2017 horse goals · dressage · show planning

Surprise Show Prep

Last week, I found out that a day off I had requested back in April would finally be ok for me to take – someone had volunteered to provide the coverage needed. I had honestly totally given up on the request and kept it on the list out of pure reflexive frustration.

Thankfully, I found out the day before closing for the barn schooling show! I emailed the show secretary immediately, and followed the next day with my entry for Training 1 and Training 2.

I haven’t said anything on the blog because I was convinced it would fall through (part of me is still convinced something will go wrong) but I have been scrambling since then to get show prep done.

That includes:
– Finding all the various parts of my show kit. My white breeches and white show pad were AWOL for three days, and I finally had a brainstorm in the middle of the night of where I’d stashed them and thankfully, there they were. The breeches needed to be washed but that was easy enough.

I know my dressage coat is several years out of style and I don’t care I LOVE IT.

– Actually trying to memorize my tests; haven’t finished this one yet.
– Practicing that newfangled long mane button braid that people are talking about. It came out pretty darn well and I’m going to go with it on Saturday!

– Taking a lesson to tune up parts of the tests. Given how much of a shit he’s been in the outdoor we’ve been drilling it HARD, working through gradually less huge bits, and this was my first time in the snaffle we’ll have to use for the show. Bizarrely enough, he was well-behaved, soft, and suuuuuuuper behind the leg. Can’t win ’em all. So now I’ve been focused on revving him back up in the snaffle which hopefully will not swing the pendulum the other way?

From the lesson: I need to round out my circles better, be more attentive about my marks. I need to ask for some left flexion down the center line and into my halts to keep him square & straight. I need to pay particular attention to my outside rein the canter circles coming off the rail because he’s awfully sticky. I need to post quickly and stay relatively light in the reins to encourage him to go forward. I need to use my diagonals to build forward and then carry it through corners. I need to get more precise about my aids for the canter depart.

My times are 10:20 and 11:20 because this is some kind of cushy and luxurious schooling show, I do not even know. Good grief.

So, we’ll see how this goes! Stay tuned for a recap next week.

2016 show season · dressage · fashion · show planning

One step forward, two steps back

First, the good news: show clothes still fit! Including the white breeches!

The coat is just a smidge tight, but not in the “doesn’t fit” way, in the “cut to be restrictive and make you sit up straight” way, and it’s always tended that way.
My stock tie has vanished, but as of late last night I have another one on the way from a friend which is a fun story I will blog about later.
I also located my show helmet, hairnet, show gloves, stock pin without difficulty, remembered that I had actually bought a brand new white show shirt out of some technical wizard fabric like all the kids are wearing these days (my old show shirt was a polyester short sleeved thing that worked for IHSA classes in college but was the actual pits of fashion). I had never worn said shirt but a wearing it in the picture above!
I had also (yay past me!) washed and neatly packed away all my white/show saddle pads. So those are good to go too.
Now the bad news: I tried to start Tristan in his snaffle in the dressage ring last night and it was kind of a disaster. He bolted repeatedly, never relaxed, never softened, would not listen to me and as a result our circles were weird half-square half-oval blobs. In fairness, it was ludicrously windy, so that may have keyed him up, but it was still absolutely awful.
I brought him back down to the indoor and schooled the everloving shit out of him. We ran both tests. We ran every movement in both tests. We ran transitions, We cantered. I put on spurs and a whip and forced him forward into a hand gallop. He was tiiiiiired but finally cooperative at the end.
Then we went up to the outdoor jumping arena, and we repeated that, making sure I had brakes and that he was listening to leg and hand in the walk, trot, and canter. Then we went back up to the dressage ring and trotted and cantered around the outside, politely. He was ever so very tired, but cooperative.
So, today: we’ll see. I’ll start in his snaffle but bring his kimberwicke up. Depending on how the ride goes I’ll decide whether to warm him up in his kimberwicke and switch to the snaffle for the actual rides.
Semi-related gripe: I didn’t read Training 2 through thoroughly enough, what the hell. How many times can you cross the diagonal in one goddamn test?!

2016 show season · dressage · show planning

Baby Steps & Show Prep

First things first: on Tuesday night, I started my ride in the kimberwicke, and let’s just say there was not enough pony kicking in the world. So I hopped off and swapped bridles – I had brought his dressage bridle up – and Tristan was a ROCK STAR.

