Monday, July 30, 2012

When you give a zombie a blog...

Rinsie and I pulled in last night around 3.30am. Between unloading and dropping off the rental car, I dropped into bed about 4am and was up to go to the barn at 7am.

So you can guess how coherent I am. I feel surprisingly good, but since I haven't interacted with a lot of people, I may be fooling myself.

Anyways. The pony shopping trip was immensely fun. I'll let Rinsie update you on how it went since she was the one shopping, but it can't hurt to introduce the candidates:

I'll let you know when a full update is forthcoming. 

I know you all probably think I'm crazy for sleeping a mere three hours over something as simple as needing to go to the barn, but PEOPLE: last time we saw Cuna, he had just gotten his hocks done. Today was the day to start back in work, see how he feels, and begin final preparations for the HORSE TRIAL NEXT WEEKEND!!!!! Hello, we have to make it around Beginner Novice and he's been on stall rest for three days!

Ok, I may be over reacting. 

Point was, if I spend $500 on a medical procedure, I want to know how it went. Plus, we had new toys to play with. 

I started out by playing with the new bridle. I settled on the Ovation bridle that I talked about recently. It had all the features I wanted and wasn't super pricey, so I was hoping I could deal with the leather quality and have a new piece of tack without (re-)breaking the bank. The trial run of the bridle was promising. 
So fancy!

This is how it came. It has a padded (non contoured) monocrown, removable flash, wide noseband, simple lines, and ok leather. 

I snagged a d ring french link on the trip and decided to give it a whirl.

I took Cuna out of the barn, tightened the girth, put my stirrups down, and led him to a rock to get on. 

I couldn't believe what I felt when he walked off. He was strong, supple, elastic, forward, and pushing from behind. It was a whole new Cuna! I walked him over to the barn owner and she even remarked she'd never seen him look that good. Old Man felt good too--he was spunky! 

I had already made the executive decision that it would be a walk/trot light hack day just to get everything going again. Cuna felt like a coiled, oiled spring, just ready to go. <3 him! He marched right up the hill and then was a little peevish with me when I wouldn't let him gallop to the top. CUNA NEEDS SPEEDZ!!!!!

Haha. On the way back to the barn, he had Cuna spook #4 of all time giantness at a dead weed on the trail. I believe he relocated 3 of 4 legs. It was pretty hilarious, because he totally wasn't scared of the weed. He just wanted an excuse to move faster. 

We did some walk/trot work in the arena, and Cuna was LOVELY. He wasn't wild about the new bit, but he carried himself beautifully. Wow! 

still pretending he doesn't need a big bit
Back in the barn, I played with his bit arrangement. Because he has a teeny little nosie, the flash wasn't doing anything anyways, and I don't really like how it clutters up his face. I also don't like his pelham with a flash or figure eight because I feel like the curb chain can be interfered with by the lowest strap. 

Ergo, I pulled the removable flash off, put the pelham on, and immediately liked the look a lot better. Plus, the reins seemed a little short for someone's giraffe neck, so the joiners give me a few more inches. 

cuteness overload

And cuddles! I missed my old man this weekend. So glad to be back. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cuna's Big Adventure

Cuna is a super tough 17 year old horse, but he's still 17. I've been ramping up his workload for the past month, and it became obvious that while he wanted to do the work, he really needed some help. I  finagled my way into a truck and trailer for a day and made an appointment to go see the vet. Because this is how life goes at a barn, there was no one going to the vet for the past couple of months when I kept asking to get him a ride, but as soon as I make an appointment, I have a full trailer.

Funny how that works.

We made it! 
Anyways. The trailer I borrowed is a bumper pull, which is a style I haven't worked with in a couple of years. I managed to get it hooked up with some help from a friend, then had the BO check me. I'd only overlooked one tiny detail. Yay!

This was a joint injections trip, which is great. Horses that need joint injections are seasoned campaigners who have loaded in trailers roughly 1,678,876 times and are not going to make a fuss about it. We hopped in and were on the road.

Ears even somewhat pricked! 

The trip there was without incident. I pulled in a few minutes early and got Cuna off the trailer to have a look around.

He was wild.

Although I could barely hold him, I entertained myself by taking cute headshots of him until the vet came out to meet us.

