Confident and Ready To Go

So I am exhausted right now. It has been a tough week. When my alarm went off this morning I had to fight to get out of bed. That being said just typing this post is giving me energy. My last show with Phoenix is this weekend. I have been DYING to go to this show FOREVER (obviously exaggerating). It is finally my turn to show at this show instead of volunteer. I am so excited! Even with setting my alarm for an ungodly hour on Sunday I am still looking forward to a good weekend. I have not seen Phoenix since Tuesday so I am looking forward to spending some quality time with him.

I am not really nervous for this show at all. I think a big part of that lack of nerves is the fact that I am not worried about my scores. It is not like I am going to be able to get year ends or anything. I do still need one training 4 score for my bronze medal, but I decided long ago not to put pressure on myself to get it at this show. I will get it at some point in the future and that has to be good enough for me for right now. After showing every weekend for many, many weekends at this point my confidence in Phoenix is high. He looks to me for reassurance, and he trust me so much that as long as I can give it to him, he is okay.

At the show last weekend a GIANT rainbow colored umbrella flew out of its holder right behind Phoenix. He, of course, spooked and lept forward…straight into my arms. He put his nose on my chest and looked at the scary thing. I told him it was okay and I meant it and he dropped his head into my arms for a hug. It was like he wanted me to hold him until the scary thing went away because nothing bad could happen in my arms. Phoenix has learned to trust me. And that is a huge deal for a younger horse.

For all intensive purposes I should be scared about being at a show that is a CDI. One that has a single warm up ring for 5 rings. But I am not. We are just going to do our best and enjoy ourselves. My trainer is coming out to warm me up, and I love it because she keeps me relaxed and focused before I go in the ring. One of my classes I am guaranteed to pin in because there are less than 6 people in it. It is going to be a long one, but this is going to be a good weekend. I can feel it already.

I already have my truck packed so I am just going to ride, bath and braid Phoenix after work. I am going to try and leave the braids in for both days. Since Sunday is so early I am going to leave my trailer hooked up so I have one less stop to make Sunday morning.

I will try to be good and post results on my facebook fan page for the blog each night.

I am going to try and not worry about all the sadness I feel leaving. Instead I want to focus on enjoying the show. I love to show. I really do. And Phoenix is now starting to love to show as a result. I just want to break a 60% in all my tests. That really is my only goal for this weekend.

Wish me luck!

The No Go Horse Show – Part 2

As I walked out of the indoor I felt bad for the show organizer than anything else. Looking at all those people who were ready show had me doing some mental math and she was definitely loosing lots of money. I do not show hunters so I have no idea if it is normal for a judge to not show up or not, but I did know that meant I did not have to squeeze in my super tight hunt coat and I had just saved myself $120 in entry fees so even though I lamented the lack of ribbons, I was pretty happy overall. Phoenix was still a little up when he got out of the trailer so we figured it was bet to lunge him before I got on (not something I usually do).

The one thing that was very clear was that my stupid hunt saddle was not helping the situation. It was all padded up and still not even close to fitting Phoenix. I was kicking myself for trying to play the part of a Hunter and not bringing my dressage tack along! Seeing that although Phoenix was looky, he was okay, I decided to head over to the indoor unmounted first and let him look around. One thing I noticed right away about this show was that people were either super friendly, or not nice at all. I was keeping my eyes and ears open for Susan trying to figure out who she might be. It was when I saw a car pull up the drive way and stop every 10 feet talking to one person or another and a woman behind the wheel with a big smile on her face that I turned to the Young Rider and said “That has to be her” the Young Rider answered back asking how I could tell just as the smiling woman called out my name. Hahaha…I answered back that I could tell because she was just like me!

Susan went to park while I walked with Phoenix into the dark indoor. I could tell that inside Phoenix was having a heart attack. The good thing was that he was totally internalizing his feelings so besides the fact that his eyes were saucers and his back was tight he was okay. I made sure to fuss over him and tell him he was a good boy for not being stupid. After chatting my way around the ring several times I figured that he was being good enough that I just needed to get on. All I wanted was for him to relax and we would call it a day.

As I went to get on, I eyed my hunt seat saddle suspiciously. I had not touched it in almost a year and it was looking like it fit him even worse than the last time. I pushed those negative thoughts aside and put my foot in the stirrup. That was right about the same time that the saddle started to slide left. I had the choice of trying to climb on or jumping back down and hope that my foot would come out of the stirrup. I decided to try and get on. As soon as Phoenix felt the saddle going and my weight coming he skooched forward. In the past that would lead to a quick turn, followed by a bolt and of course some leaping. I was scrambling (rather unsuccessfully I might add) to get on before he took off. The strangest thing happened though…Phoenix stopped. He didn’t do ANYTHING bad. He put his nose to the wall. That second of still was all I needed to actually get on him.

