Thursday, November 20, 2008

Summary of Morven

We had a fantastic time at Morven! I have so much to write that it's literally taking forever, but I hope to have a more detailed account of the whole event up ASAP. However, as a summary: We really did have an absolute blast. All of the technical stuff went well, the jogs were scary at first, but nevertheless fun, I was much too nervous for dressage and went off course, and was so tense that I forgot how to ride. Roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross country were absolutely amazing. We had a stop at the half keyhole on course, but the rest of the course went very well and I was elated at the end of the day. We pulled two rails in stadium, but ended up in 10th place! I wish that there were more long format events. We truly did have the best time of our eventing careers and no horse trial can come close to comparing to the long format.

Will hopefully get the entry with all of the details up soon!

We are working on getting videos up from Morven and so far only have one. This is of the first combination on course. I could have ridden much better after the drop, and Octavian was wonderful to take us to the chevrons!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Five Points & Recent Happenings

We have recently returned from the Carolina Horse Park. We had somemwhat of a rough weekend, but not one that was without learning experiences. Once again, I thought that our dressage was not as good as it could have been, Octavian felt a bit tense in the neck in the canter and not as soft and supple as he has been recently. I was thrilled to find that my dressage score was a 37 once again. We were 10th out of 21 after dressage in another open division.
I was really excited about the cross country course. It was another big, yet forward course with some challenging combinations. I had some concerns about the mushroom and corner on course (there's a theme here, corners and skinnies are our difficult fences). The course ended up riding very well. We were clear over both the mushroom and the corner, but unfortunately had a stop at the bank at 13ab. We were to jump up a bank, and then there was a bounce to a log on top. There was an option, however I felt that the bank was similiar to the one at Difficult Run, which was also a bounce bank, and therefore did not feel like we needed to take the option. I was wrong! I was really wanting to go clear, especially since this is our last cross country run before Morven, but Octavian was perfect over everything else so I can complain too teribbly much.
Sunday morning Octavian looked good and his legs were cool and tight. We warmed up well for stadium on Sunday, but when we were in the ring everything fell apart. Octavian was backing off to every fence and was not feeling like himself. We had a stop at the second fence in the in and out. I retired after our stop. Octavian is usually very enthusiastic and his antics were not characteristic of him.
The vet will be coming out on the 23rd to correct his passport (it was rejected...we triple checked but still made a few mistakes) and will be checking him over then to make sure that everything is all right. This week Octavian feels back to himself and does not seem to sore or stiff. If the report is clean from the vet, we will be heading out to Plain Dealing to have a lesson with Monday the Sunday before Morven, and then will be off to Morven the following Thursday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Difficult Run & Loudoun

Octavian and I have had a busy couple of months. We headed off to Difficult Run at the end of last month. We had what felt like our best dressage test yet, but scored a 44.1. The judge's comments were very constructive, and although I feel like the score was harsh, in the long run it's a good thing because we were able to learn more from being scored harshly. Saturday afternoon I was able to walk the stadium and cross country course with Molly. Although I had seen the course before, it was nice to hear again how I should ride each fence. Although the staff and organizers of DRPC did a wonderful job working on the footing, it was still very hard due to the lack of rain. I was a little worried and had already decided that I would not be riding for time the next day.

We had a double clear stadium round on Sunday. Octavian still felt midly excited, but he did a good job of keeping his attention on me. The cross country course was once again a lot of fun. The course at Difficult Run is very forward and gallopy. Octavian started out being a bit sticky, but torward the end of the course we had found our rhthym. We ended up with 5th place finish out of a division of 18. I was very pleased as it was also an open division. I was relieved that we had followed Molly's advice and gone around a course that we had been around before to get back into the swing of things.

The next wekeend at Loudoun was very exciting. We were stabled at Morven Park, and it was nice to see the facility before October. On Saturday, we had dressage and stadium at the Oatlands. Our dressage test was not quite as good as our test at Difficult Run, but it was much improved from tests that we had done earlier in the season. Our shoulder-ins were not very good, and we had one hiccup doing one of our lengthenings, but overall it was not a bad test. I was only able to walk half of the stadium course that morning, but the course looked like fun. We did not have a bad round. I felt like I made a few mistakes that Octavian had to deal with and saved us in a few places. He was a little sticky after the first fence. He got rolling going down the hill to fence 2, and then we had a difficult uphill turn to the next fence. I did not see the distance correctly and we rubbed the rail, which fell when we were about 3 strides away. It turned out that our dressage test was better than I thought, we ended up with a 37 and were tied for 6th. Our rail in stadium dropped us down a few places.

We had cross country on Sunday. The course seemed big, but looked like it would be nice and gallopy. There were several combinations on the course. There was a chevron at the third fence, and a corner at the 9th. These two fences were my biggest worries. The chevron rode well, but unfortunately I rode a bad line to the corner and we had a runout. The rest of the course, however, rode beautifully and I was really happy with Octavian.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So far, so good...

