Season Recap: Show 7

It rained, and it rained, and it rained, and then everyone went home.


Wedgewood and Coach

And so we came to our next show cancellation of 2015 with Hurricane Railside. The weekend started fine with a little hack division here, some Hunter Development there, and oh, Riley had come along for the ride on Saturday for a little schooling.

As we neared the end of day 1, I was getting Gracie warmed up again for the OnCourse Medix Hunter Derby. For some reason I was really struggling with her in the warm up ring that afternoon. Let me tell you something about me and warm up rings. Never have I ever had a traumatizing, life altering experience in a warm up ring at a horse show; in fact, it’s impossible for me to since I would rather circle 20 times before going to a jump if anyone is within 20 miles of the arena or the jump itself. Jokes aside, I hate warm up rings and always will. I wouldn’t go as far to say I have nervous break downs when I have to navigate over jumps in a crowded arena, but my nerves majorly affect my confidence and then all of a sudden I have let myself get into my head. My head is the worst place I can be before I go into the ring, and my coach knows that. My coach is experienced in dealing with and breaking through all kinds of show related nerves, and I’m sure she has classified my type as it’s own, and what she can do to help me with it. Sometimes it’s not a quick fix, and I can never thank her enough for her patience and everything she has done for me this year. This show in particular, it hit me hard. Gracie was wonderful that morning in the same ring for Jen, but for whatever reason I had convinced myself that we were going to go in there for our Derby trip and crash around the course. Gracie was probably a little up due to that fact of the threatening clouds circling in above us for later’s events. So Coach simply removed my beloved spurs and sent me into the Derby assuring me my horse knows how to lift her legs up and is smart enough to get us out of trouble, whilst ignoring my reasons why this was going to go very very badly. And in I went.

Watching this video now, and knowing all of my emotions that day, all I can think is how ungrateful I can be sometimes. Here is an already sensitive horse who has a nervous ball of nerves on her back, and yet before every jump you can see her ears perk and her body say “lets go!”. Anyone can see that she clearly loves her job. We had some iffy jumps in this course, but it was our first derby class where we got all of our leads, and we still came out with a reasonable score of 74 after all of that drama.

The other person I would like to give mention is “The Railside Mom”. This woman is part of the OnCourse Medix team present at every show, and is also the very proud mother of a young girl who rides many horses at the shows. This being our barn’s first season on this new zone, it didn’t take me long to recognize this woman as the zone cheerleader. I am convinced that whilst working she seeks out any nervous or seemingly upset rider, and dedicates herself to being there on the sidelines to force feed them words of encouragement and compliments. She obviously sniffed me out in the warm up ring, because she was there on our walk to the ring, at the ingate, and was the one SCREAMING at the end of our course in the video. As soon as I heard her and saw her face that was truly excited for me, a rider from a different barn that was competing against her own daughter, I couldn’t help but burst into a smile.

The skies were basically black when I ended my trip, and before I could get Gracie back to the stalls, it was pouring. They managed to finish the first round of the derby, but the hack class for the Adult Amateurs, the Trillium Hunters, and the 2nd round call backs for the derby were all cancelled as people rushed their horses onto the trailers and took shelter from the storm. Back in the barn, the wind and rain was so bad that we soon lost power, and everyone available had brooms and shovels and were desperately trying to keep the rain from flash flooding the barn. For what seemed like hours, the storm raged on until it finally died down enough for them to go check on the rings. Upon seeing the rings an instant decision was made for the rest of the show weekend; tomorrow was cancelled without a make up day. The rings were competently under water, in some areas they swore you could go swimming, and to top it off most of the jumps were destroyed. When it was safe, we loaded up the horses and headed home, meaning Gracie and Riley would miss another modified adult show this season.


Season Recap: Show 6

Some shows you have more to blog about than others. This wasn’t one of them. The ponies were good. The End.



Nothing very exciting happened at show number 6. There weren’t any break through moments, or lessons to be learned. Both Gracie and Riley had a consistent show here at Warwick, and picked things up from where they’d left off the past weekend at the London Hunt Club.

We had just gotten over a week of rain there in London, and although they had done a great job at grooming the rings for the show, they still had to close off a portion of the Modified ring. Not only did this mean for tighter corners in an already smaller ring, but they had used things like antique BABY CARRIAGES and DUCKIES to close off the arena. While I spent the morning whining to myself about the end of the world as we know it, I was dumb-founded when both of the ponies waltzed right past the danger zone with little to no drama. Huh. Sorry, false alarm everyone.

