows stock a prize "store" where you can combine blue ribbons to get more substantial prizes like fleece jackets, horse boots, etc. 

The other school of thought is that people are sick of crap that says "Jump Into Spring Pony-palooza 2004" and the prizes tend toward small hostess gift type items.  Lotion sets, candles, cheese knives, etc. generic items, but less distinctive, and in theory maybe easier to use/gift/whatever. 

Random horsehair keychain? made it onto the Truck Keys.

My preference at this point is still for a healthy mix of both.  If the gift cards are available, I snap those up.  If they aren't, I gravitate toward logo items I can reasonably use (coffee mugs, always more coffee mugs).  I hate wine glasses, though I know several people who love their horse show wine glass collection (didn't know that was a thing) so I get why managers keep ordering them.  I just can't imagine setting my table with weird mismatched glasses - but that's probably more of a reflection on my neuroses.

Fact: I have never used this glass.  Ever.
I don't really have any experience with it, but it also seems prudent and appreciated when shows have additional special prizes or trophies for winning a big class, like special Eq challenges, classics, etc.  I think it helps add to the pageantry of those fun classes and give folks a reason to up their entries.  (cough cough, NECK RIBBONS).

Finally - Championship Prizes

IMHO once you hit a A show, these should be coolers, scrims, or something equally lovely. 

Appropriate Ribbon, Appropriate Cooler.
However, this is where the biggest rift in our in-barn-debate shows up.  Half the ladies are tired of coolers (what) and half are cooler-crazy (obvi).  In fact during a brief meeting with a local show manager who was brave enough to ask a gaggle of us what we preferred in prizes, the claws came out and I realized that people feel VERY strongly about the cooler vs. no cooler debate. 

What it seems to come down to is how long you've been showing.  If you've been campaigning a bad ass horse for years and years and years, then it appears you tend to be anti-cooler.  If you're newer to the scene, or don't consistently dominate your division - you're pro-cooler.  And I understand both sides of the fences. 

After this year, Prairie will have collected eight (that's sort of embarrassing) coolers from HITS Thermal.  I'll get into my personal review of how HITS does on the prize front shortly, but in general that's a lot of the same cooler (the fact that its the exact same cooler is part of my criticism), but still. 

I understand that winning a million coolers might (hypothetically) at some point get old, but I'm not sure what the better substitution is.  Replace them with jackets and jackets will get old too.  replace them with nice frames and suddenly you're trying to design a prize that works with people's varying taste... To me there's no easy replacement for the traditional cooler or scrim sheet, and for the folks who win all the time - well, anything will get old by the end of the season anyway.

I appreciate when shows try to offer something unique, but sometimes that backfires.  For instance, a couple of years ago when Prair and I first crossed over into Hunter Land, I saved up and went to one "A" show the whole season.  It was a great show.  Mediocre ribbons, great first place prizes, but CRAP Championship gifts. 

I mean crap.  Here I was at my first big show with Prair, our first time out at 2'6" and we managed to win both our Hunter and our Eq divisions (by the skin of our teeth).  And when I rolled up to the prize tent with out tri colors, I was a tad crestfallen to discover that our prize was a.... beach towel. 

Not even a super nice beach towel.  It said champion and whatnot, but I was a tad cranky. 

Now, for a C show or schooling show? great prize.  But for a two week summer A show? I was disappointed.  I suppose it ended up being really useful since I hacked it up into rags and still use the bits for cleaning tack, boots or wiping Prair's nose. 

Champion tack rag!
However I think Championship prizes at an A show should aim higher than being used to wipe a mare's nose. 

So what about you guys? What are your thoughts and preferences on Prizes? Functional? trophies? coolers? What say you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Snaps

I am of the mindset that in the scheme of horse showing, the cost of professional photos is a relative drop in the bucket, so I try to buy at least one from every major show. 

I've found that even if I don't think the photos are excellent at the time (again, how excellent can they be at 2'...) I always enjoy having them a year or so later and looking back at them. 

The photography vendor changed at Thermal this year, so instead of Flying Horse it was ESI.  I don't often notice the difference between show-photography-companies, but ESI definitely sends its people out with a slightly different shot list. 

