Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Milner Downs - Pro Days

I'm not 100% ready to fess up to my videos/pics yet - so I'll delay by focusing on Windsor's Pre Green rounds...

I opted to get some work done and log family time, so I missed his first day of competition.  Unsurprisingly - he was a stud.  He won his Low 3'3" round out of 17 by marching right around the big grassy field like a champ (which he is, teehee). 

too cool for school
But of course then he turned around and placed second in the first round of his Pre Greens... which was only out of six.   But he cleaned up his act for another first place in the second round...

What we're discovering is that this horse is rarely spooky - and tends to put in his brightest, most brilliant jumps in his first round.  We keep adding a Low just in case there are any boogie monsters - but consistently its his highest placing class or most stylish round.

Because he has such a heavy show schedule in August, we're going to try eliminating the Low rounds and letting him go straight into his Division and see if we get burned - or if we are able to capitalize on his extra bit of interest the first time he steps into the ring...

3'3" just isn't interesting enough for him to keep his big, brilliant jump up after he's been around the ring a couple of times.  He's still a good boy.. don't get me wrong.  But he's not impressed and that makes for some lackluster fences.

For example -

Round 1
Round 2
The second day started with the Under Saddle, and since there is another horse from our barn in the division, I planned to ride Windsy because I flat him pretty well.  It did mean that I had to leave my house at 4am, but waking up for horse shows has never been a problem (school or work is another story).

I will say that this Under Saddle was not my finest work.  I never really got him to loosen his shoulder and reach forward into the bridle.  Our canter work was good, but the trot was a tad stifled and short. When we were debriefing after the class - N reminded me that he wasn't getting any anti-inflams since he's being treated for ulcers - and I'm thinking that maybe he was just feeling a little less than 100%.  We picked up a 4th out of 7 which still felt generous.

He looked fine over fences later in the day - and in fact when I got back on him for the first round of my division he felt much looser and more willing to move out..

Over fences he added another second and another first to his ribbon pile.  I thought he jumped around great.  He was a bit stiffer in his mouth than he usually is - but the big, open field made it easier to ride him forward out of it, so it seemed like less of an issue than it could have been.

Here's another photo dump since they got a TON of photos from his rounds on Thursday...
Round 1 - so he's tidy

So stinking cute.

This is his first round on Thursday (third round of the division) where I actually managed to video from a high point (unlike the Derby).

Pretty solid - he's getting to be so consistent in the ring, steady, forward, amenable.  I love how he hunts the two stride a little more than the other fences.. but other than that - there isn't a lot to say.  He looks good with a pro on him. )

Round 4 was similar (but you know in a slightly different order of fences..). 

I think he looks a little slow on the pace - though I know he feels a LOT faster when you're actually on him.  He makes it look easy - maybe even boring.

The only real disappointment of the day came when we jogged back for soundness. Not because my horse is lame (knocking on all the wood) but because he has strong opinions about when he is on, or off duty and doesn't take kindly to me imposing on his off duty time.

Apparently, standing around is considering off duty - and asking him to jog in hand is just about the worst thing ever.

We jogged in ok for the first class, but he was second and we had someone to follow.  However for the second class, we jogged first and I made the poor assumption that he would again trot politely since we were headed back toward the in gate.

But no. 

We protested.  We stopped.  When I tried to swat him with my hand he spun his butt away and stared at me like an irritated teenager.  When I tried to "lunge" him to get his feet moving and move off, he almost reared. 

Jerk factor of 10 - and horrifically embarrassing.  Finally one of our guys ran into the ring (allllll the way across the ring) to help me herd Winds back toward the in gate.


I was so embarrassed I tried to slink out of the ring, but we got called back for awards (not actually complaining) for Winds to receive his Champion ribbon along with our barn buddy receiving Reserve

Go Team!
(barn buddy is a total hunk if you know anyone looking for a super flashy and fancy 3'6" horse...just saying)
Believe you me I am about to employ all of Pia's Cowboy Man leading/liberty exercises on Mr. Windsor while we're home. 

In fact he already had an intro session yesterday whereby we discussed that I get to control all four of his feet on the ground, not just his cute little nose.

We'll test our progress back up at Thunderbird at the end of the month since Canada is the only place the jog the Pre Greens.....

Monday, July 25, 2016

$5,000 Milner Downs Canadian Derby - (same same, but different)

***** photo spam alert. I caved and bought all the images this week. so prepare for all the Windsor you can handle!*****

We are back from a really fun week of showing up at Milner Downs.  Winds was a dude (mostly) and there was a lot of success... but for now I'd like to get a post up on the Canadian Derby.  Which is *just* like a USHJA Derby. 


