MACTA Schooling Show

This weekend I took Coco and Dieter to Heritage Park in Olathe, KS for schooling a the one day horse trial. Coco just went on Sunday for the horse trial. We know he's capable of jumping all the BN XC jumps his heart desires... why push it? See Dieter's blog for full details about Saturday.

I took both horses on Sunday. Dieter just did the BN combined test and Coco did the full horse trial. Dieter's dressage was first and then I had to do a quick tack change to get Coco ready. Warm up went fairly well. He got a really, really long walk (old man deserves it), and rode like his usual self. Our dressage test went ok. He acted like he hasn't been there probably 10 times and seen the orange boxcar in the corner of the dressage ring probably 10 or more times and acted like everything was totally new. But overall he was pretty containable and I'm pretty sure he knows that test by heart by now, seeing as we've ridden it so many times. His left lead was pretty questionable, but we know that he needs his hocks done and we're just waiting until closer to the Texas recognized show in November. I wasn't going to push it, so I got mostly off his back and let him go forward so it wouldn't look too lateral. We pulled off a 34.5 going into stadium and cross country. I have no idea what place we were in after dressage... I was too busy riding 2 horses. :P

They give us a time frame for stadium and cross country. For example, beginner novice was from 1:15-2:15. I rode Dieter right at 1:15 and then had to do another quick tack change before Coco's stadium round. As soon as he was tacked up and I was on him, he acted more like a 5 year old who had never been to a horse show than his 20 year old with lots of show miles self. He was prancing. He wouldn't walk. He was neighing to Dieter the whole time. He wouldn't stop moving. Once we started jumping and cantering, he was better. Once it was time to do our stadium course, he remembered his job and was fine. He jumped the stadium course like it was his job (because it is). We went double clear, in true Coco fashion. Check it out here. Then we went out on cross country and when he was away from the other horses and we were by ourselves, he was absolutely perfect. He jumped every jump he was supposed to jump. I swear he knows that course (we have ridden it 4 times by now), because he was locking onto the next jump as we were landing jumps. He was absolutely perfect in every way. We came in pretty close to speed fault time (whoops). I was so happy with him. I jumped off and gave him a long walk around the jumping warm up area so he could cool down a bit before we went back to the trailer. He got a quick hose down and was good to jump in the trailer to go home. After his lineament bath at home, he was happy to chug some water and head to the pasture to play. We ended up in 3rd place in a competitive class. I was extremely happy with my old man!


It's Been Forever!

I know. I know. It's been forever since I've blogged. I have officially decided to make this blog about Coco and Coco alone, and I will be creating another blog for my adventures with Dieter. It's only fair that they each have their own blog. I mean, they each have his own saddle(s), bridle(s), and everything else, so why not their own blogs??

Anyways, Coco has had a lot of the year off. We have done several schooling horse trials at Heritage Park in Olathe, KS, and Longview Horse Park in KC, MO. We've mostly taken the year off from recognized horse trials, though, so that Dieter could get his foot in the door. I've been mostly riding Coco 3x/week to keep up his fitness and make him happy. However, when we went to enter for Catalpa Corners, there was no starter division (and D and I weren't quite ready for BN), so instead of totally not going to one of my favorite events of the year, I decided to enter Coco. Plus, we needed to at least try for the hat trick (we'd won that event the past 2 years in a row).

We left on Thursday to go to Lorna's house in North KC where the horses (Coco and Duncan) stayed overnight so we could get an early start on Friday morning. We got to Iowa City around noon on Friday after an interesting ride with me, Chris, Samantha, and Taylor, as well as Sophie and Roger (the dogs) all piled into the truck. we set up stalls, walked the cross country courses, and rode the ponies. Coco warmed up really well.

First hiccup of the weekend: I forgot my show coat. Stupid me keeps it in the front closet at my house. Lorna suggested we check out JC Penny and just buy a men's suit coat. After we rode the horses, Chris and I hit up JC Penny where we had to take selfies with crazy colored suit coats (bright red and purple) before we bought a replacement. Then we met everyone else at HuHot for delicious Mongolian food and headed back to the show grounds where Chris and I were shacking up in our tack stall with the pups.

I didn't ride dressage until 11:30am on Saturday, so I had plenty of time in the morning to bathe, braide, and memorize my dressage test. I got on around 10:30 so I could give him a long warm up. The test was ok, but we've been having trouble with the left lead canter lately (most likely because he didn't get his hocks injected this year because we were planning on showing at local shows only). It was pretty sticky, but the judge seemed more upset that his mouth was open at certain points in our test. We ended up with a 38.0. I felt like it was fair given our moments of tenseness and the lateral nature of the left lead canter. We were sitting in 9th place out of 11 starters in my division.