They do the normal jump photos, but they seem to have more of an emphasis on candids and back gate shots.  Maybe they just have enough staff that they have the bandwidth for it, but I was grateful to see some less traditional images (especially when our division doesn't exactly produce wildly gorgeous jump shots..)

Anyway, whatever their plan is, they got one of my favorite images of Prair ever.  So I bought a big 8x10

I haven't had a chance to scan this properly, so its a photo of a photo, but I love it.  I love her expression, I love the angle, I love that my butt is just out of frame... I just love it.
Now I just need to find the right frame and place for it in the house...
I also snagged two small 4x6 prints of our "jumps". 
pretty square for a line on our right lead..
bad jump, but so many palm trees!!!
Always nice to have something to remember the sunshine by. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two Steps Forward....

and a bit of stall rest back. 

I was *really* hoping for an all clear from the vet, and was looking forward to giving Prair some well deserved turnout...  But alas.  Not yet. 

She was stepping a tad short on the left when trotting a tight circle on hard ground.  It could be as innocent as some inflammation back in the coffin joint from all the work and the haul - or it could be some strain on that DDFT again...

Either way Prair isn't getting the turnout she wanted, and instead we're easing up for 10 days and just enjoying some long walks under saddle.  We'll reevaluate next Friday and see if she's still sore.  If yes, then.... well I don't know.  If no, then back to work (staying at 2'6") and maybe a week or two of showing in April. 

Not what I was hoping for, but a reasonable outcome.  Vet wasn't super concerned and seems to think this should be a small respite, not a huge change of direction in our rehab process. 

Still, sad face.  Poor mare wants a paddock. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2' Eq

God bless our friends who not only willingly witness the boredom that is 2' Hunters/Eq, but on top of that also take pictures. 
that's as classy as we can look at 2'
Even the pros have a hard time getting decent pics of disgruntled horses cantering over tiny jumps, so I'm grateful for the (remarkably above average) shots that my good friend is able to capture. 

Not to mention it's hard to justify horse-show-photographer prices ($150 for a low res image!?) for the harsh reality of 2' photos. 

I understand the plight of the horse show photographer (and still managed to spend $200 on a few images), but I won't lie, I am always (always) grateful to have a friend with a good SLR and great sense of timing competing at the same shows ;)

Even the kinda blurry shots are worth staring at over and over again.
I love this one because it's about as straight as I (and Prair) get! and if anything I'm collapsing left, which is a rare thing for this notoriously slouchy-right-rider.

Plus any picture with a horse and a palm tree is a keeper for this girl. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thermal VII - the home stretch

The final weekend was a total whirlwind, and I'm definitely in the midst of a horse show hangover.  I'm sitting in a pile of dirty horse laundry, dirty baby laundry and one very passive aggressive cat who dislikes his routine being disrupted for such an extended family absence....

But I just remember (what I can) of week VII before it all disappears from my laundry-addled brain.

We left off with Prair's wild success in the Open 2'6 division, marked by her win in a big class over fences. 

When I took over the ride on Friday, the mare felt awesome.  a tad more of a push ride than I expected, but I suppose that's reasonable after two long weeks on hard ground. 

What felt great was the mare's balance and her changes.  She was much more responsive to my seat and much easier to balance for the change than when I finished up the previous weekend.  After a quick and soft warm-up we headed for the ring and knocked out of first division.

About all I remember is that we had four pretty nice rounds.  A couple late changes, but overall better and better, slower jumps.  The Boy returned to the show with a head cold which kept him home with baby - so I am lacking any videos or images to jog my memory of any remotely interesting details.

I do know the divisions were a tad smaller this week, I think there were maybe 16? We got stuck in a rotation with the cutest horse ever who has been kicking our butt all circuit.  He's small, but looks like an overgrown pony with a nice trot and just adorable jump - even over 2'.   By comparison, Prair's patented-2'-lurch look a tad less.... stylish. 

Anyway, going back to back with him wasn't ideal in terms of judging, but we still came away with a 2nd, 5th, 6th and 1st over fences.  Added to a win on the flat and we snagged Reserve behind Mr-Cute-Pony-Pants.