Flexion time
Things went pretty quickly after that. The vet watched Cuna trot in a circle on a hard surface both directions. He then flexed his hocks and had him trot again. He commented on how good Cuna looks and asked about his workload. After checking his files, he identified a plan of action.

Chilling in radiology

I hoped to just sort of meander into the hospital area behind them and ask incessant questions and generally make myself annoying without getting kicked out. After all, good horse owners are supposed to have relationships with their vets, and I barely know the guy because I can't ever get out here. Fortunately, they actually wanted me to help with the horses since I had two with me.

Because he is a total pro, Cuna bravely lead the way into the hospital and was perfectly happy to hang out with me.

Happy... time... 
Next it was time to scrub his hocks thoroughly and give Cuna a sedative. I know they work around all different horses all the time and have to be careful, but I'd bet a small amount of money that they could have done the entire procedure with Cuna wide awake. Even so. Why deprive the old guy of a happy drug trip?

He started falling asleep immediately while the intern scrubbed away. Good thing I was there to restrain the wild beastie!

Proof I wore this goofy thing

On to xrays! It is important to know EXACTLY where to inject, particularly when $400 of my dollars are going straight into his legs. Digital rays make this whole process quick and painless.

Of course, there are all kinds of safety regulations for people. They made me (and everyone else in radiology) wear these crazy lead vests. I didn't tell them that I had roughly 150 xrays of various body parts last summer, and if there is any damage to be done, it's already happened.

Yeah, I'm pretty much a tourist

Just like that, it was injection time. I got to hand Cuna off to the helpful intern and watch them put the first needle in. Poor Cuna--when they put the needle in, fluid dripped out, which means his hocks were inflamed. :-( I knew I shouldn't have let him go full bore up the hill last night, but he really, really wanted to.

Anyways. Cuna didn't move a muscle as they injected both sides of both of his hocks. He's a model patient, really.

Where is the food in this dump?
Once he was done, I led him very slowly out the back down to the holding barn so the drugs could wear off. Cuna was ready to go in minutes, but the other horse took quite a while to come back around.

I let them hang out while I went and paid my (appallingly expensive) bill. I also got Cuna his own tub of powdered bute so we can quit mooching and some magic shampoo to hopefully clean up the gunk on his oh-so-sensitive back legs.

I then loaded them back up and hauled home. Cuna is all set for three days of stall rest and apple-flavored bute. According to our vet, he can go immediately back to full work on Monday. I'm thinking we'll maybe take an easy day or two and see how he feels, but we should be (manageably) rip-roaring around XC next Sunday!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shopping, Round #569709456

I own one horse.

One saddle.

One nice halter.

One girth.

And four bridles.

Currently, I own a Nunn Finer Event Bridle, a Red Barn Matrix figure 8 by KL Select, a Five Star Tack symphony figure eight, and an edgewood bridle. I think the edgewood is boring (not fancy stitched like the picture), but I like the rest of them well enough.

The Nunn Finer is a plain cavesson bridle. Cuna goes in a cavesson and really doesn't need anything else. Since I'm now riding him in two or three different bits, it makes the most sense to me to consolidate the collection and maybe own two bridles I can ride him in, instead of one that I can and three that I like to take out of the bag and play with occasionally.

The most obvious solution would be to just get another Nunn Finer, right? I mean, it's workmanlike, looks great on Cuna, does the job I need, and is quite durable.


I am a tack 'ho and I already have one. Why have two of the same thing when I have this perfect opportunity to diversify the collection?

It's driving me crazy to be stuck in a tack-store-less wasteland. I NEED TO TOUCH ALL THE THINGS!!!!!!!

Based on my internet research, here are the options I'm considering:

1) Nunn Finer round 2.


Already have one.

Do like.

Does work.

The best thing about the Nunn Finer is just how simple and workmanlike it is. Cuna looks completely ridiculous in anything even remotely dressy, and I know this will work on his face.

2) Nunn Finer Galway Bridle

We have one of these in the barn already, so I'm familiar with the quality. It's fine. Not special or cool, but it's practical, workmanlike, and gets the job done. In fact, I have an uber cute picture of Cuna wearing this bridle and some ridiculous giant bit.

I do think the crown design is remarkably stupid--it has the fancy padded crown that's really nicely put together, but the cavesson hanger runs -under- the crown. Really. Just like that.