Time to run cross country! Coco got several hours off to relax and let his mane un-crimp before we got ready to head to warm up. This would be my first cross country course using my inflatable vest; it made everything feel so bulky yet so safe all at the same time! I was honestly a bit worried about cross country, because it had been several months since Coco and I had even been to a cross country schooling. I feel like I can jump this horse with my eyes closed, but cross country requires a bit more finesse. Coco warmed up pretty well, though. He started out jumping a bit hesitantly (let's be honest, though, it was probably my nerves), but we got into a rhythm and started doing better. The course was awesome. It was the same as last year, so it should have been pretty straightforward, but as we ascended the hill to the water, I got over Coco's shoulder and continued at the canter instead of slowing to a trot and sitting back. Coco saw the water and said, "Is this sanitary?" as he did a 180. Thank god for that inflatable vest, because as I was hanging over his shoulder, all I could think was "don't let the vest inflate!" and I worked like H-E-double hockey sticks to stay on that stupid horse. I spun him around and we trotted right through the water like it was nothing and continued on. I wasn't sure how much time we'd lost, so I may or may not have allowed him to go a bit faster than necessary and taken some shortcuts on the rest of the course. We had no other problems. Coco attacked the jumps and we came in right above speed fault time. Other people must have had some trouble on cross country, because even with a refusal on cross country, we moved up to 8th place.

Steak dinners for all! We all earned it. Especially Samantha who spent the entire day running around taking pictures for people. What a champ!

Jumping day is the best! We have time to actually watch the higher level riders. Chris and I set up camp next to the show jumping ring and just watched. There were a lot of problems on the show jumping course. Lots of rails being dropped, refusals, and slipping and sliding. When the time came, I headed back to the barns to start getting ready. For once in my life, I wouldn't be the last rider in our group (Taylor rode after me in her BN division). I got Coco ready and kept him in a halter so we could watch some of the competition and didn't have to get on until we were completely ready. He got a good warm up and we did out usual show jumps. The warm up ring was particularly hectic, but we got through it, even after a rider fell off and her trainer wouldn't stop laughing as her horse trampled bystanders in his rush back to the barn. Coco's love of show jumping really sparkled and we went double clear (like the champ he is) over the challenging course. We moved up to 7th place. Yay, purple! If we hadn't had our trouble on cross country, we would have been third.

Overall, though, it was a good weekend. It made me happy that Coco is still happy to event, but it made me wonder, when is enough enough? At what point do I need to think more of his well-being and safety instead of what I want him to do? How will he tell me when he's finished? I don't think a 20 year old saddlebred needs to keep running cross country. I'm not opposed to continuing in dressage or jumping schooling shows, but I'm not sure it's in Coco's best interests to continue with strenuous USEA shows. Our group talked about going to Texas Rose Horse Park for their November Horse Trials. I would really like to finish an event at Texas Rose Horse Park on Coco. I feel like I owe him that after 2 rider falls at the last 2 AECs. I let him down and we both deserve to finish that course. Maybe without the stress of AECs, we'll be able to do better. That will likely be Coco's last USEA recognized horse trial and we'll opt for schooling shows over the winter and in the future. Coco has had a good life, he's happy, and I would hate for something to happen to him to cut his future short because I was selfish and wanted to compete for too long. He's an amazing horse, and I would rather keep him around as long as possible, safe and sound, than selfishly compete him until I break him. I love my Coco Bean.


2016 Goals

I've always been in the camp that it's best to publish yearly goals and make them known so that the people around me can help me stay accountable. So here they are...

1. Keep Coco's fitness up with 3 rides per week.
2. Learn all Parelli games with Coco.
3. Top 3 BN at MACTA shows with Coco.
4. Show Dieter BN at a recognized event.
5. Under 30 dressage score on Dieter (walk/trot/canter test).
6. Personal weight loss goal (I have a number I'm reaching for, but I don't feel comfortable publishing that here).
7. Non-riding working out 3 times per week.
8. Finish a sprint (short) triathlon with Chris (trainer) in September.
9. Hike with Sophie off-leash with good heel/recall.
10. Read 6 horse-related books in 2016.

So there it is. Coco's vacation officially ended last week and he's been great so far. He's doing well on both leads, not really showing any discomfort, and he's definitely feeling fiesty with all the weather changes. And I've started riding Dieter at home in the field, which has been interesting but fun. He's mostly well-behaved.

Here's to an amazing 2016, both in the equestrian world and the real world!


Yet Another Forgotten Blog... And Happy Holidays!!

I totally forgot to update about the Windemere Horse Trials at Longview this fall! The show was at the end of October (10/24-25) at Longview Horse Park in Kansas City. Coco and I entered the beginner novice division. He had been having some trouble with his hocks and I just wanted to get qualifying for 2016 AECs out of the way (if possible).

We got stalls to make all our lives easier, eventhough the show was in KC. It was still about a 1.5 hour drive from Butler (where the horses are now) to KC. Chris was pleasantly surprised that she wouldn't have to haul us back and forth every day. We did a little dressage warm up on Friday night out in the field, because the warm up arena was crazy. It went well (from what I remember). Coco and I didn't have our first ride on Saturday until pretty late, 3:22pm. I decided to go for a short hack in the morning. We literally walked back and forth between XC and dressage so that he would chill out a little bit.

We rode our dressage test (which I tried multiple times to upload to YouTube and then accidentally deleted) and got a 34.0. I honestly can't remember what went wrong, but it put us in 8th place overall. The cross country course was exactly the same as the cross country course at the Mill Creek Horse Trials at Longview earlier this year, so Coco and I were pros. We went double clear to move up to 4th place. Then on Sunday, we went double clear in stadium to move up to third place.

So Coco and I are officially qualified for the American Eventing Championships next year (thought we might have officially qualified at the Heritage show... Either way, now we know for sure that it's true)! Yay!