Saturday started with a fun 2'6" medal, which I hadn't been participating in the earlier weeks.  The course looked fun but all of our rollbacks and bending lines were on our right lead (doh) so I was perhaps a bit nervous about that.  Prair and I were first in the order (ugh) which didn't help my nerves. 

Amazingly, we landed all our leads and were having a flawless round until the final rollback which was pretty tight and to the right.  I sliced the first fence slightly to get a better angle, landed balanced and on our right lead... then braced a tad and lost the stomp in Prair's hind foot and she didn't see the next fence so we sorta.... stopped. 

Not a refusal per se (much like our stop last week in the wind), but more of a "what the hell, where are we going lady... oh... a jump..... yeeah, no." 

I don't love that Prair is backing off and downshifting when she's confused, but I suppose it might be a step forward from blind panic and bolting.  Who knows.. I'm trying to tell myself it's a step forward and not that I'm actually turning my mare into a stopper.

Anyway, I was so, so so so so so so so sad.  The rest of the course was easy and pretty and I was really upset with myself for not getting a better line in that rollback. 

I tried to console myself with reminders that we haven't even schooled a rollback since the same medal last year, but still. 

it's 2'6" and Prair was on point. 

So sad. 

I got even more frustrated when I watched everyone else have at least one medium bobble so I'm pretty sure if I could have erased the stop - we would at least have been called back to test.  Argh.

Right after the medal we rode our three rounds for our 2'3" Hunter.  I recall great rounds with maybe one late change, but the judge didn't use us much.  There were about 20 of us and we missed the ribbons when we had a late change but eeked out an 8th and 7th in our last two rounds.  We came back a few hours later to win the hack and boost our confidence a bit.

Saturday afternoon I had entered the 2' Eq again.  When the temps hit 88 I was seriously questioning why I thought three more rounds were a good idea and when I pulled the mare out of her stall for a third time, her expression echoed that sentiment. 

But we ambled back to the rings and wilted in the sun while the course was reset (ahem- lowered) for our division. 

Let me correct that - I mean "division" in the loosest sense.  Apparently only two other ammys were delirious enough to think that bumbling around 3 rounds in the height of the afternoon heat sounded like a good idea. 

What we lacked in competition was made up for by a mercifully brief outing.  Seemed everyone was eager to be done, so warm ups were brief, everyone pre-loaded into the ring and I think the whole thing (including flat) was done in 40 minutes. 

My only challenge was that this was our first time showing in Ring 3, which is substantially larger than our normal rings, and it has a weird berm at the end (where they sometimes place a jump) and an irregular zigzag fence line by the judge's booth. 

The courses themselves were normal hunter lines, so I really only focused on keeping Prair's attention and holding her straight when the jump lines didn't mirror the arena fences... I was pleasantly surprised by Prair's focus and total lack of concern for the new ring.  Our only tense moment was when a horse in the ring next door went down their outside line as we went down ours and Prair maybe thought they were racing. 

Out of a whopping three we placed 2nd, 1st, 1st, then won the flat for another championship, though it didn't feel like a big "win." 

Don't get me wrong, I still snapped up my ribbon and cooler, but it's not like we beat out a huge crowd or were tested over difficult courses for the honor..

Sunday our last division of the circuit was our 2'6" Modified Hunter.  Again, smaller numbers.. maybe only 20, but holy smokes, there were all beautiful.  I enjoyed watching a few rounds before we started our warm-up, but Prair didn't feel great.  She was stiff, heavy and really (really) reluctant to move off my leg. 

We switched to a warm up ring with better footing, but still, the mare was slooooooow.  It was hard to get her going for a few warm up fences, but after talking with N we decided to head for the ring and see how she was.  N felt like all the horses were getting a bit foot sore and reluctant, but that Prair didn't look (or feel) off on one side or the other.

Our first fence in, I just couldn't get a pace and we pulled up.  After that we got rolling, we finished ok.  N and I talked, and thought maybe we should scratch but didn't want our last round to have a stop.  So we went back in, got a nice clean round (with great changes) and called it a show.  Prair was listening, focused and trying, but I could feel her backing off at the fences and that she was jumping flatter than she had been.. I didn't like it and neither did N. 