We ran through Training 1, and my geometry was the absolute suck, but Tristan took a half halt, gave me some bending, and even softened up quite nicely in the canter. It was nowhere near a world-beating ride but there were moments of respectable dressage. Which is really all we’ve ever aspired to.

So, we might actually pull this off!

Things left to do:
– pull out my show clothes you guys I haven’t even unzipped my coat bag since we moved to Vermont and literally the last time I put on my white breeches was July 2012 THIS CAN ONLY END IN TEARS
– give Tristan a bath
– clean tack
– actually read Training 2 and maybe think about memorizing it
– think through some kind of warmup plan? who am I kidding, I’m going to wing this on Sunday morning

Realistically: I have this evening to do one last major ride and pull out my show clothes, and then tomorrow afternoon – maybe? – to do a quick tune-up, give Tristan a bath, and clean tack.

Also last night I pulled out a calendar and counted and for a stretch that started this past Tuesday, this coming Sunday is my only complete day off for 21 days. So of course I’m horse showing, then volunteering afterwards. What is it about horses that encourages so many bad life decisions?

Oh, and it’s going to rain. All day. Yup.

show planning · showing

The Grieving Process

So, Tristan has Cushing’s. I’m reading, and reading, and reading as much as humanly possible.

Today, I came across a new piece of information that I hadn’t had before.

Pergolide is listed as a banned substance on the USEF medications list. It can be considered a “therapeutic” drug, which means that it can be used under certain conditions:

– it must be used for a legitimate therapeutic use only, ie directly for treatment of a diagnosed illness;
– it must be withdrawn within 24 hours of competition;
– it must be stated with a report documenting therapeutic usage.

As best I can understand, this is because pergolide mimics dopamine in the equine system, which is what horses with Cushing’s are missing. Here’s an excellent COTH article outlining the biology at work.

I know that my chances of making it to a USEF/recognized show with Tristan were slim, but this dashes them entirely. I’m not willing to withdraw him from the medication in order to compete. There is an outside chance that I can rig the medication so that he gets it say 25 hours before a class and then immediately afterwards, or I can just show on it and keep my fingers crossed that he’s tested, but neither of those options is a good one.

I’m sort of unexpectedly heartbroken, all over again. I’d been slowly accepting that my hopes to show him were fading with age, opportunity, and my own funds, but it was nice to have that out there, to think that someday I might take him to a USDF show for the heck of it.

show planning


I had spent a few days reflecting on my story with Tristan in case R. asked questions about our background. We have a few key points that I tell people – he was wild until he was 4, unstarted until 11, and 97% of his rides have been done by me. (In fact I was trying to make a list of anyone who’s put substantial time in saddle in on him, and only three people have ridden him above a half dozen times. I’m the only one who’s ever ridden him more than a dozen times.)

We talked a very little bit about that but it was the first question that I – foolishly – had not prepared for.

“What’s your goal?”

I was stumped for a second, and in the moment I said, “I want to enjoy my horse. I’ve had him for almost eight years, and he’s the love of my life. Maybe we’ll get out eventing again someday, but I have no concrete plans for that right now.”

In the days since I’ve been thinking more about this. If you’d asked me that question one year ago I would have said: compete recognized at Beginner Novice, and maybe someday complete a Novice Three Day.

Those would still be lovely things to achieve, but in almost eight years together we’ve been derailed from them many times, and now Tristan is 18 and I have a hugely demanding job and no extra cash flow. For all that I am intensely ambitious and goal-driven in every other part of my life, I’ve never been as competitive with my horse. I want us to consistently get better, and I want him to be healthy and happy.

Maybe, by the end of the summer, when we’ve been on track for longer, I’ll feel differently. But right now, I’m content to keep him in work and keep plugging along.

2012 show season · abscess · show planning · valinor farm

Onward, Upward

Tristan’s slowly, slowly getting better. The leg is down a bit; the hoof is a bit more stable, but still draining. Per the vet’s advice, I put him on the longe line: sound at the walk, iffy at the trot to the right (when he had to put more weight on his RF).