Coco got about two weeks off (as I typically give him after horse shows). When I went to get him out, we tried to do a simple dressage school and he was coming up pretty lame. I'm assuming it's a hock issue (as usual). But I was kind of desperate, because we had a clinic with Moray Nicholson on November 14th (about 3 weeks after the Longview show). Chris (my trainer) offered to let me ride her horse Dieter in the clinic. He has been a pasture ornament of hers since I've known her, and he and Coco are best friends. I rode Dieter at the clinic (after riding him a total of 2 times before that weekend) and we did pretty well (considering how few times I had ridden him in preparation). It seemed like we might get along.

First ride on Dieter (pictured above). 

Anyways, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about Coco and his age (he's going to be 20 next year). I really wish I could give Coco a significant amount of time off this winter, but I can't stop riding. I'm just too selfish. It's time to start thinking about what is going to come next. Should I keep showing Coco in eventing and spending money on vet bills for hock injections and bute trying to keep him healthy and happy? Should I drop down and go to hunter/jumper schooling shows where we can just have fun and mess around? Is it worth it to run him into the ground and then not be able to enjoy his later years with him? Should I try to keep him healthy and happy as long as possible or try to keep winning at events and moving up the levels? Should I start thinking about starting a new horse so that Coco can share the showing responsibilities with another pony? It's a lot to think about. I love Coco to death and want to be able to enjoy him for as many years as possible, even if that means not showing or riding him as much as I have been. As much as I hate that.

Chris offered to let me start riding (with the possibility of buying) Dieter more consistently. He's a 9 year old American Warmblood (Hanoverian/Trakaener). Maybe 16.0-16.1 hands. I guess I should stick him. But even if I didn't want to buy him, it would be good for her because she could offer him for sale with more miles on him than he would have had just walking out of the pasture.

Anyways, I rode Dieter for about a month until I finally decided to just buy him. Now Coco has a brother! And Coco can have the winter totally off (6-8 weeks) and we can see how he's doing when the weather gets better. And in the mean time, I can ride Dieter and start to see if we'd have any future in the eventing world.

They're besties!

So far, it's looking pretty promising. Dieter and I went to a combined test winter schooling show at West End Farm last weekend and did pretty well. It's kind of fun to ride a horse who's crappy days at dressage are comparable to Coco's best days. We entered the Green as Grass division (lower than starter with the max height being 18" and a dressage test that didn't have any cantering). We got a 36.9 on our first dressage test ever (Intro Test A where we learned the importance of working on halts) and a 32.5 on our second dressage test ever (Intro Test C which includes cantering). We dropped one rail in our stadium round, but it was totally my fault. I asked him to add a stride and was totally looking down at the jump. Plus, we was probably pretty tired. He was ridden 3 times the day prior and is barely used to being ridden 3 times a week. Check out the YouTube videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ppd6JAXsyHg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jujes-T70c

It's pretty cool to start a greener horse, though. Dieter is teaching me a lot about dressage (like how to use outside rein), which is fun, because hopefully I can go back to Coco and be a better teacher for him. Dieter had some dressage training with Emily Miles (Waggoner) when Chris first got him. It's also pretty cool to see him change. We've already developed a fun relationship. I think he likes me! And he's physically changing and getting stronger and fitter. You can actually see his withers now! We're starting slow, though. The jumping is still pretty new to him, but he's got a great head on his shoulders and I think he really enjoys it. It's fun, though, because what I don't know about dressage, he teaches me and what he doesn't know about jumping, I can help teach him. It's a fun difference compared to Coco and I who were learning everything together.

Anyways, with this new addition, I've started to think about changing the name of this blog. Chris and everyone at my barn always wanted me to make Coco's show name "Sleeps On My Pillow" because he and I had such an incredible relationship and he was always willing to do whatever it took to get me out of a tight spot and save my butt. However, I was always too cheap to officially change his name with USEA (it costs all of $15). But this relationship with Dieter is looking like it's going to be something similar. He's willing to do whatever it takes to make me happy (man, I love geldings). But I'm thinking about making his USEA name "Sleeps On My Pillow" since I dropped the ball on Coco. So I have changed the name of this blog to SleepsOnMyPillow@blogspot.com to accommodate my new adventures with 2 horses! 2016 should be a fun year! 

Also, the indoor animals didn't want to feel left out in wishing everyone a merry Christmas, happy New Year, and happy holidays, so they got their own little photo shoot this morning. 

Merry Christmas! We wish you all a 2016 filled with health, happiness, good times with good friends, and blue ribbons! 

Love always, 
Nancy, Coco, Dieter, Sophie, & Truman


Heritage Park Horse Trials 2015

Several weekends ago, Coco and I ventured to Heritage Park in Olathe, KS for the Heritage Park Horse Trials. I took Friday off work so that I could make sure the trailer was ready, load up all my show stuff, and give Coco a bath before we had to load up at noon. This year, we had decided to get stalls, because Chris was riding in a hunter/jumper clinic down the road at Iron Horse Hill the same weekend and we didn't want to make her have to make a ton of trips with the trailer on an already-stressful weekend.

We loaded up the horses, stopped at Sonic, dropped Chris's horse (Stuart) off at Iron Horse, and headed to Heritage. We got there around 3:00 and I had to ride my practice dressage test at 3:40. I immediately started tacking up and getting ready and got on around 3:15. Coco and I had a beautiful warm-up, but as soon as I went down centerline, nothing was going right for us. Our corners and bend were great, but he was pretty over-flexed (story of my life with a saddlebred) and tense. We ended up with a 37.0, but hopefully we got all the kinks out and would have a better test when it really mattered on Saturday morning.