In hindsight we probably didn't need any jumps on Sunday, but the previous two weeks Prair hadn't felt so worn out at the end of the weekend... so finishing with our "normal" 2'6" division seemed like a fun idea.

I've never felt Prair so tired/sore/cranky about moving off my leg, so I'm hoping all is well.  Hopefully some time off, some previcox and a one over by our vet will have her back to feeling fresh.

Thermal 2015 is in the books.  I'll keep digesting our trip and post some thoughts and observations, (along with an update on Prair's leg when the vet sees her Wednesday..) but for now, those are the basic details.

Go team go. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thermal VII - Final Pro Day

Well, the footing was much better today, not perfect, as you'll see - but much improved so we kept the mare entered. 

The morning started with the Under Saddle with a impressive 23 opting to hack.  The ring was crowded, But N gave Prair an excellent ride and they snagged a 2nd in some really nice company.  Apparently Prairie had been calling, and calling.... and calling on her walk up from the barn, so she was.... distracted to say the least, and quite tense in her second direction.

Frankly she was tense enough that I would have been happy with any ribbon, so 2nd was a nice surprise.

After that we opted to send her back to the barn for a bit to chill the __ out, so the baby and I hung out and watched the other horses go.  Not being a veteran horse show mom I foolishly forgot to pack enough things for the kiddo to chew on, so I slung Prair's martingale around my neck and let baby go to town.  The kid got a little dirty but I assume that meant my tack got..... cleaner?

Girl knows good leather when she sees it

Anyway, when it was time for our rounds, Prair looked much more sane.  She had a very quick warm-up with a couple great jumps, two lead changes to the right, and then in they went.

The first round was gorgeous, until the far outside line (the only spot in the ring with footing that was still slick).  Prair landed a bit off balance going in, then squirreled around in the soup and pulled a rail going out.  All things considered, she handled it really well, and didn't escalate, but the rail was an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise lovely round. 

The second round was BANANAS (in the good, Gwen Stefani sort of way) and I actually videoed it without jinxing the whole thing.  Mare stayed soft, got her changes easily, and actually rounded a bit more over the fences. 

The judge must have agreed because he pinned her first out of THIRTY EIGHT HORSES.  (no split). 

How fancy is that!? I'm so proud of the mare, and exceptionally grateful for how tactful of a ride N is able to give her. 

That's a blue ribbon worth putting on the wall. 
(not that I don't put every ribbon on the wall.  SprinklerBandit can confirm that they are all. on. the wall.). 

Afterward Prair got a nice massage and some acupuncture and cold laser (I shudder to think what that cost me at this horse show..). So she should be feeling as loose as possible headed into the weekend.

Tomorrow we start back with our 2' Hunter division and hopefully the mare's good mood carries over!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thermal Week VII (Boring Update)

I am totally lacking in any clever observations on the day.  Perhaps due to lack of interesting occurrences, or perhaps due to the fact that the kiddo actually napped for 2 hours so I laid in the sun like a lizard and drank Greyhounds all afternoon. 

Either or.  You pick.

The mare has had an easy few days.  She hasn't jumped since Sunday and hacked lightly yesterday just to stretch her out and let her move her bones. 

I suppose the one upside of stall rest is that going into our third week of showing Prairie isn't beating down her stall to get to some turnout.  She's grown quite accustomed to horse-jail and sunny horse-jail is apparently better than rainy horse-jail.

Anyway, Prair warmed up fabulously.  Loose, trot swinging, lead changes came easy, totally chill  And she looked like a stud waiting around.  Usually I don't think she looks nearly as elegant when she's not braided, but today she was working her sleepy I-woke-up-like-this swagger like a super model. 

My Queen.
She had two rounds with N, and that was it.  The first went pretty well and I have a (bad) video. 

The second round was a tad rougher, due mostly to the footing I think.  For some reason our ring was the only ring that was still showing the ill effects of last weekend's storm.  The corners were deep, slick and sloppy. 

And anything that throws Prair off balance is no good for us. 

N schooled it well, took a circle to calm down and made it a nice learning experience.  If the footing hasn't resolved itself by tomorrow we'll scratch over fences.  It's just not worth tense rounds at this point.

