Thursday, May 31, 2018

Off the Horse, horse related news

I heard back about WEG volunteering and I think I missed the window to be a jump judge, but I was offered a different position be a cross country crossing guard on course. I will be assigned a spot where a human path crosses the course and I get to keep people out of the way of the horses. So up close and personal! While it's not jump judging, I'm still excited to go.

I'll probably be in Tryon for about a week because of the volunteer meeting taking place several days before my actual volunteer date. So if you're local, or if you're going to WEG, let me know and we'll have to meet up!

I can't wait! 

Last week I also met up with a dressage trainer who was recommended to me by a friend's trainer. She's a gold medal grand prix rider whose trained several of her grand prix horses up from weanlings. I really liked what I read on her website and when I called her, she invited me to come watch her teach and ride her horses. 

The drive up to the barn
She gives lessons 4 days during the week (and maybe on weekends?) and trail rides all her horses on wednesday. From that alone I liked her because it's good for their brains to have cross training.

Her farm was very nice with good size paddocks and grass, which isn't unknown for Michigan and all the horses were out, rather than in their stalls, another thing I like. None of them were running around so clearly turnout is a regular thing and not a rare occurrence.

There's an outdoor dressage arena, which I think will be good for Gwyn because there's NO barrier keeping her in so it'll directly address our issues of leaving the arena. There's also a decent sized indoor arena.

Her GP horse she's bringing back from an injury. This horse was SO HAPPY working. He's apparently been really glum because he's been reduced to simple work to help him heal and now that he's better, he's just so excited doing the higher level moves. 

I watched her ride two different horses, one was her grand prix guy who she trained from scratch and another was a horse in training who was also on injury recovery and whose big accomplishment was moving out comfortably and offering a canter. So vastly different skill levels.

She then taught a lesson to a woman who seemed about my age. She'd been riding with this trainer for almost half her life. She's non competitive and just schools because it's likely the one thing keeping her very oddly conformed mare sound. So they ride PSG movements but just don't compete. I liked that there wasn't an obvious push to compete too, which means not a push to move up the levels as her student. Trainer seemed firm but positive, also things I liked.

I asked Kira if she'd heard anything about this trainer, since she is so tuned in with the local horse gossip. Nothing on this lady, which is honestly a good thing. It means no ones been burned so badly that they complain or leave. In this case I'd say no news is good news. 

The farm is right around the corner from Kaylee's school so it'll be a short haul in for lessons, which are $60, totally reasonable, IMO. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

OREA Poker Ride May 26

Last week Alicia messaged me to see if I wanted to meet her at a Poker Ride at the state recreation area. It's only about a half hour drive from home and I was very game! We were supposed to get thunderstorms through the weekend but the forecast was showing they wouldn't be here until later in the day. The ride was in the morning? Heck yes!

It was super relaxed and run by the Ortonville Recreation Equestrian Association. $10 to ride, $5 if you were a member. I decided to join the group mainly because they're the ones responsible for the maintenance and building of the equestrian campground and trails. Support your local trail orgs! It's a good cause and it helps you keep access!

They've built a pavilion and a couple other amenities at the campground, which is quite nice. I wish there were more trails though. I'd be TOTALLY willing to ride manage an endurance ride here if there was enough mileage. As it is, you'd struggle to get an LD. At most you could do an intro ride. It would be a good spot to do clinics.


I made sure I was mostly packed Friday night and then went out to load Saturday morning.  Gwyn was a pill and got away from me before I could close up my magic loading pen of magic. But because I always anticipate things like this, I ended up only being 5 minutes behind schedule, lol.

Putting away the first set of strings
 The sky was threatening rain and it was oppressively humid. Alicia and I were wishing it would actually rain. It never did, but the sun did come out which only added to the heat. Thankfully the trails at Ortonville are all wooded. It was quite pleasant.

For the poker ride we had to go collect string from 7 different stations along the trail. They'd marked the map with the path to take where we would find each station. For each string we found we'd get a card from a deck and whoever had the best hand would win half the pot of money from the entries. You had to find a minimum of 5 stations.

Happy mare after we ditched the big group
 Most everyone found six but there was a HUGE tree down on the trail that had to have been recent and apparently the 7th one was right there, lol.

Alicia and I started out with a group of people that she knew from up in her neck of the woods. They were riding somewhat green horses (and a mule!) and immediately set off on this hardly used trail in an effort to avoid the muddier parts of the main trail.

Alicia and I had no idea what was going on and I honestly should have applied the endurance maxim "Ride your Own Ride" to this one.

We briefly took a wrong turn.
 Gwyn was PISSED OFF. I figured this would be a low key event and wanted to try my new sidepull noseband. Haha. Hahahahahahahhaah. That was a mistake. It was like a comedy of errors.