The Young Rider looked like she saw a ghost and I just started laughing. No one else had any idea how close that was to being a bad accident! I don’t know when Phoenix grew up, but he did. The weirdest part was that my saddle which had just slipped at least 6 inches sideways had come back almost to dead center. Still laughing at my close call (can you imagine if I got myself killed trying to MOUNT at a HUNTER SHOW…I would never have been able to live it down) I started to ride around. Phoenix was tense so I worked extra hard to use what I learned from the clinic the day before. Sure enough it worked and in no time flat we were trotting around on a nice light contact. Phoenix still did not feel 100% relaxed, but he was so much better that when we got the boot because the lead line class was coming in (you don’t need a “real” judge for that class) I decided to call it a day.

I quickly untacked Phoenix and turned my trailer around and reloaded him (it took two tries to get him on…not normal) and set about getting to know Susan’s ADORABLE horse Jupiter. Phoenix got TONS of compliments for good behavior both when I was riding him and when he was hanging out in the trailer. Everyone was so impressed at how good he was. It made me laugh because while Phoenix has always been good, the fact that I take him all over and that I have taught him out and about is fun and not scary has really turned him into an easy horse. I give all the credit to Lexi on that one. He taught me how it should be so I could teach Phoenix.

After a little more socializing I could see that the Young Rider was fading so I hastily said good-bye to Susan and got ready to head home. I carefully pulled back out through the cars (I learned after I checked in that horse trailers can pull around the barn and park on dirt instead of grass and cars…all well) trying not to hit the BMW that was close to my exit turn. I left the farm with a HUGE smile on my face. It was without a doubt a good experience. Not only was I able to go to two horsey events in two days and not have a problem, I was able to work with Phoenix through his nerves making sure he had a positive experience as well. We also had NO ISSUES in the indoor! Plus I made a friend in Susan (who promises she will come down and meet Gen someday now). That day turned out NOTHING like I thought it would, but I still had fun and learned a lot. I swear both Phoenix and I walked out of there with giant egos because we got so many compliments. It was a good reminder that life might not always turn out the way you want it, but it will turn out the way you need it to.

The No Go Horse Show – Part 1

The No Go Horse Show

So because my blogging has been sporadic as of late I am FINALLY getting around to writing up my little hunter show experiment from the day after the clinic (it has been 9 days already!). Why did I decide to do a show the day after a clinic? Well, there were a couple of reasons. One, I was starting to feel indoor phobic again with Phoenix. Knowing that there was a good chance that I might show in the indoor at Memorial Day I knew that was an issue I had to address. The second reason was because I was worried about showing two days in a row at Memorial Day. I figured that I could prove to myself that I would be okay if I did a clinic and a show in the same weekend. The third reason why I went to the show and didn’t just go somewhere to school in an indoor was because it is me…I love my ribbons and I had already given my notice so I figured that I should just give a hunter show the old college try. Sounds like fun right?

Well, the night after the clinic I was thinking not so much. I was sunburned and exhausted Saturday night. I thought about bailing on the show, but the Young Rider was having none of it. She even offered to braid Phoenix herself because she knew it would be a good thing for me to go to. After promising she would come and groom for me and make me laugh I tried to get a good night’s rest. All too soon my alarm went off. My body was aching, especially my core and shoulders, from actually riding correctly the day before. It took a lot of will power and some homemade blueberry muffins to get me out the door. As soon as I rolled down the window and smelled the sweet spring air my bad mood lifted and I was excited.

I knew that the only chance I would place at the show was if there were under 6 people in my class. For once, ribbons seemed secondary. I was going to have a fun day. It was beautiful out, I was going on an adventure, the Young Rider was going with me, and coolest of all was the fact that one of my readers boarded at the barn where the show was so I was FINALLY going to get to meet her! When I opened the top door to Phoenix’s stall I could tell right away he was going to be a little bit harder to convince. He had been a little tense all weekend and as soon as he saw the water going for yet another bath he gave me a look that told me he had HAD IT.

I knew that if I was tired and sore, he must be too. I promised him that I wouldn’t ask much of him, he just had to go and be a good boy in the indoor. After his third bath in as many days I can say that he was glowing white. The Young Rider, true to her word, came by and braided him all up and was so fast that for once all season I WAS EARLY! Phoenix had some trouble with the trailer. He was a little thrown off by getting on to the right the day before and add to that someone mowing with a tractor right next to him and it was not a good start. He actually flew off the trailer backwards (for the first time ever) and did so dramatically enough that he cut a huge chunk out of his boots (better his boots then his leg).

I was starting to have second thoughts…Confidence booster? Maybe I was out to ruin our confidence instead. I really started to second guess myself as we put the butt bar up and he started to panic rocking the trailer backwards and forwards. Not wanting to let him pick up on any of my nerves I quickly snapped him in and got into the truck. The Young Rider took one look at my face that was filled with panic and told me to calm down. The reason Phoenix is okay at new places is because I am okay at them. I had a 25 minute ride to remind myself that yes, it was okay!

