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.

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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Basics - and showtime...

Winds has been enjoying his fall at home - mostly focusing on basics and figuring out how to become even more of a unicorn so that when I actually do have time to show up and ride, I feel like a masterful jock - instead of a lumpy sack of slightly spoiled apples. 

Mostly this has been a focus on staying forward and getting lighter to the aids, whether that is reminding him that"go" means "go NOW" or getting his tushy laterally mobile with the lightest of nudges.

I think he's stronger than he was in the spring, so having a few weeks at home with nothing but time to slow down and school has been helpful - and also extremely productive.  He feels fresh, and sharp (in a good way) and super eager.

My rides have been sparse - but great.  I'm clearly out of riding shape which is horrifying to me, but easily remedied by clearing my schedule and taking my stirrups away. 

However, even with a less than sticky seat or solid core - I'm enjoying our rides.  Winds is alert, on task and so responsive it feels like I'm driving a really fancy sports car- with an automatic transmission.

Which is to say, it's really, really fun and doesn't require a ton of muscle.

That's not to say I couldn't use some... eek.
Winds doesn't quite get to pack it in for the winter though.  We added one final trip to the calendar, which means next week we head to Paso Robles for two weeks of sunshine (I hope) and exploring a new showpark. 

The schedule is weird, so we only end up showing on wed, thurs and fri - which makes for long days but 4 days off in between weeks - so hopefully his highness finds that satisfactory.

The goal is to get one more solid outing at 3'3" without any weird crash-like incidents as well as getting me in the ring one more time to play with my new-found forward buttons.  There is a Derby to add if all is going well - but mostly I'm looking forward to getting a few rounds in, packing a VRBO full of barn ladies, and putting a nice little capstone on our season.

Friday, October 14, 2016

FBF: Windsor's trip to Worlds...

As we approach my first anniversary with Windsor, it seems only fitting to look back on what he was doing this time last year

(hint, it wasn't the 2'9" Low Adults... lol).

Instead, he was just getting home from his first (and only) trip to the Wold Championships to compete as one of the top 7 year olds in the world. 

While Winds did qualify on his own merits, by the time entries were sent, it had been decided that he probably didn't have the speed to be a top show jumper, but perhaps his style and scope would transition well to the US Hunter market...

So for this show he was under Andreas Kreutzer  - who aside from being rather charming and a lovely rider - had recently gone out of his own and was busy making a name for himself on the LGCT.  Since it was becoming clear Winds wasn't going to be a top 1.50m horse, this was his first time out deliberately asking him to go more as a hunter....

So here's a video of a 1.40m round at the championships. 

Winds looks like Winds.  Possibly a bit darker and a bit quicker than we are used to seeing him these days, but unmistakably him.

A month later, we showed up, fell in love and flipped his little gray world upside down.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Horse hack!

Many thanks to Horse Hack for hosting a fun blog contest and sharing so many new (to me) sites to follow!

(I can't figure out out to insert a hyperlink from my phone right now- blogger fail)

I'm the first to admit my posting has been a tad sporadic of late- but head over (if you haven't already), to pick up some new bloggers, or even vote for us!

I am always amazed at how much I've grown to enjoy the equine bloggy community.

You all have provided so much support, feedback and acted as a sanity-checking-soundboard for almost six years now. My adult horse experience would be a very different one without you guys as both readers and fabulous blogs to follow in turn.

I'm currently sitting in Heathrow's terminal 5 but I'll be home soon, and the Windsor adventures will continue!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Leave Well Enough Alone

Day one of Zone Finals was lovely.  Boring, and quiet - because not very many people came to play, but it was lovely none the less.

Winds is working AWESOME.  A little bit of time off and some ass kickings on the flat were just what the doctor ordered. 

I watched him flat earlier in the day and the continued work in a higher frame at the canter is dropping his booty and lifting his balance like whoa.  Its awesome.  He's light and adjustable and stepping through... all good things.

The great news is that it's translating to more self carriage when we lower his frame back down and let out the hunter-rein so he can derp around like a lazy lazerson. 

Also new info is that all season we've been getting a better jump out of Winds if we maintain contact right to the base and sorta hold his hand over the jump.  Previously, if you really threw your reins away he'd suck back (maybe looking for contact?) and jump a bit flat. 

Not a problem per se, but he definitely has us trained to help him out a bit more.

Anyway,  that's old news now I guess....  Turns out he wants you to drop the reins about two strides out, let him rock his royal self back, and then he'll explode over the fence all on his own.  Jumping higher, straighter, and landing with a bit mower fluidity. 

This resulted in about 10 minutes of warm up with us all scratching our heads but gladly rolling with it.

So round one was awesome.  Jumped some great jumps, landed his leads, all around a good Windsor and snagged an 85 to win the class.

Then we started talking.  The last couple of shows when Winds has sat for a few rounds before going back in, he's been a bit casual about his job and pulled rails or at the very least been so bored it feels like his eyes are closed.  Neither of which is great for nailing a high score.

