Archive for June, 2009


So Mr. Kid and I survived our first Starter Horse Trials.  Waredaca puts on a great show, by the way, and we had a wonderful time.  We also had some fantastic help and support from fellow boarders and friends, so big huge thank yous to everyone 🙂

Having that bit of super-organized assistance from people who know what they’re doing definitely makes things much, much easier, so I found I was far more relaxed getting on than I expected to be.  Until…. well, here’s the report.


Actually, I’m not sure what we did was technically dressage, as much as it was “omigod turn!  turn again! wait,  you’re supposed to trot there, oy!”  But I might be getting ahead of myself. 

Klon walked up the hill to the dressage warmup, and into the warmup itself, like a pro.  He seemed sort of unhappy and like he might start being upset, so I set right to work which wasn’t my original plan.  I didn’t want to overdo anything or overthink anything, so had wanted to do a fair amount of walking, and then a quick WTC and head right into the ring.  It wasn’t meant to be.  I got him up into the canter until he felt like he was breathing and settling, and then changed direction.  Upon changing direction, for some reason he felt he’d really had enough of the warmup area. 

He explained this to me by ducking his head to the side and trying to charge back towards the gate.  Then when I stopped the movement in that direction, by, um, rearing.  I’ve explained before that this is one of those things that I don’t deal well with- it scares me and it is incredibly difficult for me to master that and ride forward.  I managed to do it, but made the mistake of continuing on in the good direction, to the left, rather than forcing the issue.  I just wanted forward. 

Again, once we were good, I changed direction only to encounter the same problem.  It seemed to coincide with some really bad footing, which I happily would have avoided completely except that we needed to go through it to get to the ring.  I managed somehow to work through it until he would walk through the crappy area, then we stayed on firmer ground or in the corner, where we could walk on a loose rein until our test.

Amazingly enough, once we actually went to circle the dressage ring, he was fine.  I guess being uphill from the chaos helped keep him in a happy place.  We entered the ring at a reasonably forward trot and surprisingly straight (yay!), but from there I quickly realized that 20 x 40 meters is a very small space. We have been working on really going for the happy flatwork, on a longer-ish rein and going nice and forward into the corners and transitions.  But I felt a little bit like there was no time, and the first part of the test, which was a turn up the short diagonal, came so quickly I had no time to think.  Pictures show I really should have moved my hands forward and sat tall in my lower back- I reverted a bit to the hollow lower back which I think makes K a little more likely to be a resistant giraffe.

Our opening 20m circle was the best part of the test, scoring a 7, but the rest of the test comments were littered with gems like “open mouth” and “head high through transition.”  Which really is about what I expected, given how much trouble we were having at home.  All that aside though, it went really well.  I remembered the whole test, and was fairly accurate (if not pretty).  The transitions to canter felt great to me, though I don’t remember what the judge said about them.  She also noted he was a “very handsome horse” which really is all we need to be happy, because he *is* a very handsome horse. So we were pretty happy, and while I had originally had a bunch of thrilling fantasies about scoring a 30 or below (hahahahaha! hah! hahaa!) we ended with a 44, and I’m not complaining as neither horse nor rider has *ever* done a dressage test, ever, in the real world.

Stadium Jumping

The stadium course was a bit more complicated than I had expected for our first unrecognized horse trials- just a lot of interesting turns that took some planning, bending lines, and rollbacks.  We walked it twice the night before, and my plan was to take as much time in the turns as I could, and I was basically prepared to trot the whole thing if I needed to.