Except it's different-ish. 

But still really, really fun.

Yup.  Really, really fun.
The Derby was slated for Friday Night, and just like the last show - I opted to scratch my 2'9" rounds (there were 2) slated for that day in favor of fresh legs and not pulling the horse out too many times.

I recall friends of mine showing a lot at Milner in the 80's and 90's but I had never actually been and was excited to scope out a new (to me) facility.  Most of the reason I opted to enter this show was the big, pretty grass field that acts as the main Hunter ring. 

More specifically the fact that I would also get to show in said field (heart fields), even in the smaller 2'9" division... 

The field is lovely.  It's set down in a bowl like an amphitheater, which makes for good spectating, and great backdrops for photos.... and it also made for some fun topography for the Derby.

Note Pretty banked sides in background
In the States, the USHJA Derby program runs on a two-round format.  The first round is a "classic" round, that is to say it's (mostly) judged as a normal hunter round, with the possibility of adding one bonus point for every high option taken.  The second round is a Handy, so the overall handiness of the horse is considered strongly when giving the base score, and again - there is a possibility of adding one bonus point for each high option jumped.  Scores from both rounds are combined to determine the winner.

Canada judges their Derbies with all the same components... but they do it in one round.  So there is the base Hunter Score, and then you are given 2 (!) bonus points for every high option jumped (with a max of 5 options, or 10 points) and an additional Handy score from 1-10.  Those all total up for your final score and it's a one-and-done format.

The one round format means you have to play the game a bit differently.  For one thing, you don't get the first round to see how manageable your horse is before you determine how risky to be in the Handy.  For another, you go in a drawn order of go, which means you don't necessarily know what score you will eventually have to beat.

The USHJA format allows you to have some context for how big of a risk to take with your Handy options... Because you know exactly how many points you need to make up in order to take the lead.

I think I have a slight preference for the two round format - because I enjoy the drama of watching everyone come back in reverse order.. And I also like watching the difference between the Hunter and Handy rounds.. but it does make for a rather long class.


Canadian Derby. 

The course was posted early in the day, and people lost their minds.

Mostly because obstacles 7, 8 and 9 involved cantering out of the arena, up the grassy bank, jumping a jump and then cantering back down again.

can they do that? are these banks even meant to be ridden on? it's absurd the amateurs have to do this. maybe we can trot down the hill... has anyone spoken to the office? I hear people are protesting the course design. has your horse ever gone up a hill? How do you jump if you aren't on flat ground???

Mayhem I tell you.  Polite, hunter mayhem.

The course didn't change, people slowly got over it, and the start time approached. 

I was a little curious how Windsor would handle the slope.  I knew he'd go down it just fine, but he might not be the most manageable while doing it... especially with a jump at the bottom.  Fortunately there was a relatively steep slope in one end of the Jumper Warm Up, so he was able to test his balance a little bit before going in.

But he was a star.  I'll post the video first, then the breakdown.  Ignore the 30 seconds of blank video at the end, I was waiting for scores to be announced but I gave up.  Also, I apologize for the poor angle. N ended up moving up in the order and went in two horses early which caught me off guard and away from my planned vantage-spot.

Also - I pretty much miss the first fence... that's a lot of caveats.. feel free to skip the video..

And now, your play-by-play....

First fence was good - since the Handy score is incorporated, N cantered straight from the in-gate directly to it - which is what you missed on the video..

on course over 1
Then it was a beautifully ridden inside track to fence 2, a single oxer, and another inside turn to the two stride home.

into the two stride
5 was an end fence... very straight forward

5 - slightly out his shoulder..
Fence 6 was straw bales and a high/low option.  There was a VERY inside turn (only one horse tried it) that required a hard slice and pretty much eliminated the high option.  Or a medium turn, or a long way around... N took the middle road and high option well..

7 was "flagged" as cantering up the bank.  Winds.... cantered up the bank.  not a lot to say.

8 was the fence at the top of the hill, which went well.  No one stopped up there - but several horses had wonky distances mostly because I think they were excited about being someplace new and were just simply distracted...

9 had an option - a shallower bank with a vertical set at the base, or around the tree and a steeper bank (no jump) back into the main arena.  The shallower bank with fence was flagged as a "high option" and also had a shorter runway to fence 10.

