Thursday, September 24, 2015

Not What I Signed Up For.

In my quest to do 'All The Things', I signed Boca and I up for a hunter pace last Sunday. It was hosted by our local hunt club, and it lauded spectacular views, ridden on land only open to riders 1 time per year.

Boca and I went on a hunter pace last year, a different one held at a local farm, and it was pretty much the highlight of our year. So I was very excited to go try out a new venue.

World's Best Pony
The week leading into the hunter pace did not bode well for me. Usually, I manage to strike a pretty good life balance between work, riding, husband, dog, family and friends. The areas that I usually fail hardest in are cooking (what is wrong with living on microwave popcorn and peanut butter?) and my share of dog-duty. My husband works less hours than me a week, so he usually picks up a lot of the slack, household-wise. He's a pretty good sport about it, but occasionally it wears a little thin on him.

Last week, I completely over-committed myself, and it was my undoing. I wedged a night with my best friends from high school, as well dinner plans with my mom and cousin into the mix. Add a dollop of PMS, and I was not on my A game. Probably not on my B game either.

By Saturday, the day before the hunter pace, I was exhausted. It was all I could do to get the trailer packed for Sunday morning.

The hunter pace offered First and Second flight, listed as 8-10 miles over 20 or more fences and stone walls, not to exceed 3' 6" in height. For the first time, the hunter pace offered a third division, called Third Flight, listed as a shortened course of 5 miles.

Originally, my plan was to ride the shortened course of 5 miles. The issue was that, of the riders going from my barn, the ones doing the Third Flight were doing walk/trot only. I definitely didn't want to miss out on cantering and jumping, so I arranged to go with the only other rider from my barn that was doing Second flight. I figured it would be ok, as Boca and I are probably the fittest we've ever been. Boy was I wrong.

I have to say, the first few miles were glorious. There ended up being 3 of us on the team. We had some really nice canters through open fields, and a few nice jumping efforts.


At that point, Boca and I were really pleased. And ready to go home. That is when my fellow riders informed me that we were not at the halfway point yet, and what started as a nice ride turned into what felt like a death-march from hell.

This is probably a good point to mention that I didn't eat -- not anything -- before the hunter pace. I had gone out to dinner the night before and still felt pretty full, so I reasoned that a cup of coffee was a sufficient breakfast for 8-10 miles of riding and jumping. Sometimes my own stupidity and bad choices take my breath away.

Shortly thereafter, Boca and I started fading. We went from leading the group to the back of the group. Our power walk became a shuffle. My knees started to ache. I feel like we looked something like this:

I briefly considered trying to make my way back to the trailers on my own, but quickly abandoned the idea. The other riders on the team, J and T, didn't seem too bothered by the duration of the ride. I felt like a negative Nancy, but in my head I really was worried about over-doing it and making Boca back-sore or crabby. In reality, he was probably fine and the only sore, crabby one was me.

We passed through a number of loops, through fields and grounds I swear we had seen before. At this point, it felt like my knees were on fire, and I was sure that when I ever did eventually get down from the saddle, my knees would buckle and I would crumple to the ground.

I was also pretty sure I was the lamest person ever and J was internally cursing that she allowed me to be on her team, and would avoid me like the plague ever after. Jury's still out on that one.

We eventually made our way back to the trailer. I swear I have never, ever been as happy to jump down from the saddle. My knees did not give out, and I was spared the embarrassment of landing on my ass in front of everyone.

I will, however, share a horribly embarrassing story that I am greatly ashamed of.

It is no secret that I make a lot of dumb mistakes, that I get away with because my horse is a saint. Most of those mistakes are unintentional, and are made because, although I have years of experience in the horse world in general, I am in fact a newbie to horse ownership. Also, I am occasionally incredibly stupid.

So, I have gotten in the habit of occasionally tieing Boca to the trailer with the chain over his nose. I KNOW. I KNOW THIS VIOLATES EVERY RULE OF HORSEMANSHIP 101.
But, I have justified it to myself because 1) He never pulls back, ever and 2) I only use the chain because he drags me around like a giant human kite in search of grass and 3) isn't a rope halter pretty much the same thing, and people tie horses all the time with those on, right?