The other thing I don't like about this bridle is that it was just on tack of the day for like half price and I passed on it, so it would torque me to pay full price for it.

3) Nunn Finer Hampton Bridle

There are a lot of things I don't like about this bridle: I hate hate hate cavesson hangers that run through the crown. I hate the color. I hate raised reins.

That said, I have this weird affection for this bridle. I think it would look horrid on Cuna because it's fancy stitched, but I still like it. 

4) Ovation Wide Noseband Bridle

This one actually hits all the high points. It has a padded monocrown, removable flashed, is havana brown and has my beloved wide noseband. I can get it with reins for about $150. 

The only drawback is that I have no reference point for it's leather quality. I hate cheap leather more than I hate crappy crowns and I loathe spending money on something I can't handle in advance. 

I was really hoping to have a second bridle before the horse trials, but since I'm going to a real tack store this weekend at which I hope to handle actual bridles, I don't want to order before then. By the time we get back, it's probably too late to have it in time. 

PS If you want any of the three I have and don't need, email me. We can chat.

Monday, July 23, 2012

All Quiet

Not much going on at the barn this week--most everyone who jumps is off to the High Desert Classic in Bend. Ok, actually everyone who jumps except me. Sad when you put it that way...

Anyways. Cuna and I are looking forward to a low key week. He's getting his hocks done Thursday, so we did a light hack today, might do a tiny jump school (2'ish) tomorrow, then some easy flat work and hacking on Wednesday.

XC preview
I'm doing my best to not completely freak out. He'll lay off over the weekend to recover, then I'll bring him back just in time to compete at (EEEK!!) our first ever horse trials!

I'm doing my best to feel prepared. We've been working hard on the dressage, kicking butt at the jumping, and with our newly-installed brakes, can probably even put in a safe XC round.

I am now the proud owner of a complete set of quilts and wraps, plus a medical armband. I've checked the attire rules, and should be good to go.

Honestly, having an easy week is probably the best thing for Cuna right now. Otherwise, we'd be tearing through the mountains in the name of fitness and probably just wearing him out. Besides, to run BN, I sort of don't think he needs to be any fitter. At all. Many less fit horses will also complete the course just fine.

Not gonna lie--I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lesson Day

He's flirting. Pretty much the dorkiest thing ever.
Steph is now based at her summer barn in a cooler, wetter environment. I certainly don't blame her for escaping the desert, but I was super excited that she came back for a day and I got a lesson out of it.

I put him in the pelham with a plain cavesson and no martingale, to practice our theoretical show get up.

We started out trotting in, cantering out over a teeny jump. It was a cross rail! Haha, been a while since we'd done one of those. She had me really focus on my position and rhythm, both going in and coming out. I had to be more than just a passenger along for the ride. It was up to me to set the rhythm and tell Cuna where to go. Then we added another crossrail after a nice, loopy turn. Then they went up to verticals.

The final pattern was to canter a 2'3"ish vertical, take a long right hand turn to a one stride made of large verticals, to a long left turn to a bending line of 2'9"ish verticals.

I know when I get tense and worried about a fence, I tend to cluck and chase Cuna to it. I also know that clucking and chasing is a recipe for long and strung out and doesn't help anything.

So. Course. I picked up a canter, sent Cuna forward, then brought him back before the turn to the first fence and settled to a nice, easy distance. He went forward after the jump, which I packaged nicely and kept balanced around the turn. I saw the giant verticals looming, but instead of panicking, I told myself, "This is a fantastic canter on a broke horse. Wait for it to happen."

Magically, he jumped both verticals right out of stride. Again, I balanced him around the turn and settled to the bending line. He jumped softly and in balance.


Oh, and after that particular piece of loveliness, Steph walked up to the highest vertical, pointed out that it was over 3' tall, and said, "That's an actual jump and you rode it great."

Huzzah! I really liked how that one stride felt. For some reason, riding the canter through the turn and settling to the fence and not tensing up and chasing him over it makes for a much smoother round. Who knew, right?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flying Practice

It's not enough to have a giant bit for XC. I have to be familiar with it and know how to use it. Since Cuna doesn't get super strong in the arena and we don't have a cross country course to practice on, I need to recreate the conditions that create his excess of forward, then learn how he, the bit, and I can interact successfully.