So tomorrow we have a flat and (maybe) two rounds.  Then we head straight into the last weekend of showing for us at HITS Thermal 2015.  Can't believe this is almost over!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ice Vibe Boots - The Theory

Okie Doke.  While Prair is enjoying some well deserved time off and while I sit inside since its raining in the desert (still).  Might as well geek out a bit on the latest tack ho acquisition.

The Ice Vibe Boots.  Anyone have any experience with these things? They seem super sneaky and pretty cool and I kind of wish I had pulled the trigger on them earlier in Prair's rehab process.  But no matter - no time like the present to catch up on absurd purchases :)

So the Ice Vibes.  They are made by Horseware, which means we have access to one of their direct reps (and that can be interpreted as either access to a good deal, or access to peer pressure for all the cool things).   Basically they function both as a traditional ice boot and a sonicare toothbrush.  Why the combo?  Here's a blurb from their own site:
Ice-vibe can improve the realignment of the tendon fibres during the healing process. Cooling on it's own only prevents inflammation by resisting blood flow and slows down the metabolism. Ice-vibe uses the combination of cold and vibration which minimises swelling while encouraging blood flow and speeds up healing.

(silly English spelling)

Big promises for such a reasonably priced boot...($280ish for the pair).

During Prair's rehab one of the biggest challenges was reducing inflammation while still encouraging increased bloodflow.  All of you who have nursed a soft tissue injury in the lower limb know how hauntingly sparse circulation is down there - and any blood flow is helpful to healing...

but inflammation on its own can cause problems... so what are you to do? 

For Prair the stall rest (and reduced movement) was the primary "anti inflammation" treatment, while fairly aggressive (and sedated) walks were how we tried to encourage increased bloodflow.  Prair stopped all anti-inflam medicine (previcox, bute, etc..) which then had me worried how to keep her back comfy during this whole process. 

Whether it helped or not, part of my plan was to just plaster the mare in Back on Track products to help increases/normalize circulation without causing too much heat... 

So this is where the Ice Vibes would have perhaps been helpful.  Cooling to reduce the inflammation, then vibration to stimulate circulation.... (Sounds like an Icy Hot commercial..)

A few ladies in the barn have tried these (one with her reiner with another trainer) and they swear by them.  Seems to be a baby version of the Theraplate... something that I've heard lots of good reviews on...

The boots have varying levels of intensity in theory for different purposes (again from their site)
Level 1 - Treatment of inflammation with cold pack
Level 2 - Rehabilitation
Level 3 - Boosts Circulation
So I like the idea of them.  Especially at long shows where Prair is potentially getting sore/tired...

Will be sure to get you a full report once I actually strap them to the pony's legs... but for now I am intrigued.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Haboobs and Other Meteorological Adventures

I thought the BeyoncĂ©-Wind-Machine was moderately distracting, but yesterday the wind dialed up to gusts around 45/50mph and whipped the desert sand up into a totally suffocating Haboob.  (really I just like an excuse to say Haboob... but it really was almost a  true Haboob.  Haboob haboob). 

It was insane.  Tents were blowing over, trash cans were attacking ponies, jumps couldn't stay upright for people to finish their courses and visibility would reduce to near zero. 

It was nuts. 
Ring Crew worked overtime.. holy lord.

And yet, I was certain showing was a great idea. 

It was a decent idea... mostly because I rode my first set of courses early before full haboob-ery and Prair was lovely.  I've already lost some of the details, but nothing bad enough happened to stick out in my mind to remember the different courses.  The big trickery was that there was a bending line (to be clear I mean trickery in terms of low-level-hunter-trickery) that was set for 7 strides.  It rode reeeallllly long our first course and it felt like Prair launched from about 42 feet away in order to not add in an extra stride. 

The second time we rode it, I really rode up (and more direct) and we still superman-ed out.  The third time we rode it we measured the distance well, but it felt like we were gunning for it at about 500mpm.  The rest of the course was fine.  we nailed it.

Judge didn't love us however and didn't use us for any of the ribbons (wah waaaaah), though it was a 45 person division so I knew it was going to take a perferctly-perfect trip to even get close to satin. 