Well, you don't have to tell me that the Rules of Horsemanship 101 exist for a reason, and that I am a HORRIBLE HORSE OWNER because, at the end of the hunter pace, I tied Boca (chain over nose) while I was attempting to rip tack off of him at warp speed. At some point in the process, he started pawing, because he was starving and wanted to reach the grass. At that point, on the verge of delirium myself, from a combo of exhaustion, hunger and PMS, I reached down to swat him for pawing, and he exploded backwards like was I the devil himself. And proceeded to hit the chain over his nose and panic.

Because I am the luckiest person ever, nothing bad happened. The leadshank didn't break, Boca quickly stopped panicking, I was able to reach up and un-clip his lead rope and clip it to a more appropriate place under his chin.  And my Barn Owner proceeded to yell and me and berate me in front of our group, but I truly was embarrassed enough already, and felt awful for my poor saint of a horse.

Sainthood. This creature is deserving of sainthood.
Thus ended my never-ending day of hunter pacing. I proceeded to go home and have a fight with my husband when he innocently asked me what I was cooking for dinner, after having been gone from the house for 12 hours straight while he was on the couch watching football. Which he didn't deserve because I had *told* him I would cook for him after a long day of hunter pacing.

Thus ended a week of bad choices all around.
It was most definitely, Not What I Signed Up For.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sea Horses

One of the reasons that my blog went silent is that my barn recently went through a cycle of barn drama so epic that it turned me into a massive ball of nerves and anxiety.
When your happy place suddenly and unexpectedly becomes the cause of a gut-churning, cramping malestrom of anxiety, it doesn't exactly inspire you to write happy posts about how awesome your horse is going.
All I have to say on the topic is: Women... B*tches be cray-cray for realz.
I was not the actual target or center of the controversy, more like collateral damage.
During the height of the barn-drama, I suggested to H that we load up the ponies and get the heck out of dodge for the day. We loaded up and headed an hour south to a state park in Rhode Island that boasts miles of equestrian trails, plus access to the beach.

In my head, I've always held on to a bucket list experience of galloping bareback down the beach a la 'The Black Stallion'

However, I weighed the thought of riding miles and miles of trails bareback on my significant-size-withered horse, and opted to saddle up, for the sake of my lady parts.

We did get to play and splash in the ocean, but I was not about to swim out to parts unknown in my new-to-me french saddle.

Boca and Piglet seemed more than willing to enter into the surf, and probably would have swum out to visit the pleasure crafts bobbing in the sea, but we restricted them to the shallows, where they still managed to get themselves and us as wet as possible while splashing around.

Piglet plays dressage horse.
Someday I will have my Black Stallion moment, but this was a pretty good filler, until that day comes. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Personal Best

The Bestest Pony
This past Saturday, in keeping with trying to get off property every weekend, Boca and I went with H and Piglet to a schooling jumper show.
My plan was to seek redemption in the 2' division which had psyched me out at the last show. The show was at a very nice venue, which hosts USEF A- and B- Rated shows, in addition to unrated hunter and jumper schooling shows. We got the benefit of "A" level footing and jumps, at a fraction of the price.  I call that a WIN.

Unlike the last show, this show was running 2 rings concurrently. Ring 1 started at 2'3" and went to 3'. Ring 2 started at Ground Poles and went to 2'.

H planned to go in 2'3" and I planned to go in 2', which was going to make for a very long evening. Until H convinced me to enter 2'3".

It actually made sense, as Ring 1 was a much bigger ring, with plenty of room in between fences. Ring 2 was much smaller and tighter, with more distractions.

The fences at the jumper show were much more inviting than the hunter show. Or maybe I just grew some balls, I'm not sure which. There was only one fence that gave me pause - a green fence with vertical wooden planks at the base that made the fence look much higher than 2'3", but H assured me it was an optical illusion.

I decided to enter the 2'3" division, but didn't mention to H that I've actually never shown at that height, hunters or jumpers. Obviously, neither had Boca.

Also, my only experience riding in a jumper class was circa 2009, where I got nervous, got lost on course, and promptly disqualified.

Dorothy, I don't think we're in Hunters anymore...
Add to that, the show was scheduled to start at 4:00 PM. We got a late start and arrived at 3:30 PM. H threw on her tack and got to the ring in time to school, as did all the other participants in our division. I, however, fumbled around with my tack and arrived at the ring just as they announced warm-ups were closed and I couldn't jump any schooling fences - not even the bogey green fence that intimidated the crap out of me.