He lives in the mountains. We do not have a flat surface on which to attain a reasonably fast gallop, like a track. I do have a certain hill I like to gallop him up, but the physics of running uphill are such that gravity does most of the work and it really isn't that challenging to stop, whether you have a giant bit, a mild bit, or a halter. 

Hm. What I really needed was a long, easy stretch of gently undulating terrain and decent footing on which I could practice letting him go and bringing him back. Over and over. 

Hello ridgeline. There is a skinny ridge that connects some of the nearby hills/mountains. It goes up and down some, but it about as flat as it gets around here. The bonus is that it doesn't just go up one way, down the other. There is some genuine roll to it. 

Plus, since I'm riding Cuna, I don't have to worry too much about a big spook and falling off a cliff when I already have a heights problem. 

Off we went. 

We walked and trotted to where the ridge sort of dead ends into a super steep downhill (think man of snowy river proportions), then turned around to head for home. 

At a gallop. We went down a little dip, roared up a hill, and booked it around a turn towards another downhill. Um. Yeah. Brakes!! I sat up, put my leg up, and used my hands a little. He came back to a nice, balanced canter down the hill, then I let him got forward up the next one. 

A windstorm was coming in and the sky was cool and grey. We ran against the wind up the next hill, half-halted at the top, then soared down to the bottom in a big, swooping turn. Half halt at the bottom, gallop up, then trot down the steep part. 

And so on. It was more like flying high above the valley than riding.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Proper Use of Equipment

As y'all most likely are aware, doing BN cross country at racehorse speeds is generally discouraged. It's for a variety of reasons, but it generally boils down to the fact that it can be quite unsafe for horse and rider. We all know that Cuna is the world's safest jumper and would probably be fine, but since the rules are made to accommodate horses-not-Cuna, it was time to get some brakes.

I wasn't just blindly grasping on this point--since my old man has been around the block more times than I have, I happen to know what bit he used to go XC in. 

Object in picture is larger than it appears
I'm still being overly careful about his legs. Since heat+sand+boots=rubs, the old man is going exclusively in polos. We'll see how much longer I can stand all the wrapping, unwrapping, washing, and re-rolling. There is definitely a reason boots were invented.
So handsome

For various reasons, I'm not using my regular bridle. I bought this one back in March with Cuna in mind, but then hated how it looked on him. I think it's grown on me--with the giant bit, he looks like a mean bastard horse in a motorcycle gang. Win! It's a good look for XC anyways.

The bit is a happy mouth mullen pelham that I'm using joiners on. It is a long-term goal of mine to learn to ride with two reins, particularly for show jumping, but there is no way that will happen in time for the horse trials which are the first weekend of August. 

Don't let the wet marks fool you. He's not that sweaty just walking. Since I was riding around mid-day, when the bugs are bad, he's completely drenched in fly spray. It really does help.
That poll is starting to flex. Yay!

I borrowed a broken rubber pelham for our first show together. It went sideways because I was afraid of the bit and didn't know what to do with it. I'm determined not to have that happen this time around. We are using this bit/bridle for all things jumping and hacking from now til August. He's actually fine with it, but I need to know how to use it and how it changes my ride.
Say Cheese!

Cuna, of course, thought it was completely ridiculous that such an innocent old man horse would need a contraption like this on his head. I mean, it's he all soft and responsive and good all the time?

Ha. Most of the time, Cuna. Only most.
Teeny lil jumps

 Since there were some nice and inviting jumps already set up, we had a go. As you can see, he was not terribly impressed by the bounces.

The feel wasn't terribly different, but the leverage definitely gave me some stopping power after the jumps. Interesting. 
You can say it. We look good.

And yes, this is what I would define as 'an inviting little jump' for us right now. It's a 2'7"ish vertical. Conveniently, that's the BN max height.

I like this picture. Our eyes are up and forward. My release is good, his ears are pricked, and his knees are square.

Almost as exciting was the ride after. We were headed for the gate and home, and he landed running. Thanks to a definitive ride and a new giant bit, he came back to me in just a couple strides instead of the whole length of the arena.

Just a couple strides? You mean like we could maybe actually balance in time for a related distance? Like on a novice course?

