Monday, September 18, 2017

Aspen Farms: Grand Finale

If you think I was ulcering up for xc, you would be surprised to find that my stomach had turned into just a ball of acid by the time show jumping had rolled around. Saturday night, after returning late from the show party, we saw that the course was set up and proceeded to walk it in the dark. I probably should have just waited to walk it until the morning because I just laid awake thinking about the course all night long. This bending line to that bending line. Would she lock onto one of the other jumps while going through the bending lines? Could I get her to the base of the triple bar? Could I get her to ride that first line in six? What about that vertical to oxer in the last combo?

It was taxing. My friends' say I am a lot like Bacon and sometimes I don't see it. But thinking about that, and seeing how I worry about any and everything like a certain bay mare, I can see where they get that idea from. We walked it again in daylight, this time with E's trainer, and I tried to keep up and listen for the pieces that would fit Bacon and I's ride. We watched the advanced riders go, who all made the course look easy, but almost all took the same vertical down, and I went off to braid my horse. E got to watch a couple of the prelim riders go and stated that a certain oxer was also getting a lot of horses because they weren't being ridden forward to it, so I put that in my memory bank as well. Soon it was time to tack up and head over.

Bacon warmed up like a dragon in heat. I figured she would be a tad tired by now, but I guess not. She was jumping fairly well, but was strong and her haunches were doing a special dance going all directions. I was struggling, as my body began to radiate pain weirdly throughout. Not just my normal joint or muscle pain. I don't even know how to describe it. I just knew it wasn't happy. But it was time for us to go in. I did not ride to the first jump totally forward, which screwed up our distance to the second jump. I buried her at the second fence, causing a rail. That flustered me for a second, body getting heavier and more painful with each stride as I shook it off and tried to get us in balance for the triple bar.

As we went around the course, I could tell things were getting worse. I remembered to ride forward to the oxer at four and Bacon jumped it well. She jumped cleanly over the vertical that everyone was taking down, which took me by surprise and then caused me to pick a poor line to our first combo and she jumped it awkwardly, but clean. Right at jump seven, my chest squeezed tight, I gasped and my body stung. Bacon hit the rail hard, but it stayed. I don't remember much of the course from here. I just basically steered her towards the rest of the jumps and she did what she was supposed to do. She finished the course off nicely, and we ended with our four jump faults. She calmly walked out of the ring, a totally different horse from warm up as I looked around for help.

E asked how the course rode as we walked by and I couldn't answer. I was still fighting to catch a real breathe. The lady handing out plaques noticed me struggling. I told her I needed my inhaler. Blake had it, but he was videoing E's round, who was a ride or two after me, and to not disturb him until he was finished. My body tremors started to kick in and apparently that scared her because she ran off to grab the EMTs and I heard them announce for them on the loud speaker. I was horrified. I did not need EMTs. I just needed to rest, catch my breath and my inhaler. But tremors, they don't look friendly, and people don't believe you when you tell them they are normal. They arrived and gathered around me, all the while Bacon is holding completely still, and wanted me to get down. I told them I would like to stay on please, it is worse for me to get down. My body just kind of turns into putty, so, I am more comfortable sitting on my horse. She wasn't going anywhere, she knows the drill. Blake arrived with my inhaler. I drank some water. Everything started to calm down.

I was pleased to find out that Bacon and I had made it into the ribbons. We were called into the arena with everyone, and I laughed when I found out we were ninth place. Another grey ribbon to add to our collection. Our fifth one (three ninths, two fourths). I was just tickled to have gotten some satin. Bacon was a good sport about not being able to see out of her left eye for her victory gallop too, due to her ribbon. She seemed like an old pro for her victory gallop, which cracks me up.

Overall, I really loved Aspen. We got lucky with the weather, it only sprinkled a little bit one night. But it is an excellent facility and the vibe was just great. I hope to be back there next year. But this means our season has come to a close. I am very grateful that I was able to go to as many shows as we did. We saw a lot of new places, went to new states and moved up a level. My horse carried me over jumps I never thought I would do in a million years. Challenged me in new ways, both as a rider and in my general horsemanship, and she took care of me more times than I can count. It was a great year with my best girl!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aspen Farms Chams: XC Day

Always and forever hanging on.
Also known as: day of down. So many jumps. All going down. Aspen, you are a cruel mistress. At least, your training course designer is. I wanted a challenging xc course because A: it is championships and B: I like to see what Bacon and I are capable of. I may be whiny in person when we do the course walk, I may be getting ulcers and not able to sleep the night before, but I secretly like it.