We had a successful outing at the BREA schooling combined test last weekend. I felt more relaxed in the dressage arena, however Octavian suffered from his nerves a bit. We did prelim test 'a' first, we didn't have a horrible test, but it wasn't great either. He started to lean on my leg and hand throughout, which seems to be something he only does in the ring. He seemed surprised to be going back in the dressage ring for a second time for prelim test 'b', but we had a much better test. He seemed a lot more relaxed. Our shoulder-ins were not that good, we lost impulsion, but thankfully we had no major disobediences. Our canter work in the second test was loads better than the first. We don't like the 10m canter circles.

Octavian felt extremely excited for stadium. He was very forward, not running or rushing, but not quite as responsive as I would have liked. We went clear, but I had hoped for a quieter round. I wish I would have ridden a bit better to achieve that goal. We had the opportunity to go back in the ring for a second time as a schooling round, and we pulled a rail, but overall the second course was better.

We ended up getting a 40 on our prelim test 'a', and a 38 on prelim test 'b'. I wasn't that happy with those scores, which I suppose is an improvement in itself, because at one point I would have been thrilled! However, I know that we are capable of much more and we will continue to work torward that goal.

Yesterday we headed to Plain Dealing for a lesson with Molly. We started out in the stadium ring. We began by going over a verticle, turning right and around to another verticle. Here I had to work on turning well, keeping my eye on the fence, etc. We had to do this a few times before I was riding well. We then added an oxer on a bending line about 5 strides away. The first time, we got a long spot. The second time was much better and we managed to add in the extra stride. After that, we worked on a skinny to a verticle, I had to concentrate very hard on getting the turn right to the skinny, not too early and not too late. The first time we got in a bit close and then took a long spot at the verticle, but the second time went well. Our next thing was another skinny, straight, and then making a left turn to a faux corner. Our approach to the corner went well, but we had a runout. Looking back, I think I was riding a little to averagely to it. Not exactly weak, but not as strong as I needed to. The second time I gave him a better ride to it and it went fine. We jumped it from the other direction with no problems. After that, we headed out to the cross country course.

Octavian and I were both really excited to see cross country fences again! It's been a long time since we've been on course, the last time was early June at Rubicon. We warmed up over a few easy fences, and then did a log on an angle to a skinny. Skinnys and corners are the hardest things for us, and I always get a little nervous whenever I'm riding them, almost as if I'm afraid to have a runout. I managed to not freeze up from my skinny nerves, and the combination rode great! Next we worked on putting a corner in combination with a bank. We went over the corner, then a bending line (3-4 strides) and up the bank, and then down two steps, and then reversed the exercise. Once again, he was really good! We then headed over to yet another corner, and did a corner, 3 strides to a skinny. I was a little worried about how this was going to ride, or rather, if I could give him a good enough ride, but he was perfect! Except, he refuses to brush through brush, making the skinny much bigger than it needed to be.

Next, we worked on steeplechasing. I was really excited about this. Molly said that she would let me know if I was going too fast or too slow, and to just keep my legs in front of me and my shoulders back and to not worry about the distances. I have to admit, that galloping torward our first steeplechase fence, I was a little nervous! It felt weird to be galloping that fast at a fence. Octavian caught on really quickly. We practiced the steeplechase fences twice, and the second time Octavian and I were both having a blast!

After steeplechasing, we worked through a coffin once, and I had to make sure that I brought him back after our steeplechasing fun. He was pretty good through the coffin, he peeked at the ditch briefly, but never really lost impulsion. We ended the lesson on the water, we worked on drops, through the water (3 strides) to a small log, and then a vertical, one stride, drop, and then finally a drop and 4-5 strides to a skinny that was on a bending line.

I came away from the lesson absolutely thrilled. I think that Octavian and I are both really look forward to Difficult Run!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Still working hard

There have been no breaks for us. As usual, both Octavian and I have been working very hard on our dressage! Gabriele has been a wonderful trainer to be a working student for, and I am dissapointed when I think that Octavian will be coming home in a few weeks. It will be nice to have him close again, but I will miss being a working student!

Our recent quest has been becoming light on the forehand, more up in front, and using the hind end more. This feels awkward to me, because I've had "down and round" drilled into me for most of my life, but now I am having to think "up and round", so at times, I feel like I am comitting a crime! It's a learning process, and I'm starting to get used to new things, however, Octavian feels very nice when he's in this new frame, despite the fact that my abs start hurting after about 5 minutes of sitting trot...his trot feels completely different! Our lateral work has improved leaps and bounds. A lot of the problems we were having were stemming from attitude going into the movements. I would try too hard, tense up, and as always that would transfer to Octavian. I've had to learn to "let things flow" and relax a lot more during lateral movements! This has especially been positive for our shoulder-ins. Nearly everytime we go into shoulder-in, I start smiling because it feels so good to be doing a correct shoulder-in!