We walked the cross country course, which seemed like it would be challenging. It looked like there were a lot of series of jumps with fun jumper-type turns followed by longer stretches to allow for some fun gallops. The course was definitely different than it had been in previous years, which was good! We got confused about one of the jumps (jump 6 had an option for the championship division vs. regular division, which we initially walked as an awkward line), which I didn't catch until the second walk-through. During my second course walk, I saw Amanda Pezold (a trainer from Fulton, MO who I rode with for a little bit in 2011), who chatted with me about Coco and our recent plans to possibly retire him soon as well as offering that I look at a horse she knew of who might be a good match with me. After the course walk, we fed horses and headed up for the night relatively early. Sophie (the pup) and I headed home and got to bed early for a horse show night.

We woke up early on Saturday morning and headed out to the showgrounds (it's about a half hour from my house). I fed, cleaned stalls, caught up with Lindsey (who was there to braid horses), and topped off water as I waited to watch Kris Maloney (well, now Wallace... another former trainer) ride her saddlebred in the Training division. I started to braid Coco's mane as I waited for Lorna's ride at 9:05. The dressage rings were running late and by the time I got back to the barn, I had to turn Coco's braids into buttons, put in studs, tack up, and change my clothes by 11am. I didn't quite have time to get everything done and succumbed to the pressure, asking Chris to help me with studs. I guess I didn't account for enough time for everything! I'm not used to putting in studs for dressage... yep, I'm gunna go ahead and blame that. Anyway, we got it all done with enough time to give Coco plenty of warm up before our dressage test at 11:59.

Again, Coco had a beautiful warm-up. Everything went really well and he was really loose and happy and relaxed. And again, as I went down centerline, he tensed up. The whole test was a fight. Our bend was decent, but our rhythm wasn't consistent, we had trouble on the left lead canter, and may have jigged at bit at the medium walk after the free walk. I think I just tense up as we go down centerline and cause him anxiety instead of just relaxing like I do in warm up. Apparently the judge was feeling lenient, though, and we ended up with a 36.5 putting us in 7th place in a class of 16. Top half, that's all I ever hope for after dressage.

I took Coco's studs out (for about an hour before I had to put them back in for cross country... who knows, maybe he'd want to lay down) and we relaxed a bit before I had to get ready for cross country. I used my old saddle (oh, that's right, I got a new saddle! It's a pretty 17.5 Pessoa monoflap!), because Chris's motto is always to limit changes on show day. This time, I had my time management skills a little better planned out and was able to get on and start warming up around 3pm for our 3:40 XC ride time. Warm up was great and the course rode beautifully. Coco was nice and consistent in his pace and very happy to jump whatever I pointed him at. I crossed the finish line and couldn't contain my excitement. I started crying. After all the excitement of AEC's, I was waiting to see what happened on XC to see if Coco still wanted to be an eventer or not. Apparently he really does love his job. I'm sure I just put too much pressure on myself and him at the stupid championships.

Anyway, I was on a total high after our clean cross country ride. I knew other people were having trouble on the course, but I had to wait until later that evening to figure out just how much we moved up, if at all. I gave Coco a bath and then Sophie and I ran out to cross country so we could watch Taylor and Duncan ride. I hung out by Lindsey and her dad (the EMT) so that we could hear the play-by-play of Taylor's ride over the radio. She started out great, but then had trouble at a couple of the more difficult questions on the course with 2 refusals (but somehow no speed penalties). We took care of the horses and fed. I ended up going to dinner with Kris and Abby (from my barn in Columbia), where I looked up scores after XC that showed that we moved up from 7th to 2nd after cross country! Almost half of our division had at least 1 refusal on cross country, and Coco and I had somehow managed to go completely clean. After catching up and celebrating a bit, we all headed back to the showgrounds where I fed beet pulp, wrapped Coco's legs, and walked the stadium course (in near-darkness). The saddlebreds (Coco, Dan, and Sassy) had a group meeting-of-the-minds as they grazed under the stars for a while before I headed home.

One more early morning of feeding, doing stalls, and taking care of water buckets before stadium day. I walked the stadium course once with Chris and once on my own. It definitely had a lot of tough questions with roll backs and tight turns, but Brody's courses are always pretty tricky. I knew we would have to take it seriously. Coco and I were the first group from our barn that would go. I got ready really early (as usual), but I figured that a long walk warm-up wouldn't hurt. I turned on the tunes, threw on the turtle backpack (filled with Coco's halter, water bottles, and the essentials), and started people-watching as I took some huge laps around the warm-up field. When our division started, we started doing our typical 2-2-2 warm up and started jumping a bit. Coco was great. If he took a wrong step, it was totally my fault for holding him back too much and not having the right pace headed to the jumps.

We were finally ready to go in and Coco was very ready. He was jumping like it was his job (oh wait... it is!) and made a difficult course look (and feel) easy. Everything rode great! We ended up going double clear. The worst we could possibly get was 2nd! Yay! After I walked out of the ring and headed toward my barnmates, I thought I saw the person who was supposed to go after me refusing the 1st jump out of the corner of my eye. I had to do a double-take. It was true! They had a refusal! We had moved up to 1st! How freaking exciting! We went in for our award ceremony (where we won a cooler! I've always wanted to win a cooler!) and victory lap. All our fellow competitors were awesome and kind and I love being able to show against them.

