Thursday, August 17, 2017

Smoke and Stanton

Short flap= funny looking pads.
With all the state around us (and us as well) on fire, it has been basically like living in chimney around here. Upon returning from Montana, I had a migraine everyday for two weeks. It was miserable. That, combined with 100+ degree weather, made for very short ride/work periods. Between trying out a new dressage saddle (details to follow) and AniMed Histall, Bacon was feeling pretty great though. Soft and relaxed and quiet, even jumping bareback over 3'6" with her schooling dressage bridle.
Right where the rein goes. Oof.
We made the drive up on Thursday. It was still smokey and hot as balls, but everyone traveled well and Bacon quite enjoyed her stall. It is a struggle to keep her relaxed in all parts of life, but she seemed very content. After a while, we saddled up and hopped on. Here is where I should probably tell you a different story. I recently cancelled my health insurance to be put on my husband's work insurance plan. When I went to pick up my prescriptions, I realized I was never given a new card, so I had to leave them there. I asked hubs if he ever got a card, and puzzled, he said no. After further investigation, his company decided that he had declined insurance. Even though he selected a plan for us both, including dental and vision, and the amount to be withdrawn out of his check. This left Blake pissed, because they couldn't "do anything about it" until January. So, this trip has been sans drugs. Which was not good...
Grass on the right, alfalfa on the left, happiness in the middle.
We started out having a nice easy hack through the woods, but that plan was cut short when we ran out of trails and started ending up on property with no trespassing signs. Eventually, we ended up back at the warm up ring. Since this show was Training A, I wanted to give it a whirl because Bacon and I had never run through it before. Bacon was exactly being cooperative, which made riding for me more difficult. I kept getting bad side cramps and having to stop and try to relax. The finger that she had ripped the skin off of was burning under my glove, because even though it was healing, it kept cracking back open. I made another attempt at the last canter and stopped when I felt a sharp pop by my ribs. It was stinging and making it hard to breathe, and I don't know what caused the tremors to come out, but they came full force. I laid my head on Bacon's neck and tried to breathe through it all, with E coming over to check on me. She works in hospice, and noted that I looked like an end stage Parkinson's patient. It was the worst feeling. Once I was a little more stable, we headed back to the barns.
I have determined by this point that this is not going to go well.

At least we have good outfits?
Blake was concerned with me competing after that episode, but I am a stubborn turd. I don't know if it was the heat, smoke, no meds, or combo, but it didn't leave me feeling great. Especially with this show being a one day. I slept hard but woke up early on Friday. Bacon was calm and happy. I took her out for another prep to see if the same thing was going to happen. It was slightly cooler, and Bacon was feeling a little more generous. We worked through the test again, as well as stretchy trot and our lengthenings. And those damn transitions. I was able to ride without dying, so we were good to go for Saturday.
Pleeeaaase cooperate.

Our lengthening. At least she didn't break to the canter and increased her step.
Come Saturday morning, I got Bacon braided all up and headed out for our test. Warm up went really really well. I was so pleased with how soft and quiet she was, happily trotting around stretching on a loose rein and listening to my seat and legs. Even when we kept getting cut off by a crazy appaloosa lady. Like, almost T-bone collisions because she was all over the place. Oi. Soon, it was our turn to head down the trail to the show rings. Bacon was chilled waiting for our turn, and we headed in. Unfortunately, the second I entered the ring, all hope was lost. That calm and relaxed pony I had vanished, and I was sitting on an excited pogo stick who was constantly on edge for a canter transition. She forgot what straightness was, or that there was a person on her. The only time she remembered I was there was when I would half halt and ask for anything, and she would decline. NO, I don't want to bend. NO, I don't want to soften or slow down. NOOOOO NOT LISTENING.
Oh boy

My big bay turkey
I am not sure if she has learned that I can't really get after her in there, or if I am giving off some nervous vibe (probably). But I swear I was confident and excited to go in there after that lovely warm up, only to be frustrated with the tension I had to battle. I came out of the ring, flustered, with more side cramps, and knowing we would be at the bottom of the pack. We were a decent last place with a 42.6. I know I can get a nice test in there, it happened at Camelot, I just don't know how to replicate it. Back to the drawing board.
Tight neck. 
Oh hey, looks like I am about to fall off the side. That's good.
Also, a side note. If everyone could send positive thoughts to my mom, that would be very appreciated. She will most likely be going into hospice care, and I am just broken. Thank you very much.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rebecca Farm: Stadium Round