The canter is better, but we're not quite as up in front as we need to be. Regardless, Octavian is trying very hard to do everything I ask of him, and I'm sure the canter will get there soon with a lot of hard work on both of our parts. The good thing is, he is much more supple at the canter and I no longer feel as if I'm riding a train...about to wreck! He's stopped running which is such a big improvement. Gabriele has us doing a lot of thinking leg-yielding in the canter, which as I'm finding out, is drastically improving our canter.

We've had a lot of chances to get out and condition in the humidity and heat these last few weeks. I'm pleased with Octavian's fitness progress. Soon we will be bumping up our trot and canter sets, which gives me butterflies because I know I'm doing it for the CCI*!

Not a lot of jumping has been done recently. We've done some gymnastics, and I continue to work on not panicking and taking long spots, or freezing up and causing us to chip in. That being said, Octavian feels the best he ever has over fences. I feel like we are working together (no debating approaching the fence) vs. our old issue of being on two different pages.

This weekend we our off to a local schooling combined test where we will do a combined test division, an additional dressage test, and an additional "jumper round", which I will probably ride quietly as not to fire up and send the wrong message to Octavian. We are finally quieting down in the stadium ring, and as much as I'd like to be competitive, I don't want to bring up old issues! I'm extremely excited to get out again though, and hopefully we will both remain relaxed during the dressage tests. to mentally ride our tests!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MDHT at Loch Moy

We had a dissapointing weekend. The new rings and courses looked great, the facility was defenitely improved from last fall. I took Octavian out to school on the flat Saturday evening. He was distracted, and found the sprinklers in the stadium far more interesting then his leg-yields and bending work. I can't say I blamed him, there was a lot to look at.

I walked my cross country course with Molly Saturday afternoon. I was really excited about riding in the next day, I had some concerns about 4ab, a combination involving a skinny toothbrush type jump at 'b', and had to pay special attention to the corner at 15. We walked the intermediate corner to make my preliminary corner look easy, that was a good strategy because I felt a lot less worried afterwards! Sunday morning my fears about the toothbrush skinny at 4b were lessened, we had a skinny on the stadium course, which I was hoping would be a nice warm up for the first skinny (4b) on cross country.

Octavian felt wonderful warming up for dressage, much better than he ever had. I felt that our hard work over the past months had really left us in a good place heading into the dressage arena. As soon as we started trotting on the outside of the arena, we both became tense and couldn't get it together again. I thought our test needed a lot of improvement, I was riding badly and he wasn't moving off of my leg, and we had a lot of nasty moments. I was rather dissapointed coming out of the ring because I knew that we were both capable of better.

I was really happy with him after warming up for stadium, we were communicating well and I felt like we were going to have a good round. He was soft, yet forward and responsive. The stadium rings at Loch Moy are near the dressage arenas and warm up areas. I entered the ring, heard the whistle, cantered my circle, and headed over the first fence only to hear more whistles. I was disoriented and couldn't figure out where the whistles were coming from, but heard "stop", so I did. The judge came over and informed me that I jumped the first fence before her whistle and was therefore eleminated. I was immediately confused because I had her a whistle. We talked to the TD, who said that she could see where the confusion had occured, and that it was unfortunate, but I was still going to have to be eleminated, especially because the jump crew was still in the ring (I didn't see the jump crew, they were to the right when I was headed torward the left, but lesson learned). Everyone around the ring heard the whistle that must have come from the dressage ring below stadium. I wish I had poorer hearing. Since I had not completed stadium, I was not allowed to go cross country either. It was the end of the day for us. Our dressage score was a 41, and looking on the bright side, two months ago a 41 would have been a good test for us, where now I considered it bad, so there has to be some improvement.

I'm still very dissapointed, but should get over within the week. The most important thing is to move forward.

This week I will be picking up and giving Octavian his second vaccination needed for Morven CCI* in the fall, and I just sent in the FEI and USEF life recording registrations. We are well on our way to getting an FEI passport.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Off to Loch Moy

I've been really enjoying my working student position, and dressage has no longer become a "chore", fortunately, because I learn more and more about it everyday! Riding one of the more experienced horses has been very benefecial to me, although I don't always realize it until I go to give an aid or ask for something and I know how it's supposed to feel. Infact, I taught an OTTB I work with weekly her first step of leg-yielding this week. I was very excited!