After several photo-ops and fondling over my Coco Bean, I put on his halter and we watched our barnmates. Taylor had an interesting, but effective, ride and ended up in 5th place. We walked our horses back where we untacked and started packing up the trailer. I grabbed some Jazzy B's and the pup and we headed back to the arenas to watch Lorna's ride. She was having a good weekend up until this point. She was sitting in 6th place in a tough Novice Championship division on a 32.0 dressage score and double clear XC ride. She went into the arena, circled like she was going to the first jump, and turned off of it to take another jump that was pointed on a similar diagonal but facing the opposite direction. She took the wrong jump! Poor Lorna has too many things going through her head. She was eliminated before she really got to jump anything.

We all packed up and headed out. We got back to the barn in Butler around 3pm and I was home and taking a nap by 4:30pm. Coco has had the whole week off (like I've totally, completely avoided going to the barn all week long), and we will be showing again at Longview next weekend (the 23-24th of October at Windmere Horse Trials).

What a whirlwind weekend! I'm so excited that Coco loves his job. And as a cherry on top, we're already qualified for next year's AEC's where we'll (hopefully) be able to finally redeem ourselves (third time is a charm, right?!?)!

PS- there is video of our dressage and stadium rounds, but apparently YouTube hates uploading things from my phone. I swear I've tried it about 25 times with no success. 


Bad Luck at AECs... Again.

Now that the excitement has worn down, I figured it would be time to write another blog.

Last week, Coco and I headed town to the Texas Rose Horse Park in Tyler, TX. Or I guess I should say that Coco headed down on Tuesday with Lorna and Sam, and Chris and I followed on Thursday (starting a new job, I don't have much PTO to burn on such frivolous things as horse shows :P ). Anyway, I was so excited to redeem ourselves after our fall last year.

We got there Thursday evening (after about 9 hours in the car with 2 very hyper pups), and almost immediately Coco and I had a beautiful dressage school. It took me a couple minutes to remember what I was doing and what dressage-ing is, but we figured it out and were looking pretty good. I was officially getting excited. We fed the horses, braided, went out to dinner,stopped by Walmart for dog show constumes/supplies, and got a good night's sleep (at a Motel 6, which turned out to be totally awesome- linoleum hardwood floors that were perfect for dogs).

Chris and I got to the show grounds early Friday morning to feed and prepare. Coco had somehow figured out how to get his sleezy off overnight and it was hanging from his feed bucket, ripped and unusable anymore. I guess that's his way of telling me he needs a smaller size. Anyway, I rode dressage at 9:24. I started getting ready at about 8, duct taped my left boot (DVT edema still isn't going away), baby powdered his pretty white socks, and quickly made him a bridlepath and gave him a shave. I was warming up around 8:45 and again, he was looking good. We were rocking. Coco was bending like a dream and totally listening to me. The dressage rings were running a bit early, so we were able to have a warm up and then go right into the arena. Coco was great. We had good bend in the corners (I have to think about doing a shoulder fore the whole test!), and good pace. His left lead canter was a bit 4-beated, but generally, it felt like a good test. I should have waited longer at the halt for him to settle before I saluted, but we ended up getting a 7.5 on that part, so maybe the judge didn't see it. We ended up getting a 30.5, putting us in a tie for 13th.

After dressage, we got to hang out all day. We grabbed lunch, played with the pups, and watched the advanced riders ride cross country. Those people are amazing. Surely if those horses can jump those crazy jumps, Coco and I could make it through a beginner novice cross country course. I walked the course about 3 times. The evil jump from last year was on course again (in a similar spot), but a bit closer to the jump before it, so we wouldn't have as much time to get strung out coming to it. It was still scary. It felt huge! And I know it was all psychological. Chris told me to walk that jump/question twenty times and that it would get smaller every time I walked it. So that's what I did. I walked the water after the bank at 6 to jump 8 about 20 times and she was right. That scary jump was getting smaller. Then Sam helped me by saying "Think of it like an oxer in stadium. You jumped that on Sunday. Or more than that." She was right. I was being stupid.

That night, Sophie (my pup) and I entered the AEC Dog Show in the Owner Look Alike contest and the Costume contest. We didn't know the classes beforehand, so we had prepared lookalike ninja turtle costumes. Sophie had a turtle backpack harness and a ninja turtle mask. I had a turtle backpack, a ninja turtle mask, and back and green arm warmers. Then, to make myself look more like her, I put my hair up into pigtail buns to replicate her ears. We ended up winning the owner/dog lookalike class! Sophie got lots of treats and toys and food. And a blue ribbon. She was very excited. Sophie's boyfriend, Roger, was a penguin for the costume contest and won a second place red ribbon, and he entered the most heartwarming adoption story class. After the dog show, we went to Japanese (a barn tradition at AECs to celebrate September birthdays) and got to bed earlier than the night before.

Saturday morning, Chris and I got to the park early to feed. Then we got to hang out for some time before Lorna's cross country ride. Chris didn't want me watching too much cross country that day, because she was worried it would stress me out. I was allowed to watch Lorna ride at 11:30 only and then had to go back to watch the upper levels do their stadium. Lorna had some trouble on cross country with 2 refusals, but she finished and was able to do stadium on Sunday. I had to sit around until 3:19 to ride. I went to watch stadium and then around 1pm, I started getting ready, putting in studs, changing clothes, etc. I was on and walking to the warm up around 2:45. Coco had an AWESOME warm up. He didn't take a wrong step (according to Chris). I was so excited. My horse was being phenomenal... not that I should be surprised. He usually is.