Ooooo cutting it close there, lady
Yes, you may have seen that I attended ANOTHER recognized event this past weekend, and I haven't even finished telling you about the last one. I'm too slow. I apologize. So let's dive into our last competition day at Rebecca. Stadium day (AKA ahhhhh). Fricken colored sticks.
Yep, there goes a rail
Bacon was pretty peaceful in her stall and I unwrapped her to see what present I would have. Her knee looked good as new, with no swelling, heat or anything to be seen. I took her out for a long walk and had hubs jog her for me. She was bouncing and sassy, totally sound and ready to go. I still held my breath, wondering what to do. I had planned to take her out to warm up and see how she felt and go from there. Perhaps I should have pulled her, looking back, but you aren't living if you aren't making mistakes and learning from them.
The better combo
We didn't ride until later that afternoon again. The course walked fairly well, with a few things I knew that might cause some trouble. I'm looking at you, one stride combo. And long approaches to lonely verticals. The footing was amazing though, and I was prepared to pop around that course to close out our competition. I got my girl tacked up and hopped on. Again, total commotion and choas abound around us, and she moseyed through it all. I believe I even had to kick her some to not walk like a drugged turtle so we could get to the arena.
Jump number 1. Not her normal enthusiastic self.

Well, at least we looked good over one? Well, she did.
Listen here, horse. You must use your butt and settle through the one stride.
She warmed up well and was listening too. She felt even and quiet underneath me, and our approaches to our jumps were met without rushing. This probably should have been my red flag, but I was assuming that maybe she was being polite and just a touch tired from our long journey. She always pulls me along to the jump the last couple of strides, so it was a little hard for me to adjust my riding to a horse that didn't do that. Soon enough, it was our turn to enter the ring.
One of the lonely verticals. It wasn't the problem.
We came around to that first jump, which Bacon normally jumps larger than the others, and hit it. I was a little shocked, especially for an oxer, but pressed her towards the next jump, squeezing and holding her to it. Again, another rail came down. I was perplexed. Normally if this mare hits a fence, she doesn't do it again. We careened around to jump three, and finally cleared that one with room to spare. Four was the one stride combo, five clear but ugly, and then we took another rail at six. I was so used to her never taking a rail, so my brain fogged up at each one before I realized we had another fence coming up. We made it through the rest of the course, her saving me still because I can't see a damn distance to save my life. I gave her a good pat and pondered what the hell just happened.
Going into the two stride.
My friend came over to check in with us, and she looked down. Bacon's knee was big again. Horrified, I hopped off, gave Bacon a hug and walked her back to the barn. Was it big when I went into the ring? I caused this. How stupid of me. I cried and hugged her some more, but she just sighed and smiled for a cookie. I started icing her and thought about it all. I do think she was a little tired, and I do think the twisted snaffle backed her off a bit, but I think the knee was a major factor in the performance. I've talked to three different vets about it, and not one has been bothered by it, but I have another vet coming out this Friday to see what she says. And looking at our video, I can see the knee was big when we went into the ring. I'm still a little bit of a mess about it, but trying to look forward.
Annnnnd the awkward last jump. My fault.
There must have been some other carnage in the show jump ring, because we still ended in 12th place. I was very proud of how she dealt with the atmosphere and how she completed everything asked of her. Except downward transitions, but you know, those are dumb. She still had pep in her step the next day and never showed any lameness with the knee. I don't even know. All I know is, I am lucky to have her. And someday, maybe I will be a decent pilot for her.
Pony love
The best smile around.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tackling Rebecca's Training Course

In the start box! Long legs McGee
It's been two weeks now since Bacon and I were out galloping in Montana's big skies, but I can still remember it quite clearly. Walking the course, I was actually a little dissapointed. I am guessing since the Young Riders Championships were there, that took most of the main focus. There were many jumps we shared with novice, which made the jump sizes vary greatly. We started with a weenie jump and then a cabin, then a nice sized table to a fair sized trakhener. It made it a little harder for the horses to read, as the jumps were constantly changing size. I was constantly throwing glances at the training 3-days' jumps, as they looked more appropriate and way more fun.
First jump!

I'm sorry for the tiny pictures, but it's all I have. 