Yesterday we worked on riding through my test. I don't want to jinx myself for this weekend, but Octavian and I have both improved. To my shock, after going doing our shoulder-ins, Gabriele said they were "very nice"! Counter-canter was "Good, he's got the tuff stuff down" (Good boy, Octavian!). Our major hiccup in the test always comes after the trot transition at M after the free walk. Octavian really dislikes getting back on the bit so quickly, so that is something we will just have to continue working on, but I may get a 4 on that transition this weekend but we will try our best. My main goal in the dressage ring is to remember not to panic. As Gabriele puts it, he is really listening to my half halts now, but despite that, I have a habit of being "grrr" and riding with too much hand because I sometimes expect him not to listen to my half-halts (more old habits!). So, I am going to try really hard to not panic and communicate with Octavian well...the correct way. As for jumping, it's been coming along pretty well, no complaints. We school lots of corners in the stadium ring.

Looks as if we may finally be ready to hit the road, we're off to The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy. I'm extremely excited, it's been too long since Rubicon! Hopefully we have a good weekend, and I hope that when I arrive at the barn this morning, my horse doesn't look like a paint but rather the nice WHITE fleabitten gray I left yesterday!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Off to be a working student - Summer 2008

Today was my third day of being a working student for Gabriele Hooten, our dressage trainer. Octavian is settling in at her place nicely, and seems happy, he doesn't seem to miss his stable buddy of 15 years (they have rarely been apart, for a few months at the most) much at all, which is a relief to me. I was worried that he would become terribly depressed and we would have to bring him home.
So far I am really enjoying being a working student. We've already had two dressage lessons, the first we worked on bending (always!), and the second we applied what we had accomplished with bending and worked on getting him to really relax, come through, and use his back at the canter. We are taking steps back to work on basics that we seemed to have missed a couple of years ago. I love that Gabriele is honest enough, and knowledgable enough to realize this and make us take a step back and work on those sorts of things. I feel as if I am learning a lot, which is wonderful, because that is absolutely my favorite thing to do on a horse.
I really look forward to improving our dressage this summer and making it our main focus (we will still be trailering to Plain Dealing to take lessons with Molly and are of course working very hard on our fitness for the one star). Speaking of fitness, Molly has given me a new schedule to put Octavian on that is geared toward the CCI* in the fall. So far we've had great success with it, and I can tell that it is making a difference.
Hopefully soon I will return to post and have new pictures with a much improved Huxley and Octavian.

Rubicon HT - June 2008

Rubicon has been a rather large obstacle for me mentally for the past year. We were eleminated there in June 2007, and had a horrible event all around. We were pressed for time and had no warm up for dressage, leaving us with a score of 53. Stadium had gone fairly well, but we didn't make it past the first water on cross country. So, going back to Rubicon was a big deal for us. I had reserved stabing at Idyll Time Bed and Breakfast about 2 months in advance. Since Rubicon doesn't offer on site stabling, and we have to travel 5 hours to get there, I wanted to make sure that I had everything planned ahead of time. We arrived on time Friday afternoon and after getting Octavian settled in headed out to walk the cross country course. Molly was not at this event, so I was relying on myself to apply what I had learned in the past 3 months to get me through the event. The course was very similiar to the way it had been the year before, which only added to my nerves. However, after walking it, my biggest concern was the corner to table combination. A maxed out table was 3-4 strides after the corner at an offset to the left. I walked the combination several times and just couldn't seem to get the right line. I finally found one that I was comfortable with and moved onto the rest of the course.
Thankfully I had early ride times on Saturday, since there was a forecast for 100 degree weather. I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to have to warm up for dressage, but Octavian was being a wonderful boy and was listening (or trying to) to the best of his ability. I was a little worried about Preliminary test 'b', we had worked on shoulder-ins in a lesson with Gabriele, and they hadn't gone wonderfully. Unfortunately, at the time of that lesson, Octavian had a sore neck/mouth/jaw from getting vaccinations and having his teeth floated so not much work got done in that lesson, and then Gabriele was away in Germany. The next issue was the medium canter. We still didn't "have it" and our 20m medium canter circle always ended up being too strung out. On top of it all, the dressage judge was sitting in a horse trailer. Octavian didn't know what to think of that! Despite the fact that he rides in a horse trailer approximately 8-10 hours round trip for almost every event, he kept looking at the horse trailer like it would reach out and grab him at any given moment. Or maybe he was wondering what people were doing inside of one? Who knows. Thankfully we had lots of time to go around the ring, so we got to take a good look at the trailer from all angles except straight ahead of course. So, upon going up the centerline, he stared at the horse trailer with fear in his eyes. Infact, everytime we came near it, he stared like it would eat him! I really do feel sorry for him, poor guy! As I had feared, our shoulder-ins were not fantastic, but it turns out the rest of the test was not that bad. I wouldn't get a chance to look at my dressage score until I was finished with cross country, but we ended up scoring a 40.0, which was our best score yet! Still not great, but steady improvement! It left me in 14th after dressage.
As it heated up between dressage and stadium, I had thoughts of scratching and not going cross country. However, I decided that I would take it fence by fence, and if he felt tired or overheated I would retire. He was concentrating well during stadium warm up, but I kept it to a minimum because of the heat. I always love Rubicon's stadium course, especially the the hill right in the middle of it, I find it very fun! What Molly had been talking about finally clicked when I went in to do my round (the aforementioned "gallop"). I was really pleased with our round. I managed not to panick at all, and we got decent spots to every fence and had a double clear.
After stadium, they were looking for riders to go cross country, so I volunteered. I thought that it would be better for Octavian not to have much time in between, otherwise he would cool down, have to warm up again, and that would have been very taxing in the extreme heat. Before going into the start box, I briefly worked on getting him moving off of my leg by doing the canter-gallop-canter transitions. We danced around a bit before leaving the start box (he's really loving his job lately, he couldn't wait to go!), and he was pulling for his head approaching the first fence, he was being very strong. So far I had done well with spots, but for the first two fences on course, both very simple, we got two long spots. Nothing dangerous, and I guess 2 fences out of about 35-40 isn't bad, but I was hoping for perfection! After the first 2, we headed onto the big brush box oxer fence, and then down to 4 and 5. Fence number 6ab was two coops, covered by a white cloth material that had to be jumped at an angle (seems pretty common at preliminary lately), Octavian gave those a hard look (white cloth must be scary!), and I had to make sure to keep my leg on. The rest of the course was a blast, he was perfect at everything. Riding up to the corner to table combination, I found a line and kept my eye on it, and was very relieved to be through that combination! Because of the heat, I didn't push too hard for speed around the course. We came home clear, but with 12.4 time penalties.
I was so pleased with Rubicon, Octavian was absolutely wonderful, and I came away from the event very happy. We even came home with a 7th place ribbon! Our first ribbon in a long time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Virginia HT - May 2008