Coming out of the start box, we had a good pace. He looked at the first jump a little, but nothing a little leg and a cluck couldn't fix. He balked a little at the second jump headed toward the road, too, but again, he got over it like a champ. At the third and fourth fences, he knew his job and was ready with a good pace and good determination. As we approached the 5th fence, the jump judge came out waving her hands. We had a hold. The rider before us had fallen and needed medical attention. Chris said she thought it was a good ten minutes. Coco and I just kept walking. I didn't want to canter him and have him be tired going into the rest of the course, but I didn't want him to cool down too much either. Who knows how long this hold will be. I've never been held on course (and really hope it never happens again... definitely not ideal). I forgot to stop my watch until we had been walking for a bit. I had come to the realization that I would not have a watch for the rest of the course. Finally, the TD came over and explained that we could pick up a pace we liked and that they would start my time at the point where they stopped me. We continued and from that point forward, Coco was looking at every fence. Maybe I had lost my confidence (seeing as they stopped me before my nemesis jump), maybe Coco had thought we were finished while we were held (how often do we stop jumping in the middle of a course), or maybe it just wasn't our day (as unfortunately happens with horses sometimes). Whatever the case, Coco did not want to jump as much as he did during warm up and as we initially started the course. Coco took the jumps, though. He took 5 well, did the bank up at 6, looked at the water before 7, jumped 7 beautifully, stutter stepped (and nearly gave me a heart attack) at scary jump 8, didn't realize there was a ditch and stepped in it, jumped 10 well, I dropped him before jump 11, but he sleeps on my pillow, he looked at the bank down but proceeded to go over it (I heard them radio that it was a refusal... you can be the judge of that on the youtube video below), jumped the flower box at 13 well, jumped the blue rolltop at 14 well, and then we headed to the water. There was a tiny jump about 2 strides in front of the water entrance (it was an A/B combination). Coco balked a little, I put leg on, tapped him with the crop, and he decided to throw on the brakes. Anyone who has taken physics knows what momentum is... Newton's First Law of Motion (stupid Newton), was perfectly correct in that an object in motion (me) remains in motion unless acted on by an outside force. I continued right into the jump as Coco slammed on the brakes. I don't know what happened. Even looking at the video, I have no idea. I don't know if he saw the bleachers, if something was happening in that direction, if he saw the cameraman, if he was sick of having me as a passenger, but he helped me dismount really quickly, whether I liked it or not. As I flew through the air, I yelled "Really?" As I stood up, I slammed my hand down on the jump (I just had to hit something). I can't believe this happened to me 2 years in a row! All I wanted was to finish.

I went through all the emotions in the next 2 minutes ranging from anger, to depression, to denial, to embarrassment, and everything in between. The fall committee barely stopped me, asking if I was feeling ok/what body part I had landed on, and they reminded me to seek medical attention if I was having any mental changes or trouble remembering anything. My barnmates were kind enough to give me the space I needed as Coco and I walked back to the barn. I dropped all his stuff (tack, boots, etc.) off at the trailer and proceeded to the wash rack, where he spooked repeatedly at a hose. Dumb, dumb. I didn't think about it until after, but I'm happy I stopped at the trailer, because I didn't get anyone awkwardly asking me how cross country had gone, which was nice in this instance.

That evening, after I had taken care of Coco, we watched the advanced riders do their stadium rounds. I was sad about the fall, but I had come to accept that it is what it is and there wasn't anything I could do about it anymore. The past is the past. There were even some jokes being thrown around in regards to me falling. You have to laugh to keep from crying, right? As the crowd was dissipating, Chris and I went to walk the dogs on a hill and Chris turned to me and said "In all seriousness, are you ok?" I started tearing up as I said, "Yeah. I'm not worried about this show or AECs. I'm worried that this is Coco's way of telling me that he doesn't want to do this anymore." Chris started tearing up as she said, "I sure hope not. I really hope not." It was a moment of resolve. I had flashbacks to all of Coco and my trials and tribulations over the years and all that we had been through from the first time I rode him to jumping a couch to our first saddlebred show to the first time I ever jumped 3 foot to our first event and the various trainers and barns we've been blessed to be a part of to all the lives he's touched and all the people who know us as a team. I really hope this isn't the end. We'll see how the rest of the season goes. There are 2 more events in KC in October. Coco will tell me what he wants. He's always been pretty good about that. 

The rest of the night and the rest of the weekend was kind of a blur. We went out to eat and then back to the show on Sunday to watch Lorna's stadium round. Scotty was being good, but she knocked one rail. At least they finished (AND they weren't in last place)! We loaded up the horses and headed back to KC earlier than expected (since we didn't have to wait around for me to ride in the afternoon). I actually got home at a decent time and was in bed around 10pm. I could have gone to work Monday morning, but figured that since I had already taken it off, I might as well enjoy an extra day to rest and recuperate.