So we decided to head back to warm up, jump a big vertical and wake him up. 

We only jumped one, though I did add a landing rail to get him to pick up his toes a bit, and we headed right back for round two...

And Winds was LIT. 

(Or, he was lit for Winds.)

He still looks chill on the video, but if you know him well, you can see the tension.  Tight mouth, flatter jump, less magic all around.  We got dinged hard for it with a 76 and a 7th.. (out of 8). 

So, uh, next time Winds nails an 85 and jumps like a freak, we're just going to leave well enough alone.


The undersaddle went at the end of the day and we got a 5th.

I wasn't expecting much on the flat since it was a nice group of horses, and the same judge essentially didn't use us on the flat at all back when he saw us go in June.  So that was fine.

We came back Thursday for two more Pre Green rounds and a Pre Green Challenge thing (not the incentive program) that was essentially a two round classic (last round of the division being your first score).

Anyway first round of the day was fine - but he was pretty unimpressed.  A tad casual with his hind end and not really rolling through a ton on landing. 

But, decent, and enough for a 77....

Again, we talked about taking him back to warmup to wake him up.  Clearly the landing rail got him a bit too edgy the day before, but maybe just a tall vertical would do the trick.

Warmup was empty, which made it easy to make use of more than one jump.  He was casual about the vertical, and casual about the oxer, which we widened significantly between the first and second time he jumped it. 

The width caught him a bit by surprise the second time, and after that he was tidier with his toes - without the tension that the landing rail induced the day before...

So we went back in.  And Winds started his round really, really well.

Loftier jump, less tension, really well..... Then:


So, you can't totally tell (because I panicked and dropped the camera) - but there was a crash-like experience.  I'd say it was an actual crash, but somehow (SOMEHOW) Winds didn't even knock the top rail down. 

I debated even posting this video mostly because it's not me riding - but I've since decided that while I don't entirely know what happened here - I'm pretty sure Winds just misread the question.  The distance wasn't crazy long, the pace wasn't off... he just put a leg down... then used it to push back off again. 

Other trainers in the vicinity confirmed that they have NO idea why that jumped went sideways.  Horses, can't quite account for everything...

But, true to Winds' nature - he wasn't even rude on the other side. 

In fact, I bet he could have cantered out of the line just fine if we all hadn't suffered simultaneous heart attacks.

The real bummer is that being the last round - our score of 40 was carried into the Pre Green challenge. 

The second round of the challenge was lovely (dammit).  Winds recovered immediately, and aside from a mediocre first fence, he jumped beautifully and really pushed over his oxers.  Loved it.

Apparently so did the Judge's and he got an 86.   If we were pinning that class separately, he would have been second behind an 86.5, but that first round 40 killed us and kept us in last place.

Anyway, that's the story of Zone Finals. 

On one hand it really wasn't our show.. on the other, it was the first time we showed Windsy indoors - and we learned that he doesn't really care about that.  We also learned how to get him a bit more careful, without stressing him out (read: NO LANDING RAILS).  and that's actually extremely useful information.

Still tough to miss out on those year end awards, but we live to ride another day... (And Winds is still absolutely my favorite.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Money Shot

I finally caved and bought the folder of pro pics from Thunderbird... because... well, it doesn't take long for me to start going through horse show withdrawals and having some new pics to flip through is just the sort of dopamine hit I need to keep me going (even if we are literally in the middle of another show as we speak....).

In theory it would have been helpful to purchase said photos prior to blogging about Thunderbird so that I had some, you know, pictures.... but oh well.

I assure you that the rest of them will surface - and that there are some really cute ones (cause.. it's Windsor).  But I just HAVE to share this one snap that cracks me up:

Legit - it looks like my trainer is riding a boatload of magic-flying-ferns instead of a horse.  And I can only see enough of Winds to tell that he is super round and his ears are forward and it would have been an AWESOME pic of the derby...

If you could see him.

I'm still sort of tempted to blow it up and frame it for the barn tack room though. 

I should say that to the photographer's credit, they got lots of other good shots and as hysterical as this photo is - it's not indicative of their general competence.  I'm always grateful to have awesome pro shots, so I hope they keep shooting my guy ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Windsy Edition

Back in November when I first laid eyes on Windsor, he was known only as "Gray Brad" and I was thoroughly unimpressed.

I am (constantly) reminded by those around me that, when we were horse shopping I didn't even want to go see Gray Brad because I was wholly uninterested. 

But I was talked into it, and after another hour in the car, when we saw the (small, unmuscled) gray gelding in the cross ties, I rolled my eyes and chalked it up to a waste of time.

Even when I first rode him I didn't have a breakthrough "this is my heart horse" moment. 

I mean, his face was cute, but there were some awkward angles - and he was pretty small, and there was ZERO sign of the big sweeping gaits that Prair had spoiled me with.

He was, however - extremely kind. 

And forgiving.

And cute as hell over the fences.