Your first view from the start box is just this sea of jumps. Beautiful, creative, jumps. Everywhere. But your ass better be paying attention, because you have ONE jump, and it's coming up fairly quickly because being in the champ division, you have a shorter optimum time than the regular division by almost 20 seconds, plus more jump combos and a slightly more difficult course. I was unphased by this hanging log thing. Next was a table, whatevs. I was more distracted by the giant toads in the muddy creek bed that we gallop past on the way there. Three is this giant saw, which friend E says, always rides awkwardly (she was right) to a sharp right hand turn to a giant open-y table to a tree tunnel. Alrighty then.

Water drop!
I started to be phased. The table had a little bit of a drop to the back of it, but not too bad. Next, you gallop through the tree tunnel, out of nowhere comes a jump on the right, and then a left to a small drop leading to your half coffin. A nice easy trakhener, up and down a hill, then up again to a "sushi" jump, and sharp left hander to a stupid water drop. This is where I start to ulcer up. The water is turquoise. It looks weird. I hate drops. But, there was no combo or anything, so that was easier.
You put your right hand in and wiggle it all about.

Then it was slightly up a hill to jump a roll top down a steep hill and and right turn to jump down this GIANT DROP OF DOOM. This is where I threw a little bit of a fit. The only other show I have down that had a down drop was Camelot and that looked like a baby drop compared to this thing. My friend reminded me of the prelim one I had schooled there, but I still pouted as we moved on. There was a maxed out steeplechase, a nice easy roll top before jumping into the back water with another jump out. A mad dash until you came to another downhill jump, and then a very vertical tall brush jump with a few different line choices to a corner. I chose to go straight, which meant I trust Bacon to not just run out to the right, and Bacon would have to really jump the corner at an angle. Up the hill the pick which side of the "whale tale" you wanted to jump leading you to the epic ship. Which had another damn drop on the back. And lastly, a maxed out table with brush on the back, to make sure you never quit riding.
This makes it looks so small. Lame.

I walked the course twice, and should have walked it once more. Bacon was dead quiet while I tacked her up, but the second I got on, she knew what was up. Warm up was insane, and we just did our best to keep away from collisions. Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication between the start box crew and the warm up gate and while I was originally told I had two minutes until I had to head over, the lady quickly changed her tune and said "HEAD OVER NOW. PLEASE TROT." So I did, while trying not to run over oblivious children in my way as she screamed at them to move. When I got over to the start box, they were already counting me down from the 30 second mark, so I slapped on the helmet cam and watch and headed on out.

Everything was going well. Bacon was a little strong and leaving long (her favorite) but feeling happy out there. As usual. We came to the water drop and she took a tiny peek but lept off nicely. I got so excited about that, that I took a sharp left hand turn out of the water instead of guiding her to the right of the pedestrian tape. Of course, I didn't know this until I was facing the intermediate drop combination. "Where the hell is it?" I got a little flustered, then noticed the Kerrits sign plastered on my rolltop jump and drunkenly made my way to the correct spot. I had learned that this combination caused a lot of issues in the spring because people rode it too fast, so I slowed our tempo and guided us to the doom. Guess what. It rode like cake. I like out a WOO! and told Bacon to GO! for our gallop stretch because I knew I had caused us some time up there.

She gleefully took that challenge. And almost hit a tree while I re-grabbed my rein. I'm glad homegirl trusts me enough but I wish there was enough common sense to not run into trees. We soared over the steeplechase. Easy peazy over the roll top. She was totally game towards the water, then took a hard gawk at it last second and went right in. I got her in super deep to the vertical brush, but she saved us over that and went straight to the corner, never even thinking there was an option to run out. Good mare. Again, I got her in deep to the whale tail, but she sailed over the ship and took a long ass spot to the giant table, kicking her hind legs out to not touch the brush on the way out.
Don't touch it!
I was so pleased with her. She made it feel easy. I was so worried about it and fretted for nothing. I always do and my husband never knows why. That's her calling. If I ask her, she will go. My getting us lost cost us 2.8 times penalties, but that's all good. Normally after xc, I move up quite a few places, but like I had mentioned, this was a great group of horses and riders. There was only one refusal out of the whole group. Which bummed me out, because Open Training Champs had 11 stops, mostly at the water drop. But that just made me more proud of my awesome mare. Apparently Eventing Nation thought my helmet cam was funny too, and decided to share it, so you can enjoy it there if you would like.
A better look at this dumb bank.
The next day was show jumping. Which might be my least favorite/most stressful. I was not looking forward to that, given our last couple of rounds.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Aspen Farms Area VII Championships: Oh God Here We Go