I always love VHT because it is so close to home! Despite that fact, we still got there after dark and I didn't get to walk the course with Molly, but the plan was to walk it and then talk to her about it. The course was relatively nice, it didn't seem to have anything too difficult. My biggest worry was the corner on course, which came after the barrels, down a steep hill, and required a right turn to the corner. Molly's instructions were to just make sure that I had him together going into the corner, even if it meant going to the bottom of the hill and nearly stopping before turning.
Dressage went okay for us, Octavian was acting distracted in warm up. The new warm up ring at the horse center is a huge improvement, I think Octavian was just surprised at the fact that he could peek over the fence and see the other dressage arena, so he did that a lot. Eventually he settled down though. We managed somehow not to be too distracted in arena 'C' (I always have to ride in that arena, the one by the woods, where you can also see the other dressage ring down the hill). We did however have another brief tantrum, right at C, I asked for a little more bend and he swung his haunches in, I corrected it and going into our lengthening we had a couple of canter strides in the corner, but we managed to recover to do the rest of our lengthening. The rest of the test wasn't bad, our canter was much improved which is a big deal because Octavian has such a difficult canter! As always, I wasn't sure what our score would be.
Octavian felt asbolutely wonderful warming up for cross country. At Difficult Run, Molly had suggested that I get him moving off of my leg by doing gallop-canter transitions. Those really seemed to help a lot, and I used them again while warming up for cross country. Octavian felt wonderful on course, he was listening so well it seemed like he could read my mind. On top of it all, we were having a lot of fun! I was still a litle worried about the corner, but thankfully Octavian was willing to listen. After the barrels, he was strong going down the hill, so I did head toward the trees and really collect him before turning torward the corner. The rest of the course went really well. I knew that I was going to have a few time penalties, but again that wasn't a big priority for us at the time.
I had only jumped in the coliseum once before, in the fall, and our round had not been all that great. I was naturally a little nervous about the coliseum. I walked my stadium course with Molly, who also helped us warm up before going in. She kept telling me to gallop, which I didn't understand completely at the time (but did it anyway), I could have kept more impulsion in my stadium course, but we only had one rail, a vertical at an offset to the ingate. We also had a few sticky spots, but toward the middle of the course they started to improve. We also ended up with 3 time penalties, our first time ever getting time penalties in stadium, however the time seemed really hard to make.
Once again, I was pretty happy coming away from the weekend and was becoming really excited about the new bond I was forming with Octavian. We were really starting to build new trust for each other in all phases. We had our sights set on Rubicon.