So, he came home, was dubbed Windsor - and the rest is history.

After eight months in a new program (and a LOT of flatwork) - he's changing shape, filling out and looking a bit more magical

Such a hunk.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tbird - Week Two, (mostly just the derby...)

Well I've lost all sense of what happened week two of tbird.  Thank god for videos and ribbons to remind me of what happened.  I definitely recall a delicious signature cocktail that involved apricots and vinegar.... and I also remember that the temp finally dropped to something reasonable... so that was nice too.

The Pre-Greens wee frustrating.  Winds jumped out of his skin and scored a 89 and 88 in his first two rounds.  He was consistent everywhere.  Basically, all he had to do to clinch the division was place high enough to score ONE point in the last round.  But of course, that's when he decides to sit on a rail and drop one in the judge's line.... Ghosts of Stakes-Past seem to haunt us...

The Derby the second week was a full USHJA two rounder-er and was scheduled for Thursday, which meant he had already gone around twice for the PG. 

We drew a reasonably late spot in the order (which I like) and the track was set nicely.  I do forget that the USHJA jumps are set to only 3' with 3'5"(ish) options - and Winds just doesn't really give a rip about 3'.  It's hard to show him off or get much style out of him at that height...

The trip was smooth.  Good pace, decent jumps and overall a nice flowing rounds. He was rewarded with a 86+4 for a total first round score of 90. 

That was good enough to return second or third, (can't remember), but he was up there. 

The trip was good - especially since I could tell that Winds was a bit stiff in the bridle.  Trot fence was soft and lovely, inside turns worked out well, and they were able to take a bold pace between high options and still come back nicely for the two stride at the end. 

Very happy with the boy.  Two small rubs probably took some of the shimmer off the score and we ended up with an 85+4 for an 89, which ultimately slid us into third overall.

So, that means Winds has been in six derbies this summer and come away with six top three finishes - with matched pairs of firsts, seconds and thirds.   He's been so consistent in these classes, I think the Derby ring is really where he shines.

At some point I'll get to my Eq and Hunter divisions.  But they aren't quite as exciting....

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tbird - Canadian Derby

The first week of Thunderbird, there was a Canadian Derby offered on Saturday.  If you recall from Milner, the Canadian Derbies run in a one round format with a traditional base score, plus up to 10 points for high options (2 points each), and up to 10 points awarded for Handiness displayed on course. 

I've been having so much fun watching Winds in the Derbies, that I opted to not show my Hunter division over Saturday and Sunday and instead give him a light weekend with only the one Derby round Saturday night.

Happy Derby Day!
Friday afternoon we had the aforementioned vet take a peek as Winds.  He didn't find anything alarming (whew, big sigh) and just spent some time adjusting his shoulders and back and stretching him out every which way. 

The nugget of useful information was that Winds' right hip doesn't want to abduct (is that moving out? I mean the one where your hip rolls out) as much as his left.  BUT his right hip rolls under easier than his left hip does. 

Windsor wasn't sore to palpation, just unevenly stiff and very happy to have some massage and stretching time.  He also got some B6 shots in the trouble areas and that was it.

The vet told us to let him know how he felt and that we'd see improvement anywhere from 1 to 5 days out.  If we didn't feel any change, a more traditional lameness exam might be appropriate if we wanted to go looking for an explanation.

I hacked Winds out early on Saturday and he felt a bit looser to me.  Changes were lighter, better balanced and I wasn't feeling like he wanted off the right lead.  So I did some stretchy-trot figure eights then went for a long walk on a loose rein around the grounds.

Winds went towards the end of the order-of-go, which meant he didn't even start warming up until about 6:30pm.  By that time we had seem enough spooks and stops from shadows and horses who would rather be eating their dinner, that I was starting to question my decision to enter him.

But, as soon as he started warming up I could tell he was feeling great and trainer was happy with his way of going and if nothing else - I wanted to see him jump a round to compare to earlier in the week.

The course was nicely designed, options for some handy turns, etc.  But I was disappointed the class was taking place in a normal arena.  No combined rings, no change in venue.  Just the same ring we'd been in all week. 

But he went in bright, and jumped around well.  He got a tad strong in a few places, which really only shows itself as him getting stiff in the bridle.  N was able to take the high options and the planned inside turns. 

I don't have a ton of fascinating commentary.  He was jumping straighter, staying lighter and using his back more than he was earlier in the week and that was the big win.

Of course a base score of 83 plus 10 points for all 5  high options and a 7 for hardiness wasn't bad either.  Winds finished on another 100 and that was good enough for second place.  We were two points behind the winner - and honestly, they had a lovely, very polished trip and deserved the win.

With such a nice trip, we decided that Winds was ok to stay for the second week of the show.  We had rented a grass paddock that the horses were all taking turns in, and between that and three days to be off aside from long walks - I figured his schedule was lighter than normal. 

I did show my equitation on Friday, but I'll recap that along with my hunter rounds form the second week at the same time.... On to week two!

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