Oh my.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Someone is adorable. And tired.
Because I had yet to receive a massive to do list for today, I grabbed Cuna first thing after feeding and turnouts and headed for the hills. We had an awesome dressage lesson Sunday, a quick (in order not to die of heat) flat ride yesterday, and I needed to get out of the arena for a bit.

You may notice our spiffy equipment. My plain cavesson bridle is still at the tack store because of an issue yesterday. This bridle has martingale stops and looks reasonably cute on him, so it came today instead.

Despite the bridle kerfuffle, I did end up with a running martingale yesterday. Today was the first time trying it out. I'm 1000% certain that a certain old red horse who runs around with his nose in the air while flipping his head has worn one before, so I didn't bother to take the time to introduce it like I would on a horse I was less sure of.

I made sure it was loose enough that it only came into effect when he was completely inverted and awkward, and we were off. It was almost weird--our Sunday butt kicking did a lot to alter his frame and my understanding of what was acceptable. Monday reinforced that we could do it without someone guiding us every step.

Today? I think I only really used the martingale 3 or 4 times on an hour long trot set. The whole point was just that I could cruise along and not fight with him in our brainless time.

Wow. He rode like a whole different horse. That extra bit of engagement and focus totally changed my ride. No more careening down hills like a camel. No more looking everywhere but at the trail and stumbling constantly. Win!

I do need to punch some more holes in that bridle, though. The figure eight is just pretty decor on his tiny head.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Calamities Strike!

But I want it now!! 
Like any responsible tack 'ho, I came home from the show, scouted out the best possible sale price, and ordered Cuna a new XC bit. Unfortunately, it was the 4th of July week. My bit is now scheduled to arrive the day after a I leave town for a non-horsey trip. Nooooooo!!

A month(ish) ago, I'd ordered a bridle plate for my every day bridle. It came in to the local tack store. I took my bridle in to have the plate put in, and the manufacturer-included rivets are too small to go through the leather. The tack store is hunting down replacements, but I left my bridle with them. That means I only have the three or four at home to play with!

Gratuitous cute Cuna photos
I did manage to run down a martingale locally, but I forgot to buy rein stoppers. I'm pretty sure I have some on one of my bridles at home. Here's hoping...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where Dressage Kicks my Butt

I've been working so hard on jumping with Cuna and making so much progress in both technical ability and mental confidence that I pretty much completely overlooked the entire dressage aspect of eventing. Our first ever dressage test together was literally in the show arena. We got a 38, which I was perfectly happy with. All our scores were between 5 and 7, so nothing terrible, nothing great.

The winner of our division had a 22. He could have had a refusal and several time penalties and still beaten us.

Not ok.

One of Steph's clients is out of the saddle for a bit recuperating. She can't ride for a while yet, wants a way to connect with horses, and gives great lessons. Win! She came out and kicked my butt this morning. Ouch.

Here's the rundown:

Cuna has been allowed to go like a camel by the kids riding him for the last few years. He cannot do that any more. Even just walking on a loose rein, he must look like a horse. No bulging underline, no running on the forehand, no trailing his whole body behind a poking-out nose.

LEG ON. When I feel like I just need to sit still and not change anything, that's when I'm about to lose the whole horse. I need to keep 50% more feel in my legs than I do in my hands. Half halts need to go leg, core, hand. Hopefully soon just leg and core.

Hands still. Cuna doesn't mind contact, but moving hands piss him off. I can run my pinkies through my breastcollar if need be, but I have to keep my hands still.

Elbows bending. I tend to lock my elbows and bounce my hands which is neither pretty nor useful. Once I have quieted my hands, my elbows will have to bend. Allow this. Focus on this.

Small circles are my friend. Cuna is long and inflexible. These help him supple and step through with his hind legs with a minimum of fighting and fussing by me. In addition, I can use an opening inside rein for a couple of strides to help show him how to bend his neck and get him into my outside rein.

Spiral in/spiral out. We did a lot of this. It forced me to ride Cuna on a smaller circle using my legs, then REALLY half halt him, then move him out complete with hind end cross over. It's hard for him right now (and killer for me, lol) but it will get prettier. Maybe not easier, definitely prettier.

All in all, Cuna can be a rocking dressage horse. I need to start retraining his muscle memory and demanding that he follow through.