There was some debate as to whether or not you would be penalized for trotting the downhill slope, which was quickly answered after the first few horses who showed a trot received scores in the 50's. 

Winds didn't hesitate about the downward slope, but got a bit braced in his mouth at the bottom and had a difficult set up for 10, which was 5 strides out.

10 had a high option, but we missed it since Winds was ignoring his jockey and refusing to sit back and balance.  She basically had to rip is face off to get him back.

11 was a forward 10  strides or quiet 11to a big oxer (also with a high option). from there you could take an inside turn or go around a haybale to a vertical at 12 (also a high option).

Because it's awesome...
 Winds jumped the snot out of 11 and wasn't quite tidy enough to take the inside turn nicely... so he went around for 12.

Then it was a bending eight strides to 13 and your final choice on track to 14, a simple oxer home.

For all the questions in one course, and for the wildcards that we don't often practice, I was really pleased with how Winds went around.  He was rewarded with a base score of 84, plus 8 points for his 4 high options (having missed the one after the bottom of the hill.) and 8 points for Handiness, for a total of 100.

He held the top spot all through the 3'3" section (you can elect a 3'3" or a 3'6" height).  But with 5 horses to jump the 3'6" section, one finally beat us. 

They started with the same base score of 84 but picked up all 10 points for high options and got a 9 for handiness for a total of 103. 

It was a letdown to be so close to another Derby victory, but the more I watch the video the more I can acknowledge that we missed one inside turn and Winds looked uh... not so handy after the down slope.  If we had hit that turn and not lost his mouth over 10... I'd feel a bit more robbed since I can definitely say that Winds had the nicer jump and way of going between fences. But, c'est la vie. and realistically - for his third Derby class, I'm still pretty ecstatic with how well he's going.

Finally, Winds was not thrilled with the ribbon ceremony (it was dinner time) and made his disinterest in not leading the victory gallop known

Grazing.  During awards... facepalm

BUT! Since the ribbons are all wonky in Canada and 2nd place is Blue - my takeaway from all this is that we got another Derby blue ribbon and scored 100 (lol). 

Which sounds pretty cool - even if it means something different North of the boarder...

Lots of media from the rest of the week to catch up on as well... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 - halfway (ish)

The horse show started today. Which is great, except I'm not there yet.  In theory I'll wake up at 4am and hit the road so I can be there first thing (and ride Winds in the Under Saddle) but that leaves one whole day of waiting around and not spectating. 

I really hate missing rounds (especially when you're paying out the nose for your horse to canter eight jumps..).  However, with the (KNOCK ON WOOD) longer show season, I'm realizing that it's hard to be away for every round during the week and still have some shred of responsibility in the rest of my life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm stalking horseshowtime for updates and texting with barn mates (Winds had nice rounds but they haven't pinned yet) so I'm not totally disconnected - but I'm also not there which is.... hard.

The thought raced through my mind that we are just passed the halfway mark in the year and that I could stand to check in on my goals for Winds in 2016, as I think about my hopes for another show and adjusting my expectations.

Let's review, shall we?

Goals for Windsor with me:

Show. (more than once this year):

Holy Crap we nailed this one right out of the gate.  So far we've had three successful outings and five weeks of showing (wow that sounds like a lot) under our belts. 
a good percentage of them in the pouring rain...
We're figuring out Windsor's body and maintenance and fitness and I think we are on a good track for keeping him happy and sound and able to be the best little Windsor he can be.  Each outing feels like we make new discoveries and get that much more dialed in.  Go Team.

Show in a Rated Division:

We haven't done this.  I showed one week at 2'6" and have spent the rest of the time at 2'9".  We regularly school 3' at home, but I'm sorta jamming on my 2'9" division right now. 

The jumps aren't the issue for us, it has more to do with maintaining pace, lead changes (cough cough) and other smaller details.  I'm 100% confident I could take down a 1.0m jumper course no problem... I just might not score an 85 doing it.

I think it's possible I'll move up in the fall, but I also made the mistake of checking out rankings for WSHJA and I could probably stay in the lead for the 2'9" if I just hang out and don't' spread points elsewhere... That's not the most noble reason for staying in a division, but - YEAR END AWARDS.  It's real.

Groom Myself:

This... hasn't happened yet. 

Glittery, silver tail is courtesy of... not me.
In hindsight, I should have maybe groomed myself when we were in CA because I didn't have the baby (.... or anything else to do).  There is one smaller local show in August that we are going to hit for funsies, and it would be the perfect candidate for grooming except that I stacked a whole bunch of other obligations into the schedule (because, close to home) and probably ruined that opportunity.  Dang it.