With that in mind, we trotted into the ring, and then trotted the first jump, which was an oxer.  He went, but it felt sort of awkward to me and since he landed in a nice enough rhythm, I continued on at the canter.  Jump two went fine, he was looking (lots of brightly colored rails and decoration) but I actually used my leg, and while it wasn’t the prettiest jump ever, we didn’t have a major problem.  Then we had a sort of rollback turn (but it was somewhat funny angled one) to a plank jump (the planks weren’t straight, but shaped like waves, sorta) to a bending line to a vertical.  I didn’t get quite as good a line there as I had wanted- we’d been watching people for a little while and saw a lot of folks ride it straight, angling both jumps, and that wasn’t working out.  So I wanted to land straight off the first one and wait for the turn.  What actually happened was something in between, and we jumped out of that line somewhat crookedly (though it wasn’t awful by any means). 

We landed on the wrong lead, but since it felt OK otherwise I didn’t want to interrupt the rhythm by getting a lead change.  He can do flying changes, but it’s not reliable yet, so I continued on.  I’m thinking now we would have been much better off if I had stopped and changed it.  But everything looks better in hindsight, right?  We jumped into the next line a little crooked, and I had gotten ahead of him which meant it took several strides for me to sit down and realize we were nowhere near straight for the next jump (though seriously, every other part of the course was land-turn, LOL).  I was too late in trying to do something about it, and we had a run out.  Totally my fault. 

So we took a deep breath, and regrouped, and came back to that jump at a trot.  Once out, again in fairly even and happy canter, I continued on and we did the next vertical just fine.  The following jump was out of a rollback and also went just fine- then a 90 degree turn to an oxer and a sort of funky rollbacky turn (just like jump 2 to 3, basically) to the last jump. 

It makes me giggle that of all the problematic things on that course, the thing that I flubbed was the *one* straightforward part.

Cross Country

After jumping we had to head back up the hill for XC.  The entire walk over, it was relaxed and businesslike Klondike, with me riding on a loose rein and thinking about how much fun we were about to have.  Once up in the warmup area (which we were going to skip… no need after just jumping in stadium!) however, he took one look over at the still-busy dressage area, and started to get a bit upset again.  This time, instead of doing anything really worrisome, he ducked his head down and tried to spin around towards where we had just come from.  My usual use of the crop plus FORWARD NOW! was not working, and he just wanted nothing to do with that warmup area. 

Being unsure of what to do at this point (I know, forward is the answer, but I wasn’t getting any, plus people were trying to jump, and other people were trying to spectate in the warmup area) I just yelled for someone in the friend group to come help.  Fortunately they could still hear me, and Allie came jogging back to assist.  He just needed a lead, basically, and she got us across the road, and led him in a few circles until he exhaled a little bit.  Then we got him walking and moving around and then it was time for the start box.

Once in there, it was all systems go 🙂  I had planned on trotting out, but he wanted to canter, and I felt he would focus more on the jump coming up if I wasn’t trying to wrestle with him, so on we went.  The first jump was an inviting log and we had no trouble with it.  Then down a little slope and up again to a wooden miniature hobbit house looking thing.  The third jump I trotted as it was downhill and the landing was downhill for quite a ways-  I know, but really, I’m still not used to this. 

The fourth and fifth jumps went VERY well, and it was a shame no one was down there to see it- he took a good look at four but I actually sat and waited for it, and it went fine.  5 was a really cool thing called the “palisades” and everything about it was near perfect.  That was my favorite jump on the whole course, actually, and we found it right out of stride and it was easy-peasy.  Then around the corner and down a little swale and up over another log, no problem (though we trotted down into it).  The next four jumps were bigger than the others, and I admit I was a titch worried about them.  The first of that group was a roll top thing, painted dark green, and set so that you were approaching it uphill.  It took a lot of leg and I could feel Klon looking at it, but he went right to it.

Once over the roll top I finally took a breath, and figured everything else should be easy.  The following jump was a white lattice thing that they had put some brush on to make it a little less spooky.  It looks sort of out of place on course, so he looked at that one too, but again, I kept my leg on and it wasn’t a problem.