Lesson - May 2008

After our stadium round at Difficult Run, it was clear that we needed to work on our stadium. After watching the video of our course, and watching us warm up, Molly determined that the problem was me panicking and asking for long spots. We worked on this throughout the lesson, and had a couple of rough spots where I still panicked and asked for the long spot, but by the end I was feeling better and knew what I needed to work on and how to fix it. After working for about half an hour in stadium, we went out on cross country and schooled. We worked more on corners, which went really well. I however had a near dismount coming down to a skinny, we got a funny spot causing Octavian to twist in the air. I somehow hung on. In the end we ended up doing that exercise well. I really enjoy lessons, because I always learn something and love applying what I've learned to my riding. Below is an informal blog entry after the lesson:

"We had a pretty good lesson, it had a few bumps, but I always come away from my lessons with Molly feeling more confident, which is great. We did half stadium and half cross country, it only rained a little bit when we were in the stadium ring, but thankfully it didn't pour like it did on the way down there! We started off by doing a cross rail to a plank on a circle, worked on turning, we were fine with it, however we did work on keeping a consistent rthym and not taking flyers. She then put it up and we did it from both directions, she had me really sit in more of a 3 point position and work on really following with my elbows. After that we did more turning work with a little red vertical to a white gate type of thing, mainly worked on the same things while thinking about really keeping his canter active but together. Next, we did the oxer to swedish oxer and worked on keeping an active canter, we also went throught the triple, then did the barrels, to the swedish oxer. We briefly went through the triple. We did the skinny twice by itself, once as it was, and then she put it up, and then she put it with the red vertical and we worked on going from skinny to vertical and vertical to skinny (with 1 stride in between), we ended working on the barrels, to swedish oxer, to the stone wall. After that, we headed out to do cross country. Started out with the water, cantered through, came back, did the little verticle, 2 strides to the drop, then went over the rolltop, down the drop and then 2 strides through the water to the log. I had issues getting him straight to the rolltop. Molly said that it's a common fault of teenagers' to not pay attention to detail, (so slow down thought process and ride stride by stride), but I'm pretty determined to change that with me. After the water, we moved onto the sunken road. I asked her if we could do the one stride side (I have a feeling that I will see something similiar to that at Rubicon, or at least jump two strides down a bank), because I had some nerves about it from Southern Pines. We warmed up over the two stride, then took the one stride and he was great. Next, we moved onto the roller coaster bank thingy, and had a few bumps here. The first time we lost impulsion and didn't make it over the coop, I rode more forward the second time and we were fine. Then, we were supposed to come back through it the other way and take the skinny. We came through, I didn't ride too well, we got a bad line to the skinny, but he still thought about going and twisted in the air really funkily, and I nearly fell off but didn't (very close though!), so then we took the skinny by itself and he was good, and then we came back and did the whole exercise and it went well. We then moved onto the corners, which surprisingly went perfectically. After that we did some work with the ditch to rolltop and then rolltop to ditch, that was easy. We ended on doing a combination of skinnys, the log rails ones with two strides on a slightly bending line. Afterwards I asked her about the one star in the fall, and about moving up to intermediate. She said that Morven was a good one star to do, that I probably shouldn't move up before the one star because if we have a bad time for some reason it will hurt our confidence, and it would be best to give him 3-4 weeks off after the one star. So, that would put us moving up in the spring with a couple of prelims to warm up with. I asked her for specific things we needed to work on in order to work toward that goal, and she said consistantly getting right lines in stadium, and being able to come back from a canter-gallop, gallop-canter and land and then gallop away. She said that my eye was good cross country, but that he just needs to be more rideable in stadium, and that can be something to work on over the winter. We're also planning to have him vet checked before moving up, and will actually probably do that before the one star (do a flexion test to see if he's okay with moving up), and then see if he needs any injections etc etc. I'm really excited though because I feel like I have an approved plan now!"

Difficult Run HT - May 2008

Last fall, I was eleminated at Difficult Run. The rolling irish bank had caught us off guard. The weekend after the fall horse trial, we had gone out and schooled the bank, which turned out to be lots of fun. I remember thinking that the course seemed big and daunting in August of 2007. We had three stops at the bank and were eleminated. So, coming back to Difficult Run was a little bit nerve racking. I felt more confident about our abilities this spring then I had in the fall, but I was just hoping we could use them well for this event.
We were having trouble warming up for dressage. Unfortunately the dressage ring is right by the cross country course, and Octavian was consistently glancing over at the jumps instead of concentrating. We went into the ring tense, but thankfully had no tantrums. Once again, I was not expecting a decent score at all, I wasn't pleased with our ride, we had made lots of improvements at home in weekly dressage lessons with Gabriele Hooten, and I was a little dissapointed that we were instead too tense to put in the test that we were capable of.
I walked my course with Molly later that afternoon, and was pleasently surprised to find that the course seemed small to me and the combinations seemed straightforward. The course looked like a lot of fun with plenty of chances to develop a really nice galloping rhthym. I wasn't too worried about anything, not even the irish bank. I was really looking forward to riding the course the next day. My dressage score turned out to be a 43, which was not as bad I was expecting.
The next day we warmed up for stadium, and I didn't feel as if Octavian was listening very well, once again, the warm up ring for stadium was by the cross country course which proved to be a distraction for us. Our stadium course did not go very well, I rode badly, panicked and asked for a couple of early spots which were quite ugly and resulted in 2 rails down. It was clear that our stadium needed work.
Octavian was feeling much better warming up for cross country. We had an amazing cross country round, he was listening super well, and the galloping did prove to be lots of fun. It was our first clear cross country round in a long time, and upon crossing the finish line I was absolutely thrilled. Octavian felt like a completely different horse! He didn't hesitate anywhere on course and seemed to have an absolute blast. We did have a few time penalties, but that didn't matter to me so much.
After this event, I was really starting to feel the effects of learning becoming more educated in all areas of my riding. It was a great feeling.