Whoa. Drugs.
So, somehow Bacon and I qualified for our area championships. And I decided to give it a whirl. I also forgot to mention in my last post that upon arriving home from the last show, Bacon slipped out of the trailer and lept back in, throwing all of herself directly into the path of my thumb. Promptly dislocating it. I was able to back her off the trailer correctly, and get her around to the back of my house and get half of her shipping boots off before I couldn't stand it anymore. I gave it a few sharp wiggles and then there was a giant POP complete with blinding pain, and then I was able to slightly move it again. I thought it would stop hurting by now. That is false.
Butt pokings.
Anyways, yes. I signed up for the Training Rider division because why not. I did, however, want a vet to come out beforehand and check out Bacon's SI joint and see if it needed some tender loving care. I was correct. Poor mare was sedated and was still trying to kick out while they were scrubbing the area. I'm sorry Bacy. Not only did she receive a giant needle stabbing to the butt, but she got some extra juice in her coffin joints as well. And lots of rest. Plus all of the smoke and heat did not want us doing too much anyways.
I love her in this picture.
"Please save me"
Us girls loaded up early Wednesday morning and we headed out on funky routes to Aspen to avoid the fires and road closures. It was a smoke fest all the way up there though, with Cle Elum being our gas stop and them also being in a level one evacuation. It sucked. We were happy to pull in to Aspen finally, and I was super excited because I have always wanted to compete there. It looked awesome. They have the barns spaced out in groups and everything is kind of placed just far enough away from each other that even though it is a large event, it doesn't feel too busy or chaotic. I thought Bacon might like the quietness of our barn area, especially because we were the first ones there, but she was fired up. She never settled in quite like she did at Rebecca or Stanton. Which gave me ulcers. But it is what it is. After we set up camp, we went into town for some Mexican foods and then went to bed. I hate a dream where Bacon died, and then never really went back to sleep, and then thought my friend E kept trying to hog the bed, so I kept moving away from her touch. Only to find that it was the chihuahua seeking warmth. Sorry tiny dog.
Made it down centerline. That's good.

We went off for breakfast that morning before coming back and riding the ponies. Bacon started off alright, even giving me a little stretchy trot, before I could feel the tension taking over and her brain checking out. She was getting heavier and heavier, with more and more head shaking and crookedness, and when I tried cantering she though about bolting instead. I got off and headed towards the lunging arena to save my energy a little bit. She behaved herself well in there and I was pleased with that. I thought I would take her back out later that day and try to ride her again to end on a more positive note.
Still downhill because butt still recovering.
Free walk ears.
Well. That was wishful thinking. She came out way worse. She was even more tense and more strong and I could half halt a trillion times over and she wouldn't do a damn thing about it, but if I strongly half halted she would get extremely offended and come unglued. I was at a loss. I just kept trying to ride softly and bend her and ask for lateral movements, and she went around like she was pissed off and drunk. There were even more horses in the arena now and I was doing my best to stay out of the way. I saw that the smaller arena became available, so I went over there, but unfortunately, others followed. Others watched and whispered and pointed as I rode passed and I did my best to keep my head up and just keep on trying. All I knew was that I did not feel like I belonged that, and that I certainly didn't feel like a champion. I was exhausted and defeated and threw in the towel, wanting to walk back home to Idaho, and terrified to embarrass myself the next day.
Apparently this free walk deserved a 6. Friend's horse had no stretch and less overstep, it received a 7. I know it's not perfect, but how about a 6.5.

Nope. Not done yet. Sorry.
Later that night the boys arrived and told Blake of my sorrows. We planned to give Bacon a light lunge in the morning and then maybe once more right before I got on because that seemed to help her brain the most. I did not sleep a lick that night. That morning, I got up and took her for a long walk first thing. That really settled her down. She lunged quite well and seemed happy to go to work. I put her away and hoped for the best. After tacking up, I lunged her for another 10 minutes before getting on. She was very quiet and almost lazy, but still not really wanting to do her downward transitions all the way going to the right. I just rolled with it and got on. She happily hacked over to the warm up ring, which was very busy. I was almost frozen on her when we got in there because I didn't want to awaken the beast. We walked on a long loose rein and she was very quiet. I sighed and picked up the reins, asked for trot. Quiet. Changed directions, bending, lateral work, all quiet. Canter work, quiet. I quit there. I probably should have asked for trot lengthenings or stretchy trot, but I just couldn't. It was then time to go in.