I was pretty confident that Boca would jump all the jumps. He is a pretty bold dude over fences. My primary concern was my ability to remember the course and to actually ride it with, ya'know, a plan and some organization.

The first round was a bit exciting. Boca was jumping each jump as though his feet were on fire. We did pick up a refusal at fence #3, the bogey green fence of death. Apparently, if you stare down at a jump in holy terror, your game little horse may actually refuse it. When I re-presented, I remembered to lift my eyes up and put my leg on, and wonder of wonders, he went right over.

The rest of the trip was without incident. I remembered the whole course, we jumped our first skinny, and basically Boca was a rockstar. He may have wiggled once or twice approaching a fence, but I put my leg on and committed and he didn't hesitate.

The second trip was even better. I thought about things like breathing, saying 'whoa', keeping my eyes up, and my leg on. We didn't touch a single rail and nailed the whole course.

I was super, super excited. Jumping at 2'3" in competition was a personal best for me. I always hoped it was something I could do 'someday'. I never assumed someday would be so soon. The scary thing was that Boca made it feel easy.

H and Piglet also did really well, and ended up Reserve Champion for the division.

Not bad for a 4 year old baby horse

H and I were really excited about our awesome rides.

H made me this awesome meme for our special brand of crazy.

Because H has some of the best ideas ever, we decided to celebrate our horse show personal victories with some steamers and fried clams, New England Style. Because who doesn't drive their horse trailer to The Lobster Pot for some fresh seafood?

Friday, September 11, 2015

What have we been up to???

Never fear, Boca and I have not disappeared off the planet. We were not eaten by flying spaghetti monsters. I just suddenly and completely lost the urge to blog. Mea Culpa.
But, I am back and I have pictures!
On Aug 30th Boca and I made our debut over fences at a schooling show. For all our off property adventures, Boca and I have only been to one other show, where we showed in Green Horse W/T. The day was interesting and highlighted some areas where we need mileage.
My plan was to do the 2' Hopeful Hunter division. I like hunter classes because 1) I get to use my black composite stirrups (hey, it's the little things) and 2) the courses are simple and do not short-circuit my horse show brain.
The first change in plan came when I saw how the 2' course was set.  It was set really, really solid with a lot of fill. Height normally doesn't get to me, but for our first out, this course was intimidating . For reference, here is H and Piglet in the 2' Hopeful Hunter class.
Because it was our first time showing over fences, I didn't want to overface Boca or I. I made the decision to drop us down to the crossrail division.
One of the interesting things I learned from the show is that, although Boca and I have a lot of miles trail riding, hunter pacing and cross-country schooling, one thing we do not have down is horse showing. I learned that Boca thinks we get off the trailer, saddle up and GO.
He was very confused by getting off the trailer and hanging around.
Also, it appears Boca and I share the same brain. Or maybe my neuroses just manifest themselves in him. When it was time to get on and school, it was like there was a three-ring circus going on in both our brains. Neither of us were nervous - it was more like we were both amped up and distracted.  "Ooooh food trucks!  Ooooh look at that flag!  Hey, did you see those horses over there?  Hey look there is S and her trainer!" H had to come straighten us out as it was clear that neither one of us could put our brains back in our heads long enough to focus on silly things like pace, rhythm, straightness, etc. We were both in run-and-gun mode.
The unfortunate thing about changing divisions was that it moved us from the first class of the day in Ring 1, to the last class of the day in Ring 2. Which meant that long-suffering horse hubby, who drove 45 minutes to come watch us show, arrived just in time to be told we'd be showing in about 6 hours from the appointed time. Sadly, he didn't get to see us ride, but we did get to spend some quality horse-show bonding time.
By the time our classes rolled around, it was the end of a long, hot day.
I was pretty pleased with our performance. We accomplished our goals of staying organized and making good decisions. We didn't have any funky distances or take any flyers. I trotted where I needed to trot, and got leads where I needed to get leads.
Super cute horse is super cute.
Overall, it was a solid first out, even if we did get the pants beat off of us by a bunch of short stirrup kids on their adorable ponies!
This kid beat the pants off us.  Horse showing... it's humiliating.
My goal is to do something with Boca off-property every weekend until the miserable cold and dark of winter desends. This weekend, we go to a schooling jumper show to see if we can redeem ourselves in the 2' division. Hopefully all the pony kids stay home!