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My Weekend in Pictures

Instead of boring you with all the [not so] juicy details of my extremely bland weekend, I’m going to show you. Because who doesn’t like pictures? Anyways, my weekend started out with staying up too late on Friday watching episodes of Prison Break on Netflix. Really, binge-watching old TV shows is all Netflix is good for… I’m not sure why they even continue to offer movies at all. Needless to say, I slept in until noon on Saturday and I have to admit, it felt great.

Unfortunately feeling refreshed, relaxed and purely content only lasted about 30 seconds because I checked my phone and had two texts from the barn manager: “Miles tweaked his left hind shoe and can barely walk.” Accompanied by a lovely photo of my beastie’s tootsies:

Miles Loose Shoe

There went my plans for an afternoon hack at the barn. I left a message for my farrier, figuring he was probably pretty damn busy and who knew when he’d be able to squeeze in a trip to my barn. I then proceeded to fret the entire afternoon about how lame my horse would be and if we’d even be able to go to the show this weekend. So I drowned my sorrows in spaghetti and cheap wine, and settled in for a movie night with my [other two] favorite boys. And in my opinion, nothing makes you forget your troubles quite like an animated movie:

Rocky, Sam and How To Train Your Dragon

Luckily I have the world’s greatest farrier and at 6 o’clock on Saturday night he trekked out to the barn to tack back on the pony’s shoe, after spending all day at a horse show. Yeah, my farrier is the bomb… and I really need to start thinking of an awesome Christmas gift for him. So after completing a few chores around the house on Sunday morning, I went to the barn to inspect Miles’s self-inflicted damage. He seemed okay, so I hopped on for a short ride. It was blustery, and Miles was fairly looky, but he felt sound and that’s all I really cared about. So after only about 20 minutes of mostly walking, I hopped off and decided to do an impromptu spa treatment. I shaved whiskers, gave a bath from head to toe and painted toes. Miles was not thrilled, but certainly enjoyed his carrots afterwards.

Miles Bath June 2014
So thrilled to be clean.

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Lessons Learned at our “A” Show Debut

Sometimes I forget how little I know about Miles: I haven’t even owned him for a full year yet. We fit together so well, it’s easy to think I know exactly how he’ll react in certain situations; but the reality is I’m still learning his personality and how best to manage him and keep him happy and healthy. So far, Miles and I have competed in only three shows together, and each time out I’ve learned a lot.

Prep Work

Before we ever step foot into the show ring for our class, there is a lot of planning and prep work that has to go on. For me, I consider the entire week leading up to the show part of our “prep time.” I schedule a lesson early in the week, and make sure my horse is clipped and groomed well. I try not to do anything too strenuous, so trail rides and light hacks are usually in order. I usually give Thursday off (since we typically trailer to the show and school on Friday) but I don’t think that’s the best approach with Miles.
Lesson #1: Do a light hack on Thursday 
Once we arrive at the show, Miles never has any trouble settling in and scarfing down some hay and water. Thus far, he looks quite relaxed in the stall, without a care in the world. But I’ve found out that he’s a bit tricky that way, and it’s all an act.
Lesson #2: Lunge before you ride on Friday and Saturday (maybe even Sunday too) 
Remember to always lunge in a bridle and gloves, and don’t be fooled by the western pleasure jog. He needs at least 30 minutes of lunging on Friday, and probably Saturday too.

During the Show

It’s not hard to keep Miles happy during the show because all he really wants to do is eat; which is 100% peachy keen with me. We bring lots and lots of hay and treats, sit back and watch him stuff his face. When your riding, the most important thing is to continue to keep him happy.
Lesson #3: Evaluate his mood and adjust accordingly
If he wants to walk, let him walk. If he doesn’t want to go all the way down to the spooky end of the warm-up, cut five feet off; it’s really no big deal. When I ask for a canter departure, wait until he’s happy and ready to do it. Miles is a very willing horse, but he can also be sensitive. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, wait a second and then try again when he’s in a better mood.
On course, I need to remember my horse’s little quirks. Like that he jumps better long than short; his change from right to left is tougher and when he’s tired, he jumps flat. I know how to correct all of these things, but they don’t get done if I don’t think about them.
Lesson #4: Ride the entire course, not just the obstacles 