Anyways, the AEC adventures of Nancy and Coco will continue (hopefully). I've taken this opportunity to learn some very important lessons: never trust the pony (no matter how trustworthy he may seem or how easy the jump may appear), get a new saddle (something that makes it a little easier to resist momentum), sit up (as the course progressed, I progressively dropped him to fences... this was my warning), and have fun with your horse (even if he is naughty sometimes... horses are what make this sport totally, totally worth it and nothing is ever really their fault).

Check out our YouTube video (even if it is embarrassing for me) here: http://youtu.be/v2N8f9n_bhA


Hawley Bennett is so cool. And Coco loves jumpers.

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to have THE Hawley Bennett-Awad in town (thanks to Sally Spickard, who is also awesome). It was such a great experience to be able to ride with someone of her caliber. She really reinforced that Coco and I are doing everything right.

Check out the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZy-T22-tJ4

We started with an easy warm up with emphasis on getting lead changes and continuing straight after the fences. Then we did a little course and even got to jump a training jump, which Coco did like a champ. We went to the water and did banks into water (which Coco and I hadn't done for a while... and it showed). We did a mini course by the water. Then we moved on to the bank complex and did a bank down and a bank up in addition to a few other jumps in an S pattern with emphasis on going straight after jumps again. Finally, we did ditches and worked on going both ways over ditches and added a jump between. Hawley ended cross country with a speech about the importance of wearing air vests on cross country (hers had saved her life twice) and writing hand-written thank you notes to people for the clinic (which I have already completed and put in the mail). 

Stadium day was great. Hawley said that after a day of cross country, when horses are tired, their strides tend to shorten. Everything was set up as a 9-foot stride (which totally worked for me and Coco). We started with a grid, then did the grid to a 4-stride bending line (which could go to the left or the right), 5-stride lines across the diagonals, a 6-stride line along one outside line, and a series of 5 1-stride jumps along the other long side of the arena. We just played with different combinations of the obstacles until time was up. It was a blast, and Coco was an absolute rockstar. We talked to Hawley a bit about moving up to Novice, and she said Coco and I would definitely excel there. It also came up that I'm trying to lose weight before AEC's and she said something along the lines of "You're too good a rider to let that be what holds you back." and "You already have exceptional balance, losing weight will only make your balance even better." She said that next year, when she comes back (she made it seem like it was obvious she would), she expected Coco and I to be competing novice, ready to go training, and me to have lost 50 pounds. Hopefully I don't let her down! Overall, it was an amazing weekend. Coco and I learned a lot and we have a lot of fun exercises to take home.

A week later, Coco and I were off to play at the Great Plains Hunter Association Fun Show at Olympia Equine Ventures. We had been taking some lessons with Amber Mazza of Iron Horse Hill Farm and having a blast with our throwback to the jumper ring. We decided to register for the 2'9" Hunter Derby and two 2'6" jumper classes (one traditional jumper class & one power & speed). We schooled at OEV on Friday night and Coco was a champ, as usual. Sophie and I stayed at Chris's house on Friday night and we got up early to get to the show at 9am on Saturday morning. We didn't even bother bathing the horses, because the outdoor arena (where I would be riding all day), was super muddy after a night of rain. I had forgotten how much hurry up and wait there is at hunter/jumper shows. It was 3pm before I even started getting tacked up (Taylor even found plenty of time to nap in the bed of the truck... See the pic below). We did the hunter round of the derby and were having trouble getting leads and suppressing our jumper roots. We were sitting in last place going into the handy round, but it was OK, because we were just there to have fun. The handy round went well. Again, we were having trouble with leads, but I thought it rode well. We finished in 4th place.

On to the jumpers! Our first jumper round was great, we left all the rails up and immediately moved on to the jump off, which we rocked. Coco and I got 2nd place. Then we did power and speed. We went balls to the walls, took all the tight turns, and had a blast! We were flying (controlled, of course), and I don't think Coco or I would have had it any other way! We ended up 1st in that class. Overall, we tied with another horse & rider pair for champions of the division. I mean, I know Coco is a champion, but it's kind of nice to be reminded every once in a while! We got some pretty ribbons and a new container of horse treats (which Coco approved of) and headed home (not before grabbing some delicious barbecue at Snead's in Belton before heading down to Butler). We got back to Chris's house, fed the ponies, ate BBQ, and I drove home (while talking on the phone to stay awake). It was a good day!

Check out the compilation video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFXuVd_ntTw

So... on the horizon... we have the American Eventing Championships at the end of September, Heritage Park Horse Trials in Olathe, KS at the beginning of October (which I have already entered to go Novice), and Windmere Horse Trials at Longview Horse Park in Lee's Summit, MO at the end of October. The end of the season is going to be a whirlwind, and I'm so excited to share it with Coco and my barn family. There will definitely be more blogs to come, so stay tuned!


Queeny, Blood Clots, and a Victory at Catalpa

totally forgot to blog about Queeny Park, and because it's been a while, I've forgotten a lot about what happened there. But here are the highlights: Dressage wasn't our best. They were running behind and he was fantastic in the warm up, but it was really difficult to keep the bend and rhythm in the corners. Our first canter was way too slow, but we improved in the other direction. We ended up with a 40.5. Definitely not our best. So be it. Cross country was literally the exact same course as 2014, except for the first jump. Coco rocked it. My friends came to watch, but they had gone to the Renaissance Faire in STL prior to coming out to watch cross country and didn't account for all the extra time it takes to get from the parking lot to the XC course. They got there right as I was walking Coco off the course. But it was good to see them and I appreciate their support! Stadium was tricky, as usual at Queeny, but Coco rocked it. I think we had a couple of jumps where he totally saved me, but we survived it and went double clear. We ended up 4th!