The jump after that originally worried me when walking the course, but from horseback it just looked fun, and it rode that way too.  On landing, we came back to the trot (probably could have kept going, but I felt a little unbalanced) to a coop that looked bigger than it was.  Klon had no issue, and it was on to the water where we… walked in.  He never felt the least bit hesitant about the water, there was just no getting him to trot in.  He likes water and will trot and canter through it when it’s smaller/clearer or in a different setting (the woods, usually).  This was murky and deeper and in a strange place, so he just wanted to test it out.  Once out of there, we cantered to the last jump, which was a small little barn shaped thing set uphill. 

I let him go a little to that one (probably still achingly slow in reality), and we got to a very funny distance.  I could almost feel him thinking about what he wanted to do, but just gave him the reins (and maybe leaned forward? I need to stop doing that, huh?) and he chose to take the flyer from pretty far out, then we ran up the hill to the flags with big grins on our faces.

I hopped off and we walked all the way back to the trailer (hey, he just carted my too-forward and jumping-ahead arse all around Waredaca, right?).  The whole way he was walking like a rock star, acting like he’d just won the Derby.  I think he *might* like cross country just a little bit (and maybe I do too).

KK and me with Susan, one of our awesome support team members

KK and me with Susan, one of our awesome support team members

In the end we finished 11th out of 17 entries, with 48 points I think.  Considering it was the first time for BOTH of us (really, is that recommended? I don’t think so. heh.), I’m pretty thrilled.  I have some stuff to work on for sure, but he was essentially a rock star, and it was SO MUCH FUN I want to go again. 🙂


June 22, 2009 at 8:09 am 4 comments

Holy Moly- it’s an extravaganza!

OK, in addition to Klon’s (and my) eventing debut this Sunday at Waredaca Farm (hint hint), there is more awesome CANTER stuff going on this weekend.

Saturday, June 20th, is the  CANTER Mid Atlantic/OTTB Appreciation Day at Swan Lake Stables AA Show

Stop by the booth for info, raffles, bake sale and to view listings of OTTBS for sale through CANTER at Mid Atlantic Tracks and CANTER Mid Atlantic’s rehoming program.

Two outstanding TB awards will also be presented at the show that day:

The Francis Bacon Memorial Trophy to an outstanding TB Jumper., and the “It’s My Turn” Memorial Trophy to an outstanding TB Hunter.

This is part of a week long show running from June 16th-21st 2009, featuring the DJ Johnson Horse Transportation $10,000 Hunter Derby, Friday June 19th at 5 pm and the $35,000 SuperHero Grand Prix Sunday June 21st at 1:30 pm.

June 18, 2009 at 9:28 am Leave a comment


I just checked the Waredaca site and the times are up for Sunday.  We will be riding dressage a bit after ten, and jumping/xc a bit after noon.  Seeing it up like that, with our names plastered out there for everybody to see, has suddenly made me really nervous.  I have that weird feeling inside that I usually only get the morning of a show, not four days beforehand.

I have decided to just sort of surrender myself to whatever happens in dressage, which is probably the best possible stance to take.  Now I just have to remember to actually breathe when I enter the ring 🙂  We actually had a much better ride the other day- I tried a flash noseband, but also took a step back from the work we’d been doing and just sort of… I don’t know, rode him more like a hunter.  I gave him a longer rein, didn’t push for quite as much forward (that seems to get him more rankled- probably because it’s harder!), and just quit caring about doing it right so much (and the head tossing/twisting, or the resistance when I ask for downward transitions).

I know that sounds wrong, one should never quit caring!  But being as I have such a tenuous grasp on my sanity lately, it was making me intensely neurotic trying to focus so hard.  All the things floating through my head while riding were turning me into a mess – trying so hard to keep my hands still, my hips soft, my leg here, my shoulders there, my weight over there… I was starting to feel like I was failing the horse, even though the reality was that things weren’t that bad at all.

So, Martians to Kelly:  it’s OK if it’s not perfect.  Quit trying so hard and just have fun! 

And you know what? That totally works. 