So, in some big ways the babies had somehow grown up a bit on me, and they kindly kept their cools in the scary corner so all I had to worry about was straightness to the next jump, minus the drama. Gracie got some low calls over fences while Riley was still out of the ribbons. This show forward I decided to hack Gracie myself, and one of our Adult Amateur riders took over Riley in the hack for me for the remainder of the season. The ponies each got good prizes in the hack, Riley coming out with a 3rd in a bigger division than usual.



Season Recap: Show 5

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. I had my best round yet, and my worst rounds yet. To sum it all up, we had hit our next major learning curve. 

Going by the original show schedule had we not had 2 show cancellations, this show would have marked the half way point through the 2015 season. It was the first and only show on this circuit where the rings were on grass at the lovely London Hunt and Country Club. Both of the show rings were a good size with minimal changes in elevation, and besides one scary cross country jump on the size of the ring, there was not a lot for the horses to spook at.

Gracie started the week off with another great hack division with good prizes. Next she had some competitive rounds with Coach in the hunter development, and even got some great lead changes in.

On to day two, the rest of the Sunday team were away or had chosen to skip this show. Since my division started first in the morning, we had expected to be done and out of there in no time. Wrong. This show being on grass, the horses were moving out more than usual and not surprisingly pulling shoes. Gracie and Riley managed to avoid a trip to the farrier’s booth (riley doesn’t wear shoes, and Gracie has 4) but that didn’t stop everyone else from losing a shoe right before the last group of horses were jumping, or right before the hack class.. So we were there a little longer than we had anticipated.


First up in the Modified Child/Adults was Riley. We had decided to finish the last half of the season in this division as he had an easier chance of qualifying or getting a ribbon here than in the open division he started in last show. These jumps were only a bit higher at 2’9, which I regret looking back on the season now. Riley does not have the same natural jumping abilities as Gracie does, and while I know he still loves to jump, he would have done better this year if I had kept him at the 2’6 height. This was my best show with him, probably because he wanted to move out more on the grass, allowing him to carry himself better and not be as launchy over the 2’9 jumps. These were all things we would be working on this winter. I had some great trips for the point I was at with this horse, we did make the lines easily, and I was able to keep him straight through the lines meaning we landed most of our leads, but not all.

11701199_800686386718185_6639201130534765519_nThis horse wants to be balanced and get lead changes, but another thing we will be working on this winter is getting him to move over off my leg without accelerating forward and to finish the lead changes without kicking out. He hacked great with me for the hack class, and we got a 2nd.


On to Gracie. My warm up trips and my first 2 rounds were less than stellar. Gracie was extremely quiet today, which I was not used to. While she was being lovely and soft (and extremely patient) I was not holding my leg on during that last step to the jump and following through with the distance that was right there in front of us EVERY time. For some reason I just wasn’t trusting my judgment with her today and felt she was behind my leg, therefor I was reluctant to make that final bid to the distances I was seeing, and still felt that we weren’t going to get there. After a pep talk from Coach after every trip, I finally went in for my last round of the division with the attitude that I had to go for it. And we did.

Although it was a bummer about the lead changes, we still had accomplished so much in this round – mentally and visually – that this was still one of my proudest and most memorable trips of the season.


I chose to hack Riley at this show, so Gracie was hacked by the head groom and got a good hack prize too (Riley was stunning on the grass and we beat her in the hack). So after the good, the bad, and the ugly, it rounded up to be a great learning experience for me in the show ring, and for laughing it off out of the ring.

Season Recap: Shows 2 & 3

As if the delayed and then delayed again show season kick off wasn’t enough – next came the rain.


Mod Child/Adult Hunters (lol my face)

HSE show 1 weekend began on a high note with Gracie coming away with Reserve Champion of the Developmental Hunters with coach!! Below is one of her rounds.


Reserve Champion

The next highlight of the day came when I catch rode my friends green warmblood in my Equitation under saddle class, and pulled through with a silver medal.





As the sun set at the end of the day, I tucked Gracie and her buddy away in their stalls for the night, and headed home. This being one of the furthest shows of the season, I napped at home then was off again in the early morning to clean up after the girls and their slumber party at the show grounds. Pulling up I glanced at the rings and grumbled to myself about how muddy grey pony was going to get today, then set off to start scrubbing her white. No sooner than the second I had completed her tail braid and was spritzing her with show sheen did the unthinkable happen – the show was CANCELLED. Being one of the first to arrive I first spread the news to coach, then began painstakingly removing every last braid from her mane. At least she wouldn’t be getting muddy today…

Gracie and her cat

Gracie and her cat

HSE show 2 returned the following weekend. Gracie having been excellent for coach the previous weekend, I decided on the return to this venue I would not enter her into the Developmental Hunters this go. A few minutes later upon taking a look at the ring and  – gulp- a combination.. Cooooooooach… will you navigate my pony today..