Extra notes: it may be beneficial to go in a loosely adjusted running martingale for now, especially out hacking. It will help me remind him to walk like a horse without either of us getting too fussy.

I need to spend 5-10 minutes pretty much every ride with a jumping bat through my thumbs to get my hands up and properly aligned. I tend to ride with my hands flat, which is unattractive, ineffective, and annoying to Cuna.

Furthermore, I need to be spending abut that much time without stirrups to build my leg, core, and balance.

Eventually, the above two exercises will be done together.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Year Check In

Looking through the new set of uber exciting XC pics reminded me of the last set that was taken. After going through them, I thought it was worthwhile to look at a couple side by side to see the difference a year can make. 


In the interest of the best comparison I can possibly make, I tried to select three similar shots from each set. This one just shows a general snapshot of my position and ability at the time of the picture.

General position June 2011. Admittedly, this was really, really stressful for us, so my position might be slightly worse than normal, but not too much. My stirrups are too long and I'm generating all her momentum from my seat, so I throw my body at her in the air to catch up. Not pretty.

General position June 2012. We are comparing apples to apples here. I'm stressed because (I don't know it yet but) I'm going over my first ever novice-height jump. Still. Look at the change. My upper body is much more open, since I'm riding from my leg. I'm balanced over my feet and I'm not just waiting to grab him in the mouth when we land. I could be in a more defensive position since this is XC, but it's fairly pretty.

Also. Damn. I look way better now.


I'm certainly not claiming to have ever jumped a "big" jump by professional standards, but these shots of representative of something that really pushed me, especially height-wise.

June 2011. It's a little log pile (that did look suspiciously larger last time I saw it). My body position tells you I'm terrified, tight, and riding poorly. Izzy's head position tells you I kept catching her in the mouth, preventing her from stretching. Overall, a very unhappy picture.

June 2012. While it isn't the biggest or most technical thing we jumped, the cabin was the jump I came to the lesson saying, "It will be hard, but I think we can do this."

I actually love my balance over this fence--chest open, slightly behind the motion, leg forward, hands giving. It's a little too defensive for the average showjump, but it's just right for us at this fence.


Ok, so you thought the differences were marked over solid fences. Ha! The banks are the most teling part. What interests me most here is the fact that I've always been pretty comfortable with banks. I just don't think they're all that difficult or scary and I never have. While stress and nerves might explain some of the differences in the previous shots, I was quite calm for this.

June 2011. Up bank. I actually love this picture because I love how Izzy looks in it. I love her square knees, her pricked ears, and her attacking this situation confidently.

I'm a mess. Again, leg in a different county, body hurled forward, super awkward hands. I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish here, but it's neither pretty nor safe.

June 2012. It's not 100% the same shot since this bank is up out of water, but it's the same idea. I'm still a little bit ahead of where I'd like to be on him--I've let my shoulders go a bit forward and seem to be pinching my knees somewhat, which is ick. That said, I have a nice long rein, hips back in balance, and am mostly waiting with my position.

I'm by no means perfect now and I certainly see things in the recent shots that I want to improve, but I love how I can see the progress I've made. The #1 important change was getting myself on an appropriate horse and #2 super obvious change was getting ourselves into a more or less regular training program. I take several lessons a month and then really concentrate on improving myself in between. #3 obvious change is in personal fitness. Breaking my jaw really was the kickstart I needed to begin eating better, which has complemented the exercise really well.

I hope next year I can write a similar post and show just as much improvement. :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Delivered As Promised

Woohoo!! XC pics are in!

They are from the lesson and not from the world's faster BN course, but they actually make us look reasonably competent.

This one is a little deceptive--we are actually jumping a much smaller cabin to the left of the one you can see. Looks like Cuna would clear either one with aplomb though, doesn't it?

 This was the giant log with a flowerbox in the top that I thought looked huge. Incidentally, it was the first novice jump of the day.

As you can see, Cuna is pretty much just cantering over it without being too impressed.

The tack 'hos of the world are probably sharing a collective gasp that one of their own is running xc in nothing but bell boots. Trust me, I was equally apalled. In the shuffle of packing while Cuna was lame, I completely forgot the fancy XC boots (because lame horses don't jump) and I didn't want to risk the neoprene on a recent rub. Thankfully, Cuna is the world's most careful horse and he was fine without the boots. We did manage to borrow a pair for Sunday.