The hack was boring, Prair was stressed beyond measure since we all hacked together and they only opened the outside lines (not the quarterlines) so it was an (absurd) exercise in merging trying to stuff everyone through the standards down each long side.  Not our strong suit, but we squeaked out a 4th.

In the afternoon (and the haboob), we went back (not sure why) for our Eq division.  It was in the same ring, with the same 3 courses (and the same damn bending line) so I had a good game plan (kick) for our rides (kick, kick, kick). 

Apparently most people thought a desert windstorm was a good reason to not test the patience of their 2' ammy horses, so the division dwindled to 8 of us (lol).  Prair was a total stud given she had to close her eyeballs to keep the dust out, and we managed to get up the lines in a much smoother fashion.  Though during our second course a huge gust of wind came up and it literally felt like we were being blown backwards.  I have never felt such an insane headwind while riding.  It was truly confusing. 

Anyway, Prair totally held it together, and since almost everyone else had some fairly large mistakes, we managed to win all the rounds, and then squeaked out a win on the flat.  

Which means, DRUMROLL - we have obtained a cooler from HITS 2015. 

Very happy about that.  Although slightly disappointed that it is the exact same cooler from last year. 

I know, I know... don't complain about coolers, but seriously HITS, pick a new color of polar fleece, or embroider the year on there or SOMETHING. 

Obtaining a cooler proved to be quite timely because today, the Haboob was gone and the biblical rainstorms started. 

It was cold.  It was muddy, and it was really, really wet

Bear in mind I live in Seattle.  Where we are pretty much always in the rain.  And this, this was so much worse.  So when it was time for the mile long march to the ring this morning for our 2'6" Hunters, I swaddled Prair and I up in the cooler and headed out into the storm. 

Apparently a good number of Californians scratch when it rains, so our division dropped to 28 and the ring ran really, really fast.  Prair and I were the last to ride and we still went a full 90 minutes before we had been signed up for. 

I wasn't complaining though, since everything was slop getting sloppier and going earlier cut down on waiting in the rain.

Our biggest challenge to the day was that we were scheduled in the far ring which runs next to the highway with buses and trucks zooming by at 55 mph.  Prair did not enjoy that experience earlier in the week and I figured the added splooshing of puddles probably wouldn't endear her to the truck traffic any more. 

We started well, though she was a tad backed off the pace (I think because the footing was slick?) but we had a lovely first fence going away which brought up the outside (by the road) line coming home.  I felt Prair lock onto a truck on the road and then when she realized there were jumps to be jumped she just sorta... stopped.  She didn't spook, she didn't invert, she just.... downshifted and was not open to negotiation about it which was a very new feeling for me. 

I circled, dialed down our pace a bit and we finished the course adding in the lines which felt like the right move at the time. 

We went right back in and had a great course, though I nearly jumped the wrong first fence. I was so focused on establishing our pace that I failed to notice that there were two single fences set on the diagonal.  Fortunately N shouted "PINK!!!! PINK FLOWERS" with just enough time for me to zigzag away from the yellow flowers and get rolling... the rest of the course was rock solid and even our changes were clean.  The third course was hands down the best trip of the week and I was so, so pleased with the mare.  We (somehow) nabbed a 7th in our second round and a very respectable 3rd in our final trip.  The flat was fine, most people skipped it (there were maybe 10 of us?) Prair was reasonably calm, but she kept "jumping" the flat spots where the jumps had been so we sorta skipped around the ring.  We managed a 2nd in the hack behind a really lovely chubby hunter we see a lot at home and that was officially the end of HITS Thermal week 6.

Well, aside from some obligatory shopping (new spurs.. and I'm flirting with a new huntcoat? I'm thinking dark green could look sharp on Prair...)

But we're done.  I'm feeling like a more effective rider over the 2'6" fences than the 2' stuff, but I think I'll probably stay low again next week in the name of saving Prair's legs and taking it easy on her LF. 

I did get suckered into a pair of those ice vibe boots, which actually sound pretty cool.  They sound handy for Prair's little legs, so I'll be sure to do a full report once I've got my hot little hands on them. 

Two days off then back to it for one more week!!
All my loves.

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