So of course she was perfect and the combination didn’t even phase her day 1. Onto day 2 and… rain!? Sure enough, upon Gracie and I entering the ring day 2 the skies opened up on us, then stopped, then started again when I got back on for the under saddle classes. The plus side was the suction-cup affect it had on my seat with the saddle for my Medal flat phase. And hey, we even finished Reserve Champs in the combined Modified Child/Adult hunter division that day. Below is our medal trip where we skipped one lead change, but she was brilliant and brave to the jumps.

Season Recap: Show 1

After the first few show of the season was cancelled due to a Strangles Outbreak, we started the season off at the end of May at Eden Ridge Equestrian.

The layout of our classes for the show weekend started off on Saturday with the Hack Division, followed by the Hi/Lo Developmental Hunter Division and then my Equitation class later in the day. Gracie started her first show off in the Hack Division a little overwhelmed. After mussing through her first experience in the ring, she got ready with my coach next for the Developmental Hunters.

Gracie entered this ring with coach for the first time since the Hack in the morning was in the other ring. Coach took her time and walked the long way on their mission to the first jump, keeping her straight when she started to look or move away from things that caught her eye. Gracie wasn’t spooking at the jumps themselves, but when something elsewhere caught her attention and you lost all straightness to the jump, she would stop. Including warm up rounds and the division itself Gracie went in for 5 trips with coach, and continued to become braver every trip. Lead changes were still a work in progress, so every lead change was simpled in this small ring in order to break this experience down for her and to only worry about getting her around the course for her first show.


Eden Ridge I Mod Adults


Eden Ridge I Mod Adults

Day two of showing were my jumping divisions with her. The numbers were small enough at this show to combine my divisions for ribbons to be the Modified Child/Adult Division, and the Modified Child/Adult Medal. We were back into the big ring that I had hacked her in the first day. Gracie went in more confidently for her warm up trips than she did the first day, but I still had to work to keep her straight and focused on the jumps. Videoed is one of our best rounds of the show; she had settled down a lot more by her 3rd course, and we were both breathing a bit more by then.


Eden Ridge I Hunter Derby

This show also had a Hunter Derby! Although we lost our straightness in the combination and were not able to complete our course, I got some of my best jumping pictures of the season from this course that we went into without a warm up round.

It was a great first show out for my green girl!

How was your first shown out this season?

Gracie’s Weekend: Part II

After the success of Friday night, we returned home briefly only to start packing and show prepping all over again to head back again Sunday morning.

While our return Sunday was a much busier environment than it had been the day before, it was still a low key winter schooling show and was nothing in comparison to what we would be encountering next month when the Trillium season started.

The morning started with unloading and heading straight into the main ring to flat around with all the horses before the show started. Gracie was a bit up at this point, so we stayed in the ring until it closed and then put them away in their stalls for a bit while we got organized. My group’s spot in the order for the first 2’3 division was towards the end, so while they started we headed to the bigger warm up ring to flat them and get some energy out. 10 trips before our group we headed down to the main ring and coach warmed us up over some jumps in the small arena. The turnout was still low at this time so we were lucky to not have a lot of traffic in the warm up rings.. but we knew we would be doomed to deal with that later unfortunately.

Then it was our turn!

The three of us headed into the chute with our greenies and awaited the final rounds to finish. Knowing that the other entries included some riders we would be competing against this season, and some trainers on sale horses, it was disappointing walking up to the ring to find the only rounds we would get to watch of the division were of a little short stirrup kid who couldn’t get her pony around.. indoor shows suck for spectating.

Ever since last season with riding an unpredictable spooker, I have learned to take my time when entering the ring, identify the potential spooky spots in the ring, and set my horse up properly with the lowest level of risk possible. The first jump was on the quarter line in front of the in-gate away from home, this meant I had to circle at this end of the ring upon entering before heading off to the jump. In the middle of my circle was a decorative jump with straw bales for filler that we would only be jumping in the equitation round in the afternoon. I knew I definitely wouldn’t want to direct her at this and risk her spooking or picking up the wrong lead to start. Therefore my plan of action for this course would be to walk calmly and assertively straight into the ring and circle to the right around the scary jump, and once on a right bend while we are heading back onto the rail we would chose then to pick up a canter and partially finish the circle before going onto the quarter line on the path to the first jump.