Our 5.5 lengthening :( Yes. I will pout.
We did it!
She immediately woke up a little bit upon entering that ring. I am sure some of that was me. I just tried to stay quiet. I rode a very conservative test, and didn't push for anything. It is very obvious, which is not very champion-like, but better than explosive in my opinion. She got a little stiff and bracey and opinionated in there, and always always takes advantage of the stretchy trot circle as an opportunity to trot as fast as she wants on the forehand with no stretch whatsoever. So that sucked. But, overall, better than my last two dressage tests and way better than I thought it was going to end up according to the previous day's ride. So I was smiling when I came out of the ring, even though I knew we would be in last place most likely again. I did not look at my score that day, but E did, and she was also competing in my division on her thoroughbred. And it seemed like there was quite a bit of inconsistency with this judge's scoring, and a general dislike for thoroughbreds overall, so that was a little disappointing. But, that is the way the game is played sometimes. She did like our turnout, however. We ended up with a score of 42.1.
Feeling better about it all.
Let's get out of here, girl.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm No Good at Updates! Stanton Completion

Jump number 1!
I'm sorry. I got stuck in the mental sinkhole and couldn't pull it together to even write a blog. You would think it would be simple enough to just write a show wrap up. But even that takes too much out of me sometimes. I apologize.
Being strong.
We last left off with a very poor dressage round. One that I knew had left us in last place, a place we were particularly familiar with by this point. I didn't even bother to look at the score, as I usually don't anyways until after cross country. It wasn't long before I needed to tack up for xc, so we switched gears and made the changes. Bacon didn't seem too confused and was ready to head out to her favorite event. Except the vet was late by 30 minutes, so that put us behind schedule. Finally, we got on, and then a prelim rider went down hard and that put a hold on course for about 30 minutes.
The coffin.
It was our turn to go out of the start box and someone felt a tad bit distracted. As we were headed towards our sizable first jump, a horse was going over the last and Bacon thought that looked very interesting. I was finally able to grab her attention and she jumped it fine. Turd. I kicked on and we started to cruise. I had a feeling she might take a peek at the ditches because they put tan gravel in them and I was right. Halfway through our coffin combo she gawked hard at our ditched and continued to do so up and over it. Much of the course is full of terrain, which I quite like, and tables, which were fine. I did not have her drilled and tapped for studs though, and the long dry grass made areas quite slick so I tried to keep her balanced and not too fast.
Oh geez
We usually like up banks
Again, the trakhener's ditch was filled with tan gravel and I had a feeling she might take a peak. Once more she was distracted by another horse on course, and then down the hill we went to the trakhener. All felt normal until the last second when she realized it was a funky color down there, took a hard gander, then hucked herself over it. I was not impressed. But we pressed on. The rest of the jumps were easy, though she slipped coming down the hill towards the combo I was worried about. A double down bank into the water with an upbank out. Again, she saw another horse, then realized there was a bank in front of her. The water is very very dark here and she took a good hard look at it, creeping to the right at the second bank before awkwardly launching off into the black hole. I transformed into a turtle, because somehow that makes me stay on, as she rocketed out of it for the extra long spot on the way out. It felt wonderful, let me tell you. True beauty. Old man George Morris would have given me a gold star.

The rest of the course was smooth sailing. Thank god. I think I ended up with some time maybe. I do not remember. I would not have wanted to push her any faster than we went because of how slippery it was without studs, so I am perfectly ok with that. But normally I come off of xc feeling great, and that one had me feeling funky. But I was not the only one. The water proved to be exceptionally tough for almost every horse out there, and there were a great number of stops, even for horses who have never had a stop. So that made me feel a little better.

Oh look, a normal jump
She just has fun.
Stadium was later that afternoon. It took them a very long time to set it up, so we only had a brief moment to walk it before we had to be on and ride the thing. I knew it would be a little troubling for us, and it was. I was having difficulty riding Bacon straight and seeing any sort of a distance. She would throw her ass around, be totally distracted by who knows what, and I would not do her any justice. We had two rails, and we were lucky we didn't have more. Thanks to the carnage in xc, we managed to move up to fourth place. But this wasn't a show that left me feeling super great.