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!

Woke Up in Nashville

Nashville is a cool city!

I was supposed to go to Aiken this weekend for a XC extravaganza with LT but then my future sister-in-law reached out to me about her bachelorette party. Of course I had to go! I mean, I love XC schooling and it would have been so great but I also love my future sister-in-law and I cannot say no to a weekend of girl time and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

There were 12 of us staying in one (really beautiful and big house) but keeping us all corralled at night was quite a feat. Plus the Predators were playing the Penguins in the third game of the Stanley cup so things were cray cray!

I also felt kind of old because I can just not keep up with those youngsters. Boy do they have a lot of energy!

Still, I had an amazing time. Good food, good people, good times. I can’t wait to go back.

Pick Up Dem Knees

Ever since I first got Gus, I have lamented that he is not a “natural” jumper the way Dandy is. I’m not saying that he can’t jump, because he certainly can.

But he is not very good at it. Instead of naturally sitting back and keeping his haunches under him to push, he likes to throw his shoulders over and drag himself across the fence. This frustrates me because it’s not fun to ride and (obviously the most important) it looks ugly in pictures. I go through hundreds of photos trying to find just one semi decent picture of him jumping.

Jumping this way is also very dangerous which is the main reason I am trying so hard to teach Gus that this is not the appropriate way to jump.

Some of the problem has been me. With my confidence issues and bad equitation, I have been encouraging Gus to throw himself at the fences because I am throwing myself at the fence. Some of it is his own natural tendencies to be cautious which leads to hesitations at the base when his forward momentum is hard to stop. And some of it has just been that these smaller fences don’t really impress him.

It has not been an easy process. But thankfully I am now riding with Super Trainer, LT, and we are finally getting somewhere.

Last night’s lesson was the best Gus has ever jumped. The jumps were small (can’t remember the last time I wanted them raised!) and we focused on me compressing his stride and keeping his weight rocked back. When I did that, the shoulders stayed up. Granted, I’m at a place in my riding now where I can actually do that but it felt wonderful.

Gus will never ever be a hunter. He doesn’t snap up his knees as tight and cleanly as he should and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to solve that completely. At least now I can keep his shoulders up and with a lot of grid work, I think I can get the knees a bit tighter too. I don’t expect him to be an upper level prospect though so I’ll take safe and cautious and willing while we tool around BN.

The Last Dandy Update

As of late last week, I am no longer one of Dandy’s owners. The boy and I made a decision to sell our shares back to JLE and leave the syndicate before he was sold. This was not an easy decision but it was the right one for us.

Dandy at Jolene’s

Dandy then went on to have an absolute wonderful first outing where he FINISHED ON HIS DRESSAGE SCORE(!) in the Prelim division at the E.I. Horse Trials in Washington. I am so proud of that horse. He is growing up and finding his legs. I know he will make somebody a wonderful upper level horse.

I do wish that I had had the funds to bring him with me, to keep him and find someone to ride him and show him. I’ll admit, it’s fun being an owner but it’s hard when you can’t do your own riding as well. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had known I was going to find LT out here and could have her show him for me. But then I remember had I kept Dandy, I not only wouldn’t have Gus, I would probably be miserable and out of horses for good.

I will definitely continue to stalk (sorry future owner!) Dandy as he competes but this will probably be one of the last times he shows up on my blog. Good lucky Dandy Man! I’ll be rooting for you and I will always love you.