Going for a gallop to the sunken road. This was the first jump where I realized that Things were going to be alright. We had to canter through the sunken road and then jump an A frame (that looked massive) coming out. I was so concerned and Cuna just took me to the fence and answered the question without evening waiting for my input. 
 Out of the sunken road, over the A Frame. This is also when I began to grasp that I might not have enough bit in. It took nearly a whole lap of the field to get him to soften enough to come back to me. Hmm.

This was novice question #3 of the day. I had no idea.
 By now, I had a pretty good grasp that all I had to do was point and shoot. I'd never jumped this before and it looks a little funny, but it's also BN sized and kind of non threatening, so we just cantered right over.
I'll leave you with this: the bank out of water. I've always wanted a good water/spray picture, and now I definitely have it. I had forgotten how cool it was to trot and canter through the water--pretty trippy, really. It's like slow motion, only you're going full speed.

:D Can't wait til next time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Derby/Clinic Recap

Thursday seemed normal enough--I got to the barn early and spent time packing up trunks and loading the trailers to go. When I was pretty much ready, I pulled Cuna out for a quick hack. It was hot, I was tired, and I didn't plan to do much. After a nice, long walking warmup, I picked up the trot and noticed one thing:

Cuna was not sound.


It took an interesting circle of phone calls to a variety of people, but I and another client loaded Cuna and another show-bound horse up, hauled to the vet where we met the farrier, had a shoe reset, and we were off.

Completely unconcerned
Cuna took to the show grounds like the old pro he is. He is literally the least complicated horse in the world. Off trailer, into stall, happy.

Because our show organizer had broken her hand just two weeks prior to the big day, I had been helping her out with paper work and typing. We selected the first clinic group on Friday based more on who was going to be there at 8am (show is 3 hours from civilization) than strictly by ability level. Hence, Cuna and I were riding in a BN group with several other capable people, despite the fact we were entered to run the intro class on Sunday (2'3").

Ignore my position and note the tiny fences
I'll be honest: aside from a scary fall by one of the people in our group, it was boring. I mean, we were coming off the bomb diggity jumping lesson on Wednesday with rollbacks and angles and extension and collection and now we were jumping a nice little grid. I think the tallest jump was 2'9" and Cuna can do grids in his sleep.

Still, I knew I would be a little bored at this level--it's not the show jumping that's the problem. We hung with it and worked on tweaking little position issues.

Boss horse has got this

Again, because I was helping out the organizer, I didn't have a ton of time to wander the courses and get a feel for what Saturday and Sunday would be like. Ok, I really didn't have any time at all. I kept myself busy and when I was free, I'd get Cuna out and handgraze him.

Just hang on, Mom
Saturday morning came bright and early. I was nervous, but I managed to keep it all in my head. We talked about the basics of cross country riding--staying close to the tack, sitting before fences, staying behind the motion, and then we got started. The other girls went first--they were true BN riders, entered to ride it the next day. They went over a crossrail (position review), around to a little log (warm up), down a long stretch (develop rhythm), over a bigger, scary log, and then jumped a low section of fence out to the road (technical) and then back in to the field we were starting in.

It looked scary to me, especially the big log. I was sure I would just have to jump the teeny log a couple of times, but Steph sent us out to do the same course. I reminded myself to give Cuna a good ride and stay behind him. The crossrail was insignificant, the little log easy, the big log scary but he jumped awesome, and the road jump was tricky but good. I cantered past our working student on the road and she gave me a funny look but didn't say anything.

Paddling our way around the field
In the next field we jumped a cabin, a giant A frame coming out of a sunken road, and a gate with a rail over it. Then we did another A frame (with scary straw bales underneath!!), a ditch, and a coop. Then we did up and down banks (albeit larger than I had done before), water crossings, banks out of water, more ditches, and funny looking log jump. The other girls also jumped some sort of giant tiger trap thing. Steph asked if I wanted to, and I shook my head. "THAT is huge. It's a novice jump, and we are just doing intro."

So we didn't do it. After I got off, I decided that I probably should have because Cuna was jumping great and I was riding well and we could have made it, but whatever. Maybe next time.