The Fork HT - April 2008

The Fork II - April 2008
I was super excited about going to The Fork - I had been keeping up with the US eventing blog information on it the weekend before, and the facility and event both sounded wonderful. I had also decided that I really like North Carolina, especially the nice, sandy ground (although, I has I had found out at SP I, it hurts just as much when you fall off, sand or no sand!). Upon arriving at The Fork, it was obvious how lovely the facility was. I especially liked the duck pond near stabling! Octavian thoroughly enjoyed dragging me all over the trails during our walks, and was actually disappointed when I wouldn’t take him walking on them; he wanted nothing to do with grass, but really loved walking on the trails. Upon arriving home, I was sore from the fast pace that I had to walk - or be dragged around at. No kidding!
Let me just say how much I LOVE three day events. I love the downtime and how you can really focus on your one phase for the day. We had a very nice dressage warm up, and I was looking forward to going in for our test. Our test was not bad, it was very much improved, however "we" had a brief tantrum during a canter circle. Coming out of the ring I was not expecting good scores at all. Nevertheless, I had felt the improvement in the test and was really pleased with it.
Later in the day after looking at the scores, I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had scored a 41.1 - nearly 10 points better then our last dressage test at Southern Pines. I still wasn't sure how we had pulled it off, especially because of the tantrum. However, I knew that I would be able to figure it out after looking at my test. Octavian had felt more rideable then he ever had before, especially in warm up, which left me feeling confident upon going into the ring. 41.1, even though it's not the best score, was our personal best at the preliminary level.
I walked my cross country course with Molly Bull Friday afternoon. The course was beautiful and was looking like lots of fun. The first fence, a simple log type jump with flowers was followed by two, solid and large tables. I had never seen the maxed out tables come so early on course and was a little bit worried about how they would ride. After the tables, there was a mushroom skinny which was my next concern. Earlier in the month, in a lesson with Molly, we had jumped our first mushroom skinny, and at first we had a couple of run outs that were due to my riding, but by sitting a bit more, and being very supportive going
into the fence, we had successfully jumped the mushroom. The mushroom on course required you to make a left hand turn torward it. To ensure that Octavian's shoulders were straight during our approach, and to give me plenty of time to prepare and support him, Molly suggested that we go all the way to the galloping lane rope and then make our turn. After the mushroom, we had a vertical to corn feeder combination, with about 3-4 strides in between, the corn feeder being on just a bit of a bending line. After that, we headed down to a green wine bottle (very realistic looking!), and then down a hill, to the right, and over another table type of fence. We then headed off torward (yet another) table, that was followed by a trakehner. I had never seen trakehners like these, the trakehner sat diagnolly over the ditch, and in order to not take it at an angle, you had to plan your approach and turn very well. We walked the best line, and headed on to the next fence, another table before the first water. The first water was a jump in, 3-4 strides through the water, and out over a canadian goose log jump. I was really excited about jumping the goose. After the water, there was another table, and then you had to turn left immediately for an up bank and corner combination. The corner was to the left of the bank. Because corners are not our best fence, we had to walk this line several times. I originally walked a bad line, and Molly showed me a better approach (which I walked 3 times to make sure that I rode correctly the next day!). After the corner, there was a rolltop, 2 strides, down bank combination. I was a little anxious about this because of my fall at Southern Pines, but my instructions were to keep my shoulders back and my leg on. The next combination was a ditch to a chevron, and then we were to head up the hill, over a brush oxer, another table type fence and then head into the second water. The second water was a vertical log, two strides to a drop, then about 4-6 strides in the water to a turtle jump, and then the last two fences before the finish line.
Upon warming up on Saturday, Octavian was feeling a bit strong, so we worked on the show jumping canter transition to try and get him listening. I was nervous, but excited, about riding the course. Upon coming out of the start box, we had a sticky first fence, Octavian was behind my leg. Thankfully in between the first and second fences, we had a nice long gallop so he was no longer behind my leg. The tables were a nice beginning to the course, I felt like they really got Octavian jumping well and paying attention to me. The mushroom, to my relief, rode well, and we were feeling really great. When we got to the table to trakehner area, we got in a little tight to the trakehner but otherwise it rode well. Octavian was wonderful through the water, and thought nothing of the goose. We then headed onto the table before the bank and corner combination. The table and bank rode well, but I did not give him a good ride to the corner and didn't ride the line I was supposed to. I sort of froze after the bank and became completely useless, and therefore we had a runout. I quickly took the option and we were off again. The rest of the course rode well and Octavian was wonderful. I was definitely kicking myself for my bad riding at the corner though.
Stadium at The Fork was very exciting. The course was well put together and had a very nice overall appearance. We had an okay round, we pulled two rails, both of which were preventable.
We headed home feeling more confident. I was overall happy with the weekend, and was pleased about how Octavian seemed to enjoy himself and the new "skills" we were learning together. I was learning how to ride better to skinnys (corners still needed more work), and dressage was becoming something that I didn't have to dread. I was looking forward to our next event at Difficult Run the first weekend in May.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Trainers - Post Southern Pines I

