Chatt Hills Schooling Show XC Pictures

There wasn’t an offical photographer at the Chatt Hills schooling show a few weeks ago but the photographer that was going to be there for the Connemara show the next day actually got some XC pictures! I am so happy that I have a few since my normal photographer wasn’t there to help me out (how dare he ditch me for a bachelor party!).

These were the last few fences on course so by this time we’re both a little tired. Still, I’m happy with the effort even if it seems we got a little too close to the base of the fence. One step at a time right?

Plus I really think my black/white/orange set up for XC is kind of rocking it right now. Classy yet still bold.

Trot – Stretchy Trot – Lengthened Trot

After the schooling show at Chatt, my trainer has been very focused on the free walk for Gus. It’s a very frustrating element for the two of us because we can get great stretch and reach at home but the minute we get in the ring, that goes buh-bye! LT wants us to go to a schooling show and ride in a bunch of tests and, if we have to, throw the test to school that dang walk in the ring. I know she’s right but I’m loath to do it because I don’t like throwing anything. Maybe I’ll have her ride him…

Normal medium trot

While we aren’t making a lot of progress at the walk, I feel like our trot work is coming along very well. It’s all baby work at this point but I’m super happy with the try I’m getting.

I’ve never had a lot of luck with the stretchy trot but Gus is starting to like the opportunities I give him to reach down and out. We need to still work on the out… okay, we need a lot more out! … but it is coming together one step at a time. Even better, I can actually transition between the medium trot and the stretchy trot without turning Gus into a giraffe.

Not our best stretchy trot but at least photo evidence of it being worked on

We have also begun to work on lengthening our trot. I know it’s not needed for eventing dressage for a while (training level?) but it is definitely helping Gus learn to use his hind end and push. LT’s favorite exercise for this is to stay on a 10-15m circle asking for more and more push behind but not letting him out. Then when I feel like I’m riding springs, I let him go down the long side (or diagonal) still pushing for more but just letting that power go forward. It is not easy for Gus or for myself but the few steps we get are fun! And each time we work on it, things get a little better.

Knee action! Baby lengthenings!

It may not look like much now but we’re building the foundation for really great dressage work in the future. At least, I hope we are!

Hot Hot Hot

So it is not technically Summer yet but no one has told the south (or really any of America, it seems)! The temps have been rising and the humidity has been climbing and every day this week I’ve gone outside to find my windshield all steamed up. I’m ready to be done with it.

But obviously since I still have many months of this torture, I have to find ways to cope with it. For me, that means riding late at night since I start work at 7 am. Lots of trail rides in the shade. And many many hose downs.

from https://www.uspolo.org/news-social/news/heat-index-warning-for-horses

I have also given myself permission to say “it is too hot to ride today” and stay home. If the heat plus the humidity is over 135, I don’t ride unless I have to (shows or lessons). I know the best way to get used to this is to ride in it, but I do not do well with the humidity. I passed out once in hot yoga.

What do you all do to handle the heat?

Chatt Hills Schooling Show 6.10.17

If there’s one take away from the Chatt Hills Schooling Show this weekend, it’s that I am a lot better at this whole eventing thing than I sometimes believe. And I’m not talking about coming home with blue ribbons or even ribbons at all (though I did) but rather the fact that even though I looked at the XC course and thought “shit, those look big,” once I was out there, it didn’t phase me a  bit. In fact, I’m sort of wondering when I can start thinking about moving up again.

But that’s a different topic for a different day.

I did not take any time off from work on Friday which unfortunately meant that I was leaving for Chatt right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Luckily though, it only added 15 minutes to our trip. I love that Chatt Hills is so close to the farm! But with the heat and late hour it seemed like we really had to rush to get a quick ride in and then walk the XC course. Neither seemed to go great. Gus was acting like a lunatic and spooking at everything and I couldn’t stop thinking about one very big and very wide table on XC. Lovely way to end the night.

But, miracle of miracles, when I got on Gus the next morning to warm up for dressage, he was so so lovely. Even tempo, connected in the outside rein, soft flexion in his pole. He’s never warmed up quite like that before! Unfortunately, it didn’t last to the ring. We still had a nice lovely tempo and our canter transitions and circles were quite nice if I do say so myself. The bend, however, was gone and I fought for every single step of that test.

The judge was quite generous though and gave us nothing but 6/7s the whole way around. And we even got a 7 for our halt which included a big stumble. Oh Gus.

It didn’t show really in the scores but I do think that our dressage is improving. Now I am able to hold him together for a decent test despite his greenness. The next step is for him to actually stay relaxed when we go into the sandbox. We’ll get there.

Both of my jumping phases were right in the middle of the early afternoon when the sun is high and the humidity is at its worst and I was really feeling it. All I could think about in stadium warm up was how hot I was and how badly I wanted to just get in the ring and get my round over with. All because I was dying in this heat! Warm up, however, went really really well.