Picture from SJ lesson
I spent a couple hours in the afternoon taking pictures of my barnmates' cross country lessons. Most of the jumps were already marked and numbered for the derby on Sunday. As I walked past the jumps, I slowly began to realize something...


The whole time, we were jumping novice fences. The ones I said no to (the tiger trap, a ramp, another coop) were actually training.



I waffled for a couple minutes, thought about how boring the show jumping was on Friday, and then decided to move up to beginner novice for the show. 

Super cute after dressage

So, on to Sunday. We were set to ride at 8.18 for dressage, one of the first rides of the day. Cuna warmed up great (for us) and off we went. He wasn't quite as forward as I thought he'd be, but he was mostly quite good and I rode ok. I thought it was a great test until I saw the video. Haha. What I think is "round" on him, isn't. We pony-nosed the whole thing. Oh well. We had never even ridden a practice test before, and we did all the movements in the correct order, so I was quite happy with it.

I then threw all my energy into volunteering until it was time to get ready to ride cross country. I needed to just not think about it for a while. After all, jump #6 was a huge roll top a few strides away from the water and I didn't know how Cuna would deal with it.

When I got on, we had a brief warmup in which he was completely super. He was a little up (for him), and definitely knew what game we were playing. Still, we did a lot of transitions and moving off my leg, then hopped over both the practice fences, and all seemed well. As I rode into the start box, I focused on my line to the first jump and the line after instead of the growing feeling of nausea. The whole course was pretty twisty/turny with just two big galloping stretches (in which I planned to transition down to trot and back to keep him from getting too excited.

Uh huh. We cantered nicely over the first jump and landed going forward. As we headed to the bank, I realized I'd never cantered one before, but he was locked on. Up bank, around a turn, into water, out of water, another bank. At this point we needed a roll back turn (nailed it) to get to the GIANT ROLLTOP. If all went according to plan, we'd have four straight strides to get there.


Cuna accelerated out of the roll back. I didn't want to take my leg off and pull back, so I went with it, jammed my heels down, and stayed well behind him. We had one straight stride, and then he took a MASSIVE FLYING LEAP. I gave a cowboy whoop as we landed and cantered through the water. HE WAS ON FIRE!!!!

The next field was easy enough until we started the galloping stretch and I realized just how ineffective a little Dr Bristol eggbutt is on a horse that likes to get strong on XC. My arms felt like falling off and we were only halfway through. Ok, no brakes, so roll with it. Since we'd conquered the giant rolltop, there was no way in hell I was going to circle (derbies follow SJ rules: circle=refusal). We booked it across the road, jumped the cabin out of stride, GALLOPED across the field, jumped the giant scary log, hauled ass through the sunken road, sailed over the cabin, and I very quickly had a problem on my hands:

The last four jumps were showjumping fences.

You know, narrow, they fall down, tight turns, etc.

And no brakes. We steeplechased over the first jump. I yelled "WHOOOOOA" and pulley-reined on him with everything I had, which was admittedly not much. We came back down to about 400 or 450 mpm, which is way, way, WAY too fast for itty bitty 2'6" jumps, but it was better than what we were doing. We made the next two tights turns and jumps in a way that was only non-terrifying because it was Cuna and he is a super safe jumper.

I had this great plan for the last jump (hard left turn to a max height scary gate, 4 straight strides). Ha. We made the turn(ish) but that left one one straight stride to a jump that might be spooky. I locked my leg on and yelled "You can do it Old Man!!"

And he did.

As we galloped through the finish flags, I dropped the reins and was instantly walking calmly across the field. His old owner was the EMT on site, and so she got to see the end of the course. I bragged about how super he was as I fed him peppermints, pulled his tack off, and thoroughly hosed him down.

I'm not saying our cross country issues are gone (and clearly I have a braking problem), but I had no idea what it was like to ride a horse who knew his job.

<3 Cuna.

Did I mention we won a ribbon? We totally did. I think we were 9th or 10th after dressage, but our jumping moved us up to 5th overall. Yay!We're keeping the streak alive of placing at every show. Ultimately, not a huge deal, but super fun for someone who was NEVER competitive until Mr. Matata came along.

PS Excellent news: I don't think there are any show pics, but there are definitely some awesome shots from our XC lesson. I'll keep you posted.

Cuna's old owner and us.
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