The first element of the coffin.
No matter though, I was still happy to be able to go out there and tackle it. Just the atmosphere alone at Rebecca can throw some ponies through a loop. You are surrounded by that famous Montana sky, giant fields, many colorful themed jumps, loud speakers and lots of horses and people all around. I wasn't sure if that was going to affect Bacon or not, so that stayed on my mind. I didn't write the course off either, as the trakhener was very shaded and headed towards a bunch of bushes and brush jumps, and the line we chose was to ride between a tight hole in the brush. Originally, I was going to ride around the outside of all of it after the trakhener, but a trainer suggested that the "hole" made a better line for the brush combination jumps we had ahead. Having only walked that line once, I was super worried I was going to get lost back there and head towards the wrong thing. All I remembered was go right and find the hole. There was also a rolltop in the water, and Bacon had never jumped a water jump before. I didn't fear too much, but it was still important to keep that it mind. Also, there was a jump up a small incline between the trees, and a sharp right hand turn into another tree tunnel, with about three strides to the tightest and largest corner that we would ever jump. The element of surprise and the narrowness of the jump definitely had my heart racing.
Steeplechase!

Cabins are run.

And the water jump!
It was warm and windy, and my ride time was late in the afternoon. I had concerns about getting tired, dehydrated and breathing. Whenever it is windy, my asthma cranks up and I get a lot of cramping in my ribs as well. The cramping came out during warm up, but fortunately, Bacon was being wonderful. I hate that I have to use a bigger bit, but it means no longer yanking on her to get her attention (or not kill us) and she doesn't lean on me the whole time. It has been a win so far. I told E, who was helping me in warm up, that she was going to kill me if she kept having me jump and then it was my turn to head in. The announcer was laughing at my big smile, and Bacon waited patiently for the count down.
Going too fast. My new theme for the year.

Tiny table.
Out of the box we went! The first three jumps were nice and easy. Coming up to the trakhener, I made sure to ride her in a nice and steady canter, and she didn't even think about hesitating. Which is great, considering that jump took out more people than anything. Next I guided her right and was able to find the hole for our brush combo. I got her in a little ugly to the second part of that, but she gets us out of crappy situations quite well. I smiled and said "HI" to one of the photographers as we galloped by and headed towards a nice sized table. That jumped well, and off to the first water we went. We had a tiny speed bump of a log before entering, and a small hanging log out. Perfect. Off to the coffin we went, and Bacon jumped it three to two, which is exactly how I walked it. The last jump in the coffin was fairly skinny and on a bending two, but she hit it great. Weeee across the field to our steeplechase jump!
First angled cabin in the combo.

And over the last jump.
After flying over that, I let her keep cooking towards our next cabin and the water jump. The water jump walked as a two stride from the edge, and she hit that perfect as well. We started to haul ass towards the trickiest line on course, the corner combo, before I remembered that hauling ass was not the answer. The first jump rode well, and Bacon and I wiggled our way to the corner. It caught her by surprise a little, but with some encouragement, she jumped right over and off we went. Good horse! Next was our laughable tiny table, and then an angled cabin two stride combo. She had no problem with those either. We were getting close to home and I finally looked at my watch. Whoa! Too fast. I slowed her down towards the dog jump (Skully's favorite). We made our way to the last jump, a flower ramp, and I don't know what happened to my body over that, but it was awkward. Through the finish ribbons we went, coming in at 5:10, with OT being 5:30. Good enough for me!
An evil evil corner.
Skully and her fav jump. The barrels are full of real dog biscuits, free for the taking.
So many pats and praises were awarded to the best cross country mare that ever was. She was not even tired. A nice volunteer handed me some water and my friends came over to help me. I hopped off, lost my balance and had to hang onto the stirrup so I didn't fall on the ground. I was very tired. My awesome friends took over cooling off my girl while I tried to catch my breath and settle down the tremors. The cool down was rather quick and we headed back to the barn. Cookies were given and icing began, and we saw her right knee. :( It was the same knee that had issues back at the Spokane derby this spring. It was filled with fluid. We iced her, poulticed and wrapped her all up and weren't sure what to think of that. Home girl was mowing down her food and happily went for many walks as I looked for any hint of lameness. None was to be found, but how would she look and feel tomorrow? I began to worry.
The look of...flamingos. 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Glacier and Dressage Day

What magic looks like.
On Monday, we headed out to Glacier National Park. This was my first visit there, and it is BEAUTIFUL. The views were incredible the whole drive through the park until we got to Lunch Creek. We hiked along the melting snow flowing down the mountain, with wildflowers popping up all around us. I am always at the back of the pack, because you know, arthritis and asthma make hiking a little more difficult. But we still trekked right along.
The start of the hike.
Headed toward the first waterfall. Apparently it was a blue kind of day.