We got back from Queeny and I had killer charlie horse cramping in my left upper calf and lower inner thigh. I assumed it was from riding, as it is pretty typical for me to have some muscle fatigue & cramping after horse shows. I went about my business and assumed it would get better. It got worse. As the week progressed, it got to the point that I could barely walk, it was super uncomfortable all the time, and pain medications were no longer helping. About a week after the show, I finally went to a walk-in clinic thinking they would reiterate that it was a muscle cramp and give me more strategies to alleviate the pain. Instead, the nurse practitioner sent me to the emergency room, because she measured my left calf and it was slightly swollen compared to my right leg. I also have a history of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in my lungs in 2009), so it was even more probable that something could be more wrong. They did testing at the ER and found out that I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis with blood clots from my middle thigh all the way through my middle calf), The ER doc put me on Xarelto and sent me home because my vitals were fine and I didn't have too much distress. I took the next couple days off work because of the pain and it all started to get better. Then I had my follow up appointment with my primary care physician who told me that if I fall off a horse while taking Xarelto and have internal bleeding, there is nothing that can be done about it to make my blood start clotting again. He suggested that I stay at beginner novice to limit the possibility of getting hurt and that I switch to coumadin so that if something happens, I can take vitamin K and reverse the thinness of my blood. Hopefully that won't need to happen, but so began the month of constant blood testing to determine the right amount of coumadin to make my blood thinness therapeutic. 

After a month and a half of DVT excitement, we headed to Iowa for the Catalpa Corners Charity Horse Show. This is definitely one of our favorite shows of the year. It's always beautiful. The organizers and volunteers are awesome. And it's just always a blast! We got there around 3pm on Friday afternoon, got the horses settled and walked the cross country course (which was totally different than last year) twice. We fed the horses, Sam braided Scotty, and we ate dinner at a pizza place before heading back to the hotel and falling asleep. 

Saturday came quickly. Sam rode dressage and had a pretty good ride on a tough horse! Then she went and got eliminated on cross country when Scotty wouldn't jump a red coup with a metallic pig on the front of it. Taylor was worried about Duncan't front right leg, which had been swollen for a couple days but was getting better, and she decided not to ride. So it was all up to me for MSEC! No pressure! Dressage had been running ahead of schedule, so I got ready a little early. Then I realized that there was a break right before my ride time, which they were planning on using to get back onto the correct schedule. Coco and I walked and walked and walked. He was really behind the bit warming up, so we played with his cavesson and flash and it seemed to improve a little bit. In the arena, the test went well, but he was fighting me the whole time. I felt like I was using indirect rein too much, having trouble bending in the corners (typical), had no impulsion on the first canter, & was fighting with Coco the whole time. As I walked out of the ring, Chris had a huge smile on her face and said that it looked good. I was happy. Coco and I did the best we could do. We ended up with a 36.5 putting us in 5th place. 

Someone fell off on cross country (at the same jump Sam had had trouble with). As unfortunate as that was, it was nice, because it gave me and Coco some extra time to get ready and relax before going straight to XC. In that time, Coco fell asleep. Coming out of the stall and heading to cross country, he was falling asleep. Warm up was good, but he wasn't particularly energetic. Maybe that would be ok. We walked to the start box and waited for the countdown. When the start box dude said "3-2-1. Have a great ride!" I accidentally pressed the mode button on my watch. Instead of just going and hoping for the best, I fumbled with the watch for a bit before I was able to get it straightened out and finally head out of the start box. I wasn't too worried, because if Coco and I are going to have trouble with the time, it would be being too fast rather than too slow. I was right. Coco was flying. We were both having a blast, but I've gotten a lot better at knowing what 350 meters/minute feels like and that's helped a lot. Coco did the first half of the course like a pro. He fumbled over the trout fence after the water, looked at a cordwood fence, and took the second to last fence like a goober (I think he left out an entire stride... wasn't expecting that). Then I had him cantering in place and didn't get a good stride to the last fence (totally my fault), but we did it! And double clear... or so I thought. We trotted and I hopped off before I remembered to stop my watch. It read 5:57. Optimum time was 5:58. When the results went up online, they said I had 1.6 time penalties. Sam and I immediately went to the show office with my watch in tow. Apparently there were a ton of people with the same problem, because it looked like a riot at the office. I guess they entered the optimum time incorrectly into their scoring program. After the correction, it showed that we went double clear and moved up to 3rd place!

We were so excited about the competitors' party and Chris even paid money to go to it. Then we found out that they were serving Italian food and quiche instead of the typical BBQ and delicious cornbread. We decided to go to Mongolian BBQ instead. After that, we headed back to the barn to wrap and walk horses, Sam & Taylor & I spent some time letting the ponies look at scary XC jumps and talking while everyone else kindly did our chores for us. We headed to Coldstone for some delicious ice cream and then back to the hotel for a quick swim (on an awesome water slide the hotel had) and went to bed. 

We got to the show early on Sunday so that we could feed and do chores and still watch some preliminary stadium jumping. We didn't make it in time to see any prelim, but we saw all the training riders. People were having a lot of trouble on the course. There were some tight turns and questions that didn't seem like questions until people started riding the course