So anyway- those of you in Maryland who might be in the vicinity of Waredaca– please feel free to stop by and meet us!  Regardless of how we do (especially in dressage) Klondike and I really love to have a fan club.  We’ll be wearing royal blue, since it’s the color of the CANTER logo (unfortunately I couldn’t quite pull off getting said logo embroidered on my saddlepad in time.  So sad!).  If you haven’t met this horse, you REALLY have to!

June 18, 2009 at 8:43 am 1 comment

The Klondike Dance

First you bounce the crossties

First you bounce the crossties

Bounce the crossties, yeah!

Bounce the crossties, yeah!

Then look to the left...

Then look to the left...

And throw your head in the air

And throw your head in the air

In the air, In the air

In the air, In the air

June 16, 2009 at 8:44 am 1 comment

It’s Official

OK, people, watch out!

The entry is in for the unrecognized event at Waredaca on June 21.  While I can’t promise it will be pretty, it’s sure to be a blast.

We have some lessons lined up in preparation, as well as a saddlepad that matches the boots (and a cute little matching ear bonnet, but that could just be overkill).

Words of advice for a hunter-wannabe rider going to her first event?

June 9, 2009 at 10:15 am 6 comments

Boing! Boing! Boing!

Trying to find a saddle that works well for K may be a losing endeavor, unless I want to spend more money than I have.  In any case, it appears mine, funny marks and all, may be the best I can do, so I’ll experiment with different pads and see how that works. 

Last night we went for a mosey with Allie and the amazing Phinny, and Klondike was sort of feeling his oats the whole way.  He’s a great trail horse, but he was feeling a little bouncy, and was not so into the walking.  If we wanted to trot, he wanted to bounce up and down at the canter.  We had one moment that I would actually classify as “bad” (as always, with the disclaimer that his “bad” is seriously laughable).  So when we got back to the farm, we put him to work a little bit. 

Allie lowered some jumps in the back ring and we did some work over them.  First working on trotting everything in very controlled and straight fashion, and landing in a light and organized manner so we could stop on the other side (before the end of the ring? really? hee!).  Then we worked on a little exercise where we jumped some narrow flower boxes (about 2′?) with no standards, so it requires you to be pretty straight and controlled.

When we moved on to cantering things and putting pieces of a course together, he was fabulous, except that he has a tendency to get sort of squirrely sideways on the approach to the fence, particularly when coming off a left hand turn.  This is HUGELY related to me and some crookedness issues I have, but on other horses doesn’t seem to be a massive problem (though Stephen could show it up, actually, now that I think about it).  In order to combat this I had to really concentrate on weighting my left stirrup, using my right leg, and almost thinking about counterbending a little bit.  Actually, sometimes I have to do the opposite too, as to which way I’m weighting my hips, but mostly it was more to the left.    When I get it right, he stays much straighter and we have a better jumping experience.

It sounds like a lot to think about, but I’m starting (just starting, after twenty something years of being on horses), to get more of a feel.  It’s a slight difference, but just feeling what to do, instead of having to run through a mental checklist, is a pretty big deal.  I don’t always get it right and it definitely helps to have eyes on the ground, but I’ll take the baby steps.

After jumping everything and working on those things for a while, Allie put a few of the jumps up to a respectable height (I have no idea about actual height, my perception is very much off) and we practiced first trotting a bigger jump and waiting all the way to the base, then a little bending line in four strides (eek! that comes up fast!)

We had to really work on that bending line.  It’s hard for me to stay organized and typically on landing I’m sort of in a heap, and it takes 2-3 strides to get myself in order again.  But when you only have four strides to work with and the second jump is larger than a crossrail, you sort of need to land in organized fashion from the first one with no downtime.  Once I figured that out a little bit, we had a few genuinely good passes through it.

The cool thing with Klon is that I always feel confident that he’ll go- he may be sideways, he may get a weird spot, but I always feel safe and like it’s not going to be a big deal.  As a consequence, jumps and obstacles have begun looking smaller to me than they used to 🙂

As an aside, I do think I need to shorten my stirrups another hole for jumping, I could feel myself getting ahead of the motion and losing my lower leg a few times (er, every time… ha!)