The first jump I knew Gracie would back off from, so in the approach it was all about getting her onto the canter before the corner, and keeping the pace consistent with my leg on all the way there. Although these jumps were very tiny, I knew that with all the filler and Gracie being a green horse that I could expect her to still jump this height impressively; although I could afford to get a little deep to the singles, it was still important to be brave to the jumps without taking the flyer and set her up to get down the lines easily and avoid adding.

Gracie was great for the 2’3s; I felt like we were rushing things a bit, but I got her over the jumps and made the lines and that is what mattered. When we came back for the 2’6 division I could trust she would be brave and had opened her step to make the lines. Now we could settle it all down.

Going back into the ring at the end of the next 2’6 division meant letting her cool down in her stall for an hour, then going through the whole tacking up, warming up process we had done that morning, only this time there was a whole heck of a lot more people around. The warm up ring was a death chamber. Too many people, horses coming and going, standing in the way, and just overall not paying attention. We spent as minimal time in here as possible; we just warmed up then got outta there before someone missed the jumps and went flying over us.. or into us.

By this time of day the shadows had all changed in the ring which made the jumps much spookier for some of the horses. Our warm up round required a lot of schooling (thankfully the 2 strikes and you’re out rule didn’t apply at this show) but after some simply green horse refusals and a lot of drifting and some adding we got around. Having won the battle, I could go in for the next rounds knowing she had gotten that out of her system, and now we could settle down and ride the courses.

We fit in two very civilized hunter-like courses with simple changes and a few flying changes her good way in the 2’6 division. We added for the first time in one of our lines when we got a bit crooked going out, but in all she was excellent.

Here videoed is one of our 2’6 division rounds. Turn on your volume to be education on the Manhattan Once-Over by the peanut gallery.

Gracie’s Weekend: Part I

The Grey mare’s super exciting weekend started with an evening outing with the barn to school over the jumps in the big show ring..

What a weekend!

It was all about Gracie this weekend as we trailered first to school in the big show ring on Friday night, and then back again Sunday morning to attend The Grey mare’s first hunter schooling show.

Overall the schooling night on Friday went great. Taking that extra day before the show to get her into the big ring with the extravagant jump fillers would appear to give us an edge against the competition on Sunday, but this weekend was about the experience, not the competition. On Friday I took the time to get my horse comfortable with her new surroundings, but the point of the evening was to learn what I could expect from her away from home. We purposely skipped giving Gracie any of the usual supplements we have available for the more energetic horses to take when they go off property; this meant this would be 100% Gracie on the weekend, and we would see what we had to work with going forward this season.

Having my coach with us in the ring on Friday meant we could spend extra time with any part of the course we were having problems with until thus satisfied with the result. While we would not have that luxury when we entered the ring for the show on Sunday, this schooling night would be a big bonus for Gracie.

After unloading and getting organized, I tacked up and started warming her up in the ring outside the main show ring. While she was a bit more up than the last time we had trailered to this facility to school, she was moving great and she quickly calmed down while we warmed up. She was not keen on the whole standing and waiting thing at this point, so after warming up for 15 minutes we marched straight into the main ring to continue flatting. We walked around while the group before us finished jumping (she still wasn’t having anything with this standing business), and soon joined the next group in some warm up jumps over the quarter lines.

Next, it was time to start jumping the lines. The course that was set up had a 5-stride and a 6-stride on either long side, then a 4-stride on one of the diagonals. We started by trotting into each of the long side lines and cantering out while adding a stride. The next time around we then cantered in and cantered out with the correct number of strides for that line. At this point I was struggling to get Gracie onto the correct forward canter, and I would play it safe and let her jam in that extra stride into the lines.

If I kept playing it safe, we were stuck.

Now I had to make a decision. Do I want to teach this horse and make the lines? Of course. So then what I had to do was break out of my comfort zone, and make the lines already!

That soft, floaty, safe canter I had been working on all winter was great for the hack class, but what I needed now was to switch into that forward, extended, but still floaty horse show canter.

The next two courses I did felt like we were rushing and gunning it around to make the lines – looking back on the videos after this was certainly not the case – as we took a flew flyers in order to make the stridings.

So step 1 was accomplished: make the lines.

Moving on to the next course, funny enough, we made the lines easily this time. Huh. The next course after that the same thing happened, this time we felt more settled, she was opening up her step to adapt to the proper stridings I was consistently achieving.

Now we were on the canter.

The rest of the night went about the same. We stayed on the same canter and made the lines. When we were deep, I kept my head and continued out of the line with the correct strides. When we had a bit too much canter heading out of the line, Gracie backed herself off and we successfully made it out cleanly. Smart mare.

Leads are a work in progress. This will be the focus this week at home and the time leading up to our first show.

Videoed here is our last round where we ended things on a good note for the night.