Still Love the Horse:

Halfway through the year and we are going strong on this. 

Admittedly, Winds is easy to love.  He's adorable, fun, fancy and totally forgiving (the three F's? is that a thing?). 

I love riding him. I love watching him. I love playing with him.  I love.  Love love love.  He is a great fit for me right now.

Goals for Winds with the Trainer:

Watch Her School Him Once a Month:

If we count rides at shows (which I am) I'm doing great on this. I haven't seen him go at home in a while, but I think watching/helping with warm-up and show rounds is still very informative. I definitely know what she does well with him (where I struggle) and what her methods are.  I feel very looped in - so I call this a success at this point.

Watch Her Show at 3'6" (or Higher):

Now that Windsor is working in the 3'3" Pre-Greens, we will specifically not show him over 3'6" so I don't screw up his eligibility (like I did with Prair).  I hope that at some point in the future I'll get to see him jump the big jumps - but for now it's 3'5" or under....

It will be interesting to see where it makes sense to show him next year... either taking advantage of another year at 3'3" in the PG's or moving on to the First Years... time will tell.


Check, check, check!!!! We've only entered the Derbies at one show (well... two shows... same outing though) and it was awesome.  Partially because we won, but also because it was more fun than I imagined to watch my trainer click into ultra-competitive-get-it-done mode on my horse.  She's not in that mode very often, but I like watching it.

Winds is slated for more National Derbies at our remaining shows this year...

An International Derby is still on the bucket list - but probably won't happen this year (or next?). 

That's a pretty good status update on our 2016 goals. By all metrics, I'm enjoying this year with this horse.  We have plenty to work on, and lots more to accomplish together, but so far the process has been a fun one with lots of rewards to keep me motivated. 

By rewards, I mean neck ribbons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

In the Interim...

Winds has been living the life the last couple of weeks.  Lots of turnout, some down time, and a bit of a dialed back routine while we take advantage of a few weeks at home.

Totally deserved after two weeks of this
The vet did come out when we got home from the June shows, and I made sure to be there so I could provide intricate details about what was feeling a tad off.

well, he's cross-leading a bit on landings.. but only from a tighter distance or weaker pace...

I see.

And he's feeling a bit sulky in the corners, though that might be ulcers because it wasn't really a thing the first week and I do think his tummy might hurt and that's the sort of thing that would really flare up week two of showing and no he's not on any gastrogard or anything right now so yeah.


And what else, well, the cross lead never happens with me, but I only show him 2'9"  It happens in the pro classes at 3'3", but more in warm up where the ring has a shorter approach and only twice in competition

not hard - not trying

once was in the morning and I had fed him two carrots, so the next day I fed him THREE carrots and it didn't happen so maybe it has to do with carrots and not anything else but I don't really know because it's really subtle and he still won the derby so obviously he's still "going" well it just feels subtly different and I don't know if we'll be able to pinpoint it.

You get it - the all too familiar vet-ramble where we verbally diarrhea all the crazy-ass conspiracy theories we've brainstormed at 2am to explain the mystery lameness/illness/moodiness/whatever in our horses.

I asked if the vet wanted to see him under saddle since whatever the issue was, it was weird and subtle and hard to replicate.

But instead we started on the lunge, where my 18 minute preamble became immediately irrelevant as the horse was clearly stepping short on the left front.

(not weird, not subtle, not actually hard to replicate)

It was mostly gone when tracking to the right, and not any worse on the hard ground outside.... and Windsor flexed negative everywhere.... so aside from the slightly short step, there wasn't really anything obvious to pursue diagnostically.

So without going on a crazy lameness witch-hunt we decided to give him a few days of anti-inflams and the rest of the week off before pulling him out on Monday to see how he looked.

He looked sound.

Which meant we moved forward with a light week of flatwork and some cavaletti whereby he felt awesome and worked well.

Oh - I forgot to mention that the extended week off included a gastroscopy and diagnosis for some ulcers which were consistent for a horse in his level of work who's been traveling and showing and flying around the world and whatnot (as you do).

That all means he's on some tummy meds to address that particular issue and we'll see where we end up in a month.

Aside from that - all is well.  Winds is happy and sound and relishing his big grassy field. 

As for me, I am finally in town for an uninterrupted stint and trying to get back in some semblance of riding shape before our next outing up to Canada again on the 20th.

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