Hopefully video/pictures soon 🙂

June 4, 2009 at 9:54 am Leave a comment

Yes, I’m Alive!

Really, I’m still here, and still riding Kloninator 🙂

But over the past few weeks I’ve had some personal life upheavals, which included moving, which has put a crimp in things a little bit.  For starters, I don’t have a home computer, and have to get a card reader so I can maybe upload pictures from, uh, the other computers I do have access to.

In the meantime, you will be subjected to some photo-less posts, which is a real shame, because Klondike is as cute as ever.

At last report I was mentioning wanting to change the bit and play with that a little bit.  While I was thinking about trying a happy mouth mullen, it turns out that CANTER didn’t have one, but did have a happy mouth full cheek.  So I tried it with reasonably good results.  Of course, those results also may have been from getting after him (with leg and occasionally stick) when he got really funny with his head, and from using my body better, but I’ll take what I can get.

During that ride we actually did a lot of work at the walk.  I know it’s not as fun as other things, but I really wanted to get to a place where we can do walk/halt transitions with no fuss, and where he follows the contact instead of resisting it.  Much like working at the halt during our last dressage lesson, this takes and enormous amount of leg and usage of the core.  I almost felt like I was lifting his rib cage with my body, but that seems to be what it takes.  By the end of the session he was really engaging at the walk, and I could see his back muscles in use in the mirrors (I LOVE having mirrors), and he was following my hand in a soft relaxed way, when I asked for bending and such.

What wasn’t as good was the transitions to halt.  He really likes to twist or pull on me or otherwise resist as soon as I ask for a downward transition, so we spent a fair amount of time doing downward transitions while on a bend, as an attempt to mitigate that response.  In addition, whenever he got really resistant, or doing strange things with his body through the transition, I’d just kick him forward again right away.

Never has so much work at the walk been so exhausting 🙂

In more recent rides, though, I think it has helped.  He’s not staying “pretty” through the downward transition but it’s vastly improved.  Maybe in a few weeks we really will be able to get through a dressage test without embarrassing ourselves too much!

In addition to all that, I’m trying to find a saddle that fits him, because I can’t help but think it’s all somewhat related.  My saddle, which is a Wide tree that I bought for my draft cross, leaves dents in his back where the panels are, which seems to me to be a very bad thing (he’s gained a fair amount of weight- it used to be too wide for him!).  So last night I experimented with other peoples’ saddles, trying to find something that might work.

The one that seemed the most promising, a Berney Bros. jumping saddle, turned out to not work so well in practice.  On the ground, it seemed it had the best amount of freedom over the shoulder of the saddles I tried, so I girthed up and gave it a go.  Klondike made clear very early that he was not pleased with it, shaking his head and neck and lurching/jumping around a lot.  I had to canter him in circles and really make him work to get him to settle down, but he was never really happy, even when he stopped acting out (and as always, Klondike’s “acting out” is about as unthreatening as it gets, heh).  For some reason the saddle didn’t work for me either, and I have bruises today on the insides of my thighs (one would hope that if one had bruises there, it would be from something more fun), so I understand his response to it.

When I untacked, I found the saddle had left some dry patches on either side of his withers, and since the rest of him was drenched in sweat, I’m assuming that’s a pressure mark.  I think the forward cut of that saddle was interfering with his shoulders, as well.

I’m not sure what to try next- maybe the one used for the other draft cross at the barn, who is wider than mine 🙂  I may also check the tack shop for a used cheapo thing that might fit him better.  If you’d told me at the beginning of all this that I’d be looking for a super-wide saddle for the ex-racehorses, I might have laughed – aren’t they supposed to be narrow with shark-fin withers?


June 3, 2009 at 7:32 am 1 comment

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