By the time we showed up my confidence was fully restored. I have driven past this barn many times, but never actually turned in the driveway before. As with all new places you go slow and look around for a place to park. I saw a relatively narrow opening that said show parking, so I slowly pulled in. It was a field, but not a very big one and it was already packed with cars. My first thought was, “damn, there goes my hope of small classes” and my second was, “We better check in and see what class they are on”. As I asked around to see where the registration table was I was met with odd news. People seemed unsure if the show was going to happen.

This was extra odd because I showed up at 11:30 and the show was supposed to start at 9am. I saw people all around in show clothes so I hoped that it would happen. When I got to the table though I was greeted with not so good news. I was told that the show was indeed canceled because the judge had never shown up. One look at the show organizers face told me that I had to take this fact with grace because the poor woman looked at her wits end. She apologized profusely and told me to feel free to come in the indoor and school at no charge. She felt terrible that I had come all the way out for nothing.

To Be Continued…

The Rebecca Cowden Clinic

*Can I just say that I have the best readers EVER! I was a little worried about yesterday’s post, but I had no need to be. You all are WONDERFUL. Thank you for being supportive and understanding!*

So when the signs came up at Gen’s barn for the Rebecca Cowden Clinic at the barn I was a little hesitant to sign up. You see, last time we had a clinic at the barn with a trainer I had never heard of I had a good time, but I did not feel like a learned a ton. At the time I thought I was going to be dropping $2,000 on shows this year, so a clinic was just not high on my priority last. That was until I started asking around. Everyone had really good things to say about Rebecca Cowden. The more I heard the more excited I got to sign up. She sounded like the perfect mix of support and toughness, which is just what Phoenix and I need right now.

After I signed up I thought about PJsMom and decided that she should come to. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing for her to decide that it was time for her baby horses first field trip. Gen’s farm is super low key and this clinic was shaping up to be the perfect place for her to go out and try something with him. I showed up at the barn bright and early on Saturday morning to find that my sweet Phoenix had decided to take a nappy in his poop over night so even though it was cold the poor thing got another bath. Once he was all clean it was time to go.

Phoenix had a little trouble with the trailer (which is unusual for him) because he was not used to getting on the right side. Seeing his pasture mate hop up gave PJ the confidence he needed to get right on as well. We had loaded a 6 year old and a 4 year old on to the trailer in about 3 minutes flat. I pointed out that even if nothing else went well, we still had already had a really good day! We were the first people at the clinic so we got a chance to unload the boys and let them look around the ring. They were both a little up, but nothing to be worried about. Once I let Phoenix hand graze (a treat he is NEVER allowed have when we travel) I had a very happy pony on my hands.

By the time the first rider showed up PjsMom and I decided to turn them out for a few minutes and watch a little bit so we would know what we were in for. Since it was Gens barn (so obviously they know me) and Phoenix and PJ are buds they got to go out in the dog field instead of having to hang out in a trailer all day. (Are they not the most adorable pair).

I left the decision of time slots up to PJsMom and her comfort level. One of us was scheduled to be the 2nd ride of the day. It didn’t take long for her to decide that she needed a few more minutes to gather herself so I went and got ready to ride. Phoenix was still feeling up and was totally cold backed getting his saddle on, but with the help of PJsMom I was ready to go in no time. I had only seen a few minutes of the first ride, but I was already excited to get on. Rebecca Cowden had been really good with the first horse who was very hot. I could not wait to see what she made of my Fat Spotted Pony.

I got on and he felt tense right away. In fact, he felt almost exactly as tense as he does before he starts his bucking fits. Rebecca could tell and right away we got to work. After a little while at the walk she told me I could trot when ready, so like the obedient student that I am, I trotted right away. Rebecca grilled me on why I had asked for the transition upward when my horse was not over the back at the walk yet. I told her the truth, because I never really thought about it. I just assumed that I could not get him over the back until after I canter. I was in for a treat! She got us to focus and me to steady my hand.

She could spot my HUGE issue of inconsistent rein contact right away. She explained it to me in a way that no one else has. We are always told to ride a horse back to front right? Well, I had decided that meant 80% back and 20% front. Instead, I should start thinking of it more as closing gates on both ends. The most amazing thing in the world happened once I got steady. Phoenix came over the back at the walk!! It is just a really cooling feeling when a horse comes underneath you, so to get it at my warm up walk was fantastic.