I soaked for an hour (two 30 minute sessions with water as hot as I could get it), then iced the leg and gave him a gram of bute. I’ll do the same tonight. I can see the path and the destination, but I don’t quite know how long it will take to get us there.

I sent in my withdrawal to King Oak today. I’m holding off on a decision about Valinor until Thursday; I still have hopes that we’ll be able to go and do a dressage test, though I may just cancel it altogether and focus on something like, say, the October Beland schooling show. There’s also the possibility that the barn will go to the October Hitching Post schooling show, where we had such a good run in the spring, and there’s the Groton House Fall Classic. Then there will be a multitude of hunter paces for experience in that regard.

New goal: finish the fall on a high note, getting him out and running around, and re-focus on some specific improvements that I want to see over the winter in our dressage. I have half-seriously said in the past that he will probably never canter on the bit, but I would like to improve his canter, to improve our transitions, and overall get him more consistent in the bridle.

2012 show season · abscess · adventures with the vet · not-so-quiet-freakout · show planning

Sound (ish) again?

After five days of soaking and poulticing, last night I put Tristan on the longe line and he looked sound at the walk and trot – a bit fresh, even. I soaked and poulticed one last time, and left instructions to keep him in today.

Tonight, I’ll tack him up and see how he feels under saddle. I’ve also put a call in to the vet to clarify. He never had what I would call significant discharge from an abscess; he had white pus in the cleft to the left of his frog, but I’m not sure if it was from an abscess or some goo from the poultice.

Here’s the real complication: the farrier looked at him on Monday, and his opinion is that Tris is just all-around footsore up front. He said he couldn’t find any particularly reactive spot on the hoof that would indicate abscess, and believes Tris should go in front shoes.

I am really reluctant to do that, for a variety of reasons. He’s never worn shoes before, save for the six week experiment with bar shoes before we turned him out. He’s certainly worked more often and for longer than he is working at this point in his life, though not at the level of difficulty/athleticism that he is getting to now. The vet both a) pinpointed problems to the RF and b) did a set of radiographs to check sole depth, and was happy with that sole depth. Last but not least, I can either afford to shoe him or to event him this summer. There are not funds for both. If I don’t event him, I don’t need to shoe him. If I event him, I can’t afford to shoe him. It’s a nasty little Catch-22.

In the meantime, we’ll see. If he’s sound to ride tonight, I’ll soak again, and check on Friday night. I’ll check in with the vet and see what she says about the footsore/”good depth of sole” debate. I need this XC school on Saturday as a last run before Groton House, but if he’s not sound – he’s not sound, that’s that.

Fingers crossed.

2012 show season · lesson notes · show planning

Lesson Notes: Rhythm and Consistency

I’ve known for some time now that Tristan’s best dressage scores would come not from flashy movement, or superior training but from consistency and accuracy.

Last night, we took some great big steps toward achieving a consistent forward rhythm throughout our ride. I started out focusing hard on keeping him relaxed through his back right from the first step, and slowly, slowly ramped up his walk work. In all, we had easily 20 minutes of walk work in which I gradually asked him for more, took in more rein, and stepped him through his hind end more.

That paid off almost immediately in the trot. As T. commented, Tris has definitely been flashier and moved better, but he’s never maintained such a solid commitment to the bridle from his hind end throughout. He had good activity and maintained a sense of forward. I was trying to keep two things in mind for my leg: one, not to nag, but instead to be a constant presence and to make individual leg action purposeful and quick; two, to anticipate his ducking out moments and remind him that he had to maintain, not back off, when asked for more bend and more roundness.

The payoff were a dozen or so strides at a time, in a few separate instances, in which all of a sudden the activity and spring and swing in his hind end increased exponentially. I was a bit caught by surprise, as I think he was: all of a sudden there was a lot more to deal with. I tried to mostly stay out of his way, keeping the reins very light and keeping my leg on while not asking him to do any more than what he was doing.

We ran through our test – Beginner Novice A – for Hitching Post this weekend, and T.’s only criticism was that I’d botched some of my figures, and made roundish squares instead of proper circles.

After the ride, I filled up the water buckets for my trailer and spent some time organizing my new travel trunk. Tonight, I have a shopping list at Dover, I’ll organize my trip paperwork, and create a final packing/schedule list, and tomorrow, we’ll have a conditioning ride and I’ll finish prepping my trailer.