1. We tucked in behind Alicia's friends. Gwyn did NOT like that.
2. Those friends were going S.L.O.W.  Gwyn did NOT like that either. I was constantly turning her into the trees so we wouldn't run up the quarter horse's ass in front of us. I felt awful because that's just rude on my part.
3. I had very little braking power from Miss Friesian Muscular Neck in that sidepull. Or at least very little respect from her.

We got to a water crossing and the lead horse was balking at going through either the water or over the bridge so I asked if we could just pass them. They let us go, Gwyn eyed the bridge, then clomped confidently over it. We turned a corner and there was a hill and that was where I lost control.

Gwyn TOOK off and just galloped up the trail. She blew through my aids and while I was laugh-crying, I wasn't entirely pleased. I should have turned back and grabbed the baucher I had in the trailer. Hindsight.

Patches of mud
Alicia caught up with us quickly and we went on to have a much better ride with just the two of us. Gwyn led the whole way and only had one more run away moment. Otherwise she was rating back and listening to the sidepull. In the future, I'd use it for endurance rides after we've been on the first loop. But not for the first loop, dear god. That mare is a freight train.

I swear she thought it was an endurance ride too. I was hoping for a more relaxed pace, haha.

Ponds in the Rec Area
 And again, sorry for the tilt. I need to figure out how to mount my go pro so it won't be like this.

Notable Quotes Include:

"Holy shit that frog's huge! It's like a mountain chicken!"
"You almost had a frog in a frog!" "Oh that wouldn't have been fun to pick out later..."
"I just squished a little caterpillar bug on my leg!"
 On approaching a hill: 
"Hey, we're probably going to end up going up this fast. Are you good?"
"So grab my reins?"
 Then later...
"Still eating the cliff bar!"
Hard to tell, but this is a giant, steep hill (for Michigan)
 "For the past, I don't know, quite a while, she's had a stick in the bottom of her tail..."
Those steps are used in their judged trail ride. We went up them just fine!
 "Can we not walk in the marsh? Thank you."
The downed tree and where the path is supposed to go...

Creek or bridge option crossing. 

Gwyn checks out the marsh

Hot mare.

The purple cantle pack was one of my blogger exchange gifts! It's perfect with all my purple!

They are good buddies now.

Walking back to our trailers to cool the horses off.
Neither of us had a good enough hand to win the money, but we were famished enough to enjoy the grilled hot dogs that were provided by OREA.  I will definitely return, both to OREA events and this trail system. It's got some nice hills we can condition on and get some decent mileage in with loops that aren't far from parking.

I'll eventually have a video of the highlights of the ride.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hunters Run Derby Part 2: Cross Country! TLDR: Much more positive LOL

So, let's move on to better stuff. I had a little less than 2 hours between dressage and my cross country and I used that time to walk my course.  Note to self: My old Ariat Terrains need to just be tossed. They are no longer waterproof. My foot was squelching in my boot by the end. Thank goodness I had the foresight to bring a second pair of boot socks (one of my gift exchange pair!)

Casey hung out with Gwyn while I did the walk.

The course was being run while I was out there so many of the pictures aren't straight on because I was trying to stay out of the way while at least figuring out where I was going to be going. Novice and then Beginner Novice were running while I was out there so the stadium jumps are set to those heights. They were not as big for Starter. I'm going to use these pictures to talk about the course as it rode.

I had a little more time for warm up before cross country which was good. Gwyn was still excited. She refused the first warm up jump but the second time I pointed her at it (a simple cross rail) she launched over it. We mostly trotted and just worked on being in control in the warm up ring. The ground was soft too, since it had rained the previous day and I just wasn't feeling like taking the chance of getting out of control.

The girl before us had a hard time getting her horse into the starter box when we were called to be on deck. So we just stood there and hung out and chilled, which honestly I think was more valuable practice than flying over another jump in warm up.

A bonus, I guess, to this being Gwyn's first event, is that she has no association with excitement with walking into the start box. So at the 10 sec countdown she calmly walked in and stood there looking around, just... ready. That is something I want to preserve in schooling and future events.
Jump 1: Big X

And then we were off!

I saw some horses giving the first jump some issues because of the foxy log just to the left. This was not a problem for us.

Over Jump 1!

Gwyn left easily at a trot toward the first cross rail. I had my crop but I don't think I ever used it. I think I realized leaving the start box that I hadn't put boots on Gwyn but honestly, she was fine. For bigger jumps I'll make sure to boot her, but it would really only complete the purple coordination we have, haha.
This is a happy Goober Mare, by the way

The second jump I felt her waver a bit at but just a bit of leg and some verbal encouragement and it was all fine.
Jump 2: Vertical
Jump 2

Jump 3: Oxer (on the right)
Jump 3!
After the oxer I felt her start pulling toward the jumps as she figured out the game.