She then gave us permission to trot and reinforced the idea that a slower, but steadier trot over the back is much better then an out of control, yet impressive looking party trot. That was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. She also got after me for my nagging, and even kicking leg. It is not something I even consciously do so to have someone notice it and really get after me about it was just what I needed. Then it was time to focus on my arch nemisis. My hands. I do NOT have steady hands. If I did not get what she was talking about she would come back and say it in another way. She worked on getting to understand what I should be feeling all the time, praising me when I got it right, and making me think about things when I got it wrong.

She also reminded me that if I stay consistent it is impossible for Phoenix to pick a fight with me. He threw his face in the air after a walk break, which normally signals a battle of wills. Rebecca was able to diffuse the situation quickly and after that moment it was THE BEST RIDE EVER! She made me think of things that I know in a whole new way. By the time we cantered I had Phoenix constant and over the back. It was a wonderful feeling. Look at that picture at the top. The best part is, we were so consistant I have about 5 more pictures that look almost exactly like that at the canter! I felt like I was floating on air by the time we were done! I cannot say enough good things about the ride. I swear that I made a ton of progress in that short ride. I know everyone else agreed. PJsMom said she ahd never seen Phoenix and I look better…EVER.

It was like little light bulbs going off in my head the whole time I was riding. She really tied together everything that my trainer and PO tell me. I had the background knowedge of what, but I clearly was not understanding the why or the how. Rebecca, in a very short amount of time, was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together with me during the ride. She even said that I was a very good rider! Many times! She also pointed out that I needed to think of myself as a trainer, not just a rider. She really gave my confidence a boost.

Do we not look like the happiest horse and rider pair ever! We were both exhausted, but it was an amazing ride. Look at the drool coming out of my Fat Spotted Pony’s mouth! I was on cloud 9 as I untacked Phoenix and put him back out in the field. I only saw bits of PJsMom’s ride, but she looked fantastic as well. By the time lunch came around all the morning riders were smiling with that post good ride glow! I am so glad that I went to that clinic! It was the perfect bump I needed to remind myself that I have a lot to learn. Even though my time with Phoenix is coming to end, I still need to keep riding and learning. Prior to this clinic I thought I needed to take a break after Phoenix. After this ride (which words cannot do it justice) I called up my trainer and set up a lesson already for the first weekend in June. That was how good this ride was. If anyone out there gets a chance to ride with Rebecca Cowden, do it! Not all Grand Prix riders can teach, but she is one of the few that can! I hope to get to ride with her again someday. Maybe with Gennyral next time (just teasing).

All good things must come to an end…

It is with very mixed emotions that I am now writing that I am no longer going to be involved with Phoenix. What does that mean? That means that after next week’s show I will no longer be riding my fat spotted pony.

My last ride will be at the Memorial Day Show. Shocked by this news?

Well, so was I! As you all know, this winter I spent a ton of money to get my saddle perfectly fitted to Phoenix (not that it was, but it is the principle of the matter). I also spent a lot of time and money getting Phoenix registered with the USDF, the USEF, the local show grounds and Appaloosa Sport Horse Association. I even just got his feet done three weeks ago.

I have spent a lot of time trying to write this post in the most honest way. The reality of the situation though is that I cannot post the reason for this end. I have 100 reasons why I could have ended it (yes, this was my choice). Maybe someday I can share the reason, but for now I will spare the intimate details. This was my decision and I think everyone involved can agree that it was a good one.

I will say this, though…I am going to miss Phoenix a lot! It took me several days to decide that it was time to move on, but when I gave my notice I knew right away I had done the right thing. Is it hard to know that I am giving up my show pony when all I needed was a few more scores, but I do not regret my decision for one second. I finally found something that is more important than ribbons. I pride myself knowing when to walk away, and the fat lady was singing.

I apologize to my long time readers. I have always hated it when you read a blog and they are all “I love this horse” and then with no warning the horse is sold or something else big happens and you are left thinking what happened. I am now that blog and it sucks. I am really sorry about that. I have no regrets about Phoenix, but I do have some about not sharing everything on the blog. Hopefully something like this will never happen again.

It has been two and a half since it was just Gennyral and I. I think that this is the perfect time to just focus on my special pony. I am sure Gennyral would agree!

I don’t know how you hunters do it…

I had a BLAST at the fun show today but I am exhausted!!! I waited for HOURS for my classes! I am such a spoiled DQ. Very glad I went! Big confidence booster for next weekend. And ironically enough I did have a trailing issue, but it was not Phoenix related. I got stuck! Full story and details to come. I still can’t believe that it took me 6 hours at a show just to do 4 classes!

Horse Dies In Trailering Accident…

I am now officially traumatized about trailering! Which is not a good thing because I am planning to go to a fun show all by myself (well, Phoenix too, but he is not going to be much help) tomorrow. I am trying to remind myself that it is okay because this happened in England and clearly they have horrible horse trailers over there (to my UK readers…I know it is not true, but it is what I have to tell myself so I don’t freak out). That was seriously scary to read about. If you dare you can read the whole story here.