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!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Thunderbird Summer Fort Classic - Pre-Greens

I adore showing at Thunderbird.  There's a post brewing about what makes some venues so much nicer to be at than others... but for now I can say with conviction that given the back-to-back comparison with the Evergreen Classic -  Tbird wins. Hands down.

I was a bit timid about Tbird after I felt like Winds wasn't jumping his best at Evergreen, but the bigger rings and fabulous footing seemed to make a difference.  He still wasn't blooming over the fences how I like him to, but he was soft and correct and a very obedient boy. 

Those of you living through insane heat waves will giggle, but two weeks of 85+ is not our normal here and everyone, including the horses were a bit droopy. 

So Hot.  But so cute.
But the grounds were lovely, jumps were beautifully built, and Windsor is unquestioningly adorable when he does his job.

First Round was great. No warm up classes, no lunge, nothing.  He was pretty chill aside from getting a bit quick through the two stride at the end.

He ended up Second in a nicely competitive 3'3" division of 10. 

Second round was also great.  A bit more pace (in a good way), but a bit stiffer in the judge's line.  We were 3rd.

We came back for the jog and under saddle (omg. So sweaty). And Winds was a good sport.  He was a bit sluggish, but he uses his shoulder significantly better on the nice GGT footing than he does in sand.  It's really fun to hack him on that surface because it feels like you can actually push his stride out a bit.  We snagged a 3rd on the flat which is a *really* nice ribbon for us in that company.  The two (also gray) horses ahead of us are super adorable Huntery-Hunters that we aren't likely to finish ahead of Under Saddle, ever.

The second day Winds was definitely jumping a bit stiff.  He maintained a nice balance and pace, but he was wanting to lean a bit and pop off his right lead - which is a new trick.  A hard rub at the first fence and a swap into he judge's line kept us out of the ribbons in this trip.

The last round was a bit of a recovery.  Whether Winds was just looser after jumping a round or what - I'm not sure, but he seemed to work out of it a bit.  He snagged a second place in this, even with a bit of a rub in the 5 to 2 stride (love 5 to 2 strides, so fun).

The 2nd was great because not only did it clinch Reserve in the division, but it was a Stake class, so he earned some money too. 

Hoever the stiffness was a tad alarming.  Even with his crazy schedule I never like to think my horse is sore or compensating somewhere, so we booked an appointment with an FEI vet who was on the grounds and specializes in bodywork and acupuncture. 

I always love the idea of having a practitioner who is capable of catching potentially bigger issues (and exploring them if necessary). 

If Winds still wasn't feeling good after his session - I could haul him home early and start his time off a bit earlier than planned.

So that's the start to the first week of Third (spoiler alert, he felt great after the bodywork and we stayed....).

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