Jump 4: Log on Legs

Just before this one she gave a little jump into the canter. I was planning on trotting most of this since I knew she had the trot endurance to finish, but not necessarily the stamina to maintain a canter for the whole course (something we've been and will continue to work on). She has gotten a LOT better, which is another reason why I felt more comfortable coming to this show finally. I think if I had pushed for more canter she would have tired out on course and I didn't want that. We had enough time (and I was already eliminated, LOL) that I knew we could finish the course before the maximum allowed.

Plus many of the early jumps were on a steady climb. There was steady climb up through the first third of the course.
Jump 5: Stumpy Log
After the Stumpy Log the path went into the woods and past the scary Training Level Spider Log. Gwyn did NOT like this log. Not at all.

Behold the Very Scary Jump that we didn't have to go over but did have to go past.
Then through the woods and around a dip  and over the ramp
Jump 6: Ramp
After the ramp there was another uphill climb to the upper field where a ton of jumps were. The sawmill timber was nice and simple and inviting.
Jump 7: Sawmill Timber

We curved around to the far edge and had the Bleachers and Ditch option.
Jump 8: Bleachers / Ditch Option
I've schooled the ditch option before and Gwyn was fine but I chose to jump the bleachers side.

Better view. We've schooled the ditch before.
Then a turn left to the Mulch Feeder. We had to pass a GIANT table and I felt Gwyn eyeing it again like "Mom, we don't have to do THAT one right?!"

Jump 9: Mulch Feeder
After the mulch feeder it was back into the woods and down hill hill. Gwyn, being the good endurance pony that she is, slowed to a walk on the partially wet downhill. I won't fault her for that. We've done a lot of trail work and having her be mindful of footing conditions and take care of herself is a very useful skill.

When I walked the course I was confused where I was supposed to go to have the approach for the next jump. There were three paths. One, to the left, was heavily trafficked but by the other levels. I felt if we went to the right, there wouldn't be a good approach to the next jump, or at the very least it would be abrupt. There was a middle path but it was not... cleared at rider height.

I opted for middle but strongly suspect I should have gone right.
Jump 10: Steppin Up

After this was another steep downhill section into the field above the dressage arenas.

Jump 11: Brush

Jump 12: Kibblet's Cabin

All riders had mandatory flags in this far corner and then down around the field.

Mandatory Flags

Jump 13: Log Mountain
After Log Mountain Gwyn saw the dressage arenas - WHICH WERE VOID OF HORSES - and decided we were going that way. So we had a bit of an argument again about turning left. This time I did remember what one of my trainers had said about turning and made sure to drop and open my left shoulder and brought both hands to the left.

We turned left!
Jump 14: Cutest Little Coop
And had a refusal at the cutest coop. I circled and reapproached and boom, over we went and continued. The path went into the woods through some goopy mud and then we were on the last two jumps!
Jump 15: Big X

Between Jump 15 and 16

Four feet off the ground!

The final jump she did bring down a rail with her hind leg and then we were done!

Jump 16: Vertical


You guys, I was SO ELATED. That was our first official cross country course in competition and my first one back as an adult after 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS. And I did with pelvic floor issues threatening everything and a stomach that decided it actually DID need to vacate its bowels moments after I got on my horse. And probably about 100 extra pounds.

The Optimum time was around 6:24 minutes and we were a minute over that but far from the maximum allowed of nearly 13 minutes. We finished and Gwyn was barely sweating. Granted it was a cool mid 60s and overcast with occasional little drops of rain, which was fucking perfect weather.


 I rode her in a french link D-Ring snaffle and I felt she was very responsive to rating back when I asked so we'll continue to use that bit for now. Honestly she goes pretty much the same in all bits so while I want to find the right one for her, I've got no indication that one is better than another yet. Strange mare.

Casey said that we were flying around the course faster than she expected and we pretty much caught the rider in front of us. All of the photos of me on Gwyn were taken by her. I have more but I haven't had time to edit and upload them all given our slow country internet and my limited time after kids are in bed.

So there you have it. Someone asked me as I was grabbing my dressage test if I had a good show. I told her I had a good experience and I stand by that. It was a VERY good experience. It gives me a direction to work in and it lets me know what some of our strengths are with this discipline. Ever since I got Gwyn I've wanted to do eventing with her. And we have. That's a goal achieved! And now that we've passed those goal posts it's time to set new ones. Next goal: Don't get eliminated in dressage! LOL. But absolutely come back and try again.

This is a stitched together, zoomed in view. The GPS is NOT accurate, we did not have any water option, lol. You can see the one refusal and circle that we did.

The two goals posts on the lower graph show where I estimate my start and end time were. Blue gives you an idea of the elevation changes. It's a fairly hilly course for Michigan, which I appreciate!

The general stats for the time that I was running the app. I started it before warm up and stopped it after we got back to the trailer.