Usually at Chatt Hills I have done stadium in the entire big ring but this weekend they had it roped down to a smaller arena. This made things much more manageable. LT’s goal was to have us ride the whole thing with no chips. Forward. Forward. Forward. And that’s what we did. Okay, we did have one little chip to fence 3 but otherwise it was foot perfect. Even with a rail on fence 6 I think that’s the best course we’ve ridden. I was feeling really good going into XC.

There was not enough time to completely untack Gus between stadium and XC so I loosened the girth, stuck him in front of the fan and did everything I could to keep us both comfortable for the ten minutes before we had to walk the long path down to XC. I was exhausted and I thought for sure Gus would be too. Nope! I quickly found that I had absolutely no breaks and had to switch his reins down a hole on the elevator. Good thing I did not put the loose ring back on like I had intended! Once I had breaks, though, we flew through warm up and were ready to go.

So here’s the one thing that ticked me off this weekend. They were running ahead and taking people as they were ready. So I went up to the volunteers and said “I’m ready!” and they told me I could go after 251. There was one other person before 251 so we would be third up. That was okay. Perfect timing to just be done with my warm up and give us both a breather.

But then, when 251 went in, 244 said they were ready to go and since I was 245, I was told to wait. Well that was a little frustrating but alright. Then, just as 244 was leaving the start box and I headed over to get ready, they told me 243 was ready and I would have to wait again! When I protested they told me “It’s only 4 minutes” That’s when I got angry, I had already been waiting 12. If you are letting people go out of order and ahead of time, you don’t tell them they’re up next and then keep pushing them back. Even LT got a little miffed and told them that this was not fair to me.

Look, I know volunteering is a thankless task. Usually I am always there with a smile and a thank you for everyone I meet at an event whether you’re a volunteer or a fellow competitor (maybe not always if you are my ever suffering husband, sorry babe!). But this time they were actually hurting my chances. I had warmed up and done everything I was suppose to in checking in and getting in the order of go. I was miffed and, while I didn’t raise my voice, you better believe I berated them as I was waiting my next turn. I don’t even feel bad about it. We plan our warm ups carefully so that both rider and horse are ready to go when our turn comes. I don’t like this hunter hurry up and wait shit.

LT asked if I wanted to warm up again but I didn’t. I was running out of strength and I knew I’d need it on the course. So I walked away from the gate keepers and ignored their “try to have a good ride” wishes. You better believe I was going to have a good ride.

And then I let it go. I had a horse to ride and a XC course to conquer!

And if you watched the video… you’ll see that we did!

Like stadium, our goal for this outing was to go forward and jump the fences out of stride. While we had a few wonky steps we didn’t have any real chips so I am counting this as major progress. The wide table I was worried about? Not a problem for Gus Gus! We could have gotten it out of stride if I had put on the gas a bit more but by then I was exhausted.


Gus was also very hesitant about that bridge and once we were on it, he freaked out over the water. This was all very silly to me since we went over a bridge like this at Foxberry ALL THE TIME but that’s horses for you. We actually had to walk over it. Walking! On XC! I’m sure that will never happen again.

Due to the rail in stadium we dropped down to fifth but I was so thrilled with Gus and his willingness to just go for it all. He is really starting to grow up and I can tell he loves his job. This was exactly the prep I needed for Stable View H.T. in two weeks.

Bring it on!

Red Georgia Clay

There are a lot of things I like about living in the south like a longer show season, more options to show at, and mild winters. There are, however, two thins I really despise: the humidity and the red Georgia clay. I have grown up listening to, and loving, country songs but when I was singing along to the likes of Brooks and Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road” I had no idea. If you’ve never lived in or spent time in Georgia, let me tell you about it. Red Georgia clay is actually red (why do you think red brick houses are so prevalent down here?), it’s everywhere, and it stains everything.

Usually I can get Gus’ tail a pretty perfect white with just my trusty bluing shampoo and a lot of hot water but even I was thwarted this week when Gus came in with a tail worthy of any chestnut. Red Georgia clay does not care that I have a schooling show this weekend and that my horse should have a beautiful white tail… not this orangey mess. I half heartedly went through my normal bathing process but I knew it wasn’t going to do much to combat that tail.

So I pulled out the secret weapon and got to work.

Anybody who regularly colors their hair knows that dying and, in particular, bleaching hair is not good so I do not fall back on this regularly. Plus, it is a LOT of work. Usually I only bleach before something important. Last time I did this with Gus was when we took our engagement photos. That was a year and a half ago so I guess we were due.

Let me tell you, the bleach works!

I know several of you have asked me how I get Gus’ tail so white and I promise I will do a tutorial both on my shampoo method and how to bleach. I just wasn’t prepared to do it last night. You really need a second set of hands for pictures when you’re working with bleach!

Now hopefully Gus can keep this tail semi clean for two days so I’m not the “Horse with an Orange Tail” at Chatt Hills!