After Southern Pines, it was clear that something needed to change. I had my first lesson with Gabriele Hooten ( the Tuesday after Southern Pines. We saw immediate in improvement and the first lesson went really well. Our immediate homework was to work on building Octavian’s topline for correct muscle development in order to ask him to hold the frame that he needs for our dressage tests, as well as to transfer the weight back to his haunches.
A few weeks after Southern Pines, we also had our first lesson with Molly Bull. Upon having a stop at a bounce on cross country (an all too common stop for us), the problem was immediately addressed. I wasn’t shortening Octavian’s stride enough, and as a result, he was going strung out into combinations and fences. We also worked on my position coming up to combinations, skinnies, and corners. I was needing to “take the backseat”, to continue balancing and supporting Octavian to the jump. It’s amazing how fixing these two things made such a big difference. I came away from that lesson feeling more confident than I had in a long, long time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Southern Pines I - March 2008

This is one event that could have gone a lot better. Most first events of the season are supposed to be rough, but maybe not this rough. We were loosely planning to get to the Carolina Horse Park before dark, I was supposed to walk the course with Caroline Dowd and it was our first time going to CHP, so getting there before dark would have helped us find stabling assignments, water, and parking. However, we ended up getting a late start and did not arrive at the horse park before dark. We managed to find everything we needed and get to bed on time for the early morning ahead of us.
I ended up walking the course alone with next morning. I had an early dressage ride time, and in March, the times aren’t quite as nice as they are in say, June. In March, it gets dark between 6:30-7:00 and doesn’t get light until about 7:00-7:30. I managed to get a quick course walk in and felt thankful for the arrows pointing in the correct direction at certain points on course.
After riding a dressage test that could have used some improvement, the day was not off to the best start. However, I recognized the importance of staying positive and accepted the fact that we still had quite a bit of homework to do. Of course I was disappointed, but I had cross country to look forward to and had not yet seen my dressage score.
Upon warming up for cross country, Octavian felt very “controlled”. While for most other horses this would be a good thing, Octavian’s good control is basically controlled energy. On this particular day, he seemed to be lacking the energy part. However, upon coming out of the start box we had improved that factor. The first few fences went wonderfully, and galloping between 3 and 4 he felt strong and exhilarated. We negotiated the down bank to the log pile well, and were off to tackle whatever lay ahead. When we got to the next fence, he started to back off a bit. The first warning sign. Upon coming to the first major combination on course, a log, one stride to a down bank, it seemed that I forgot how to ride and became more of a passenger than anything else. We had a stop at the bank, and because I was a passenger, I took the drop by myself. It is said that when you fall off and get back on, your adrenaline starts going. This is very true. We made it through the combination on the second attempt, and headed off to the trakehner which rode well. The rest of the course went okay; we had a sticky moment through the coffin, which was rumored to have been on the intermediate AEC course a couple of years before. Upon coming to the water combination, Octavian seemed much more interested in what was going on around him then the combination itself. We had a sticky ride through the water, but made it through and were off to the big galloping field. After the field, and a rolltop to corner combination, we headed off to the second water. We had another sticky moment, and upon landing in the water I thought about retiring. However, Octavian picked up a gallop by himself letting me know that he was not tired as I feared. I did not ride well to the next fence, a corner, and we had a stop at it. We were clear on the second attempt and crossed the finish line.
After looking at the scoreboard that evening, I would say I was a little disappointed, but it was about what I expected after having such a rough day. We were in last place, on a score of 200 and something. We had 2 stops on cross country, as well as my fall, and about 46 time penalties, combined with a dressage score of 50. So far, it was definitely not our event.
Sunday morning it was freezing. It had been in the 70’s the day before, but it seemed that a cool front had moved in over night. Because the stadium order of go was in reverse order of standing, I was scheduled to go first. Unfortunately, no exact times were posted, and I came to the stadium ring late. Thankfully everyone was super nice about it. It seemed that our stadium round was the only good part of our weekend, we were double clear.
Needless to say, we returned home from Southern Pines recognizing the need for change.