Made it to the first one!
We got to the first waterfall, but kept on going. Up above it was a great big bowl surrounding you. I was hoping the edge of the mountain side was going to be dotted with mountain goats or big horn sheep, but I couldn't see any. But far off in the distance was another waterfall. So we boogied towards it so two of the boys could get under it. I went and stood next to a small fall and that was cold enough! We also hung out with a rock chuck of some sort. But my legs were dying and we still needed to ride our ponies later that day. Uphill is pretty hard on the lungs, but downhill feels like someone is stabbing me in the knees.
See that waterfall in the back? That's the second one.

Hey there, buddy.

One of the boys by some frozen water hell.
Our ride that day was not great. It started out as a nice hack through the canola field and Bacon was excellent through there. But when we got to the arena, she lost that nice relaxation and I worked through some of her tenseness. In the end, she put in some nice stuff and called it good. Tuesday was another long and tense ride, but again we ended with work I was happy with.
Next to a smaller fall. Good enough. Fricken cold.
Nope. Don't sign me up.


The fast way to get back down. Warning: hands will freeze, warming them on the rocks is best. 

Snow slide!
Wednesday was dressage day. Based on my couple of rides there, I knew I wanted a fairly long warm up and I wanted to start with a nice, calm hack through the canola. We were all alone out there, and it felt very nice. Well, except for the deer that was out there, but Bacon did not care about it. Or the bird that flew at her face. I thought maybe we would have a nice test. We got to the ring and checked in, with the gate keeper asking if I wanted to go in early for my test. I told her no, I would like to stick with my ride time because Bacon needed as long of a warm up as possible. We were out there for about 5 minutes when they called me over and told me that I needed to head over to bit check. I was confused, but headed over. Once checked, they told me I could go in and do my test. I looked at the clock sitting there and it was 22 minutes before my test. Ummm. No?
It looks like we were starting out ok.

I think we got an overbent remark for this. 

Stupid saddle of doom.
I asked if I could head back to warm up because I wasn't going to go until my ride time and they told me no. I asked if I could ride in front of the dressage ring like I had seen other people doing, and was told no. I could only ride in the grass next to the ring. Unfortunately, the grass area isn't really meant for riding and is very uneven and shaped a little like a skate ramp. Any bit of relaxation I had with Bacon vanished as I tried to get her to soften and bend. I was frustrated, especially with one particular rider who kept buzzing up behind us and making things worse, so I just entered into the ring a few minutes before my test.
This is not how we do a downward?

At least our outfit is good?

She likes her freewalk. Need more stretch out, but I'll take this.
This was probably one of our worst tests to date. Bacon was bracing from the start and wanted nothing to do with downward transitions or remaining soft or bending or any of that. I felt like I was riding a vibrating board and just aiming it at letters and hoping it would cooperate. I tried to have a little longer rein, as that usually helps a lot for keeping some relaxation, but I think that may have hindered some. Our stretchy trot was the worst, as she likes to race around on the forehand and cut in the circle anyways. But there was no putting the head down and stretching, just very awkward speeding around the circle and me just trying to get through it. A stark difference from Camelot.
Nah, I don't want to put my head back down. That's dumb.

Canter was mostly downhill, but there was a little bit of good in there.
We ended the day with a 42.3 and nearly last place. I am pretty competitive and I knew that crappy score was coming, so I didn't want to know until after xc where we were. I think a few factors were at play here (I do not like the saddle I am borrowing at all, tense horse naturally, not a long enough warm up) but I think the biggest was being called over so early and not allowed to go back into any ring for continued warm up. I wish I was a more effective rider at getting Bacon to relax, but I am not there yet. I am incredibly thankful for the volunteers everywhere there, but I am not sure these ones understood how it all works and seemed a little peeved that I wanted to wait until my ride time. But, it is what it is now, and I can try to learn from it to better prepare for future shows. Sorry Bacon!
Moving during halt, because we wanted the hell out of there.