After the Show

I like to think back and reflect, which I think is very valuable. But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the little details. In the end, it’s important to look at the show as a whole: did I have fun? Was Miles happy? Because those are the things that matter most.
Lesson #5: Enjoy the ride 

2014 Equus Now Classic: Limit Hunters, Part II

Because Miles was just a bit too energetic on Saturday, Trainer and I decided to lunge Miles Sunday morning as well. We started to the left, and he was pretty good. We went around for about 15 minutes and then I changed direction. At which point Miles freaked out, and lost his marbles. He started cantering and bucking, and proceeded to drag me across the ring and out onto the concrete before I finally got him back under control. As soon as Miles stopped, I realized I was shaking about to lose my breakfast. His antics were just so unexpected, and I really thought he was going to get loose for a second and go galloping around the fairgrounds.So I headed back to the barn, switched bits on the lunging bridle and attempted to compose myself. When I headed back out, Miles was none-to-pleased; although instead of trying to run away, he just refused to go forward. I’ll admit, at this point I was pretty upset and I really got after him. But after our “come to Jesus” moment, he lunged well enough. 45 minutes later Miles was huffing and puffing, so I called it quits.

By the time it was our turn to jump our final two hunter rounds, Miles was tired. Good. So we did just a little warm-up, and went in. We planned to continue doing the add-stride on Sunday as well, since both Miles and I were tired. Our schooling trip was okay, but we had some chips and late lead changes. But once we got rolling, things were much smoother.In the first hunter round I chipped in pretty badly to the first fence, and Miles knocked down the rail. I was mad at myself, because it was all my fault; I should have legged him for a longer spot, knowing he’d jump better that way and that since he had less of a motor, getting him back wouldn’t be a big issue. But oh well, live and learn. We got a seventh, due to the pulled rail.

Our second hunter trip was the best of the show. I really attacked the first jump, and galloped on in the corners to get my leads. We got the same placing for our effort (4th) but I was really, really pleased with my ride.

In the under saddle, Miles was great; he dealt with some sticky traffic situations like a total gentleman, didn’t break despite having to canter for five laps straight and really stayed long and low during the trot. I couldn’t have asked for better! We ended up with another fourth, which is just fine. Overall, I just don’t think the judge on Sunday liked Miles very much; and that’s hunters. Sometimes you get a judge that loves you and sometimes you don’t.

2014 Equus Now Classic: Limit Hunters, Part I

To say that I was nervous going into our warm-up round on Saturday would be an understatement. We were at our first A Rated show, the ring was a little sloppy and oh yeah, my horse had never seen the jumps before. Despite lunging in the morning, Miles was very alert and I found myself with just a bit more horse than I would have liked. And even though our first round was rough, I was proud of myself for going in cold and making it around without any major snafus.

Sure, he backed off the first fence, and played (a lot) after our third fence. He missed a few lead changes and we had some really tight spots, but overall he listened and we didn’t have any super scary jumps. For me, that’s a good trip considering the circumstances! Trainer and I decided to stay on a slower pace, and opt for the add-stride the entire day. In hunters, fences are set in lines, with a specific number of feet between the fences, which correlates to a specific number of strides. At my level, adding an extra stride into these lines is typically fine and doesn’t make you significantly less competitive; however it’s important to be consistent. So if you add a stride in the first line, for every subsequent line you need to do the same.
For Miles, the slower pace isn’t difficult, but it does make his lead changes tougher to accomplish… and on Saturday the sloppy rings didn’t help. So even though we missed a few, I was okay with it. I wasn’t working on that, so I didn’t really set him up for them. If he got them, he got them. If he didn’t, we broke down to the trot and changed our lead that way. For me, the big win was seeing my distances and sticking to those decisions; I stretched up stayed confident. Plus, with each round, I improved; I remembered I needed to “whoa” in the lines, especially towards the end of the course and I used my outside aids during turns to help us get straight more quickly. Our first judged Hunter trip:
We earned two thirds over fences on Saturday, which I was really, really pleased with. I know a lot of people don’t practice fences before they have to show, but I always have; and it was nerve-wracking to not have that opportunity this time. But I conquered the challenge and rode well. And at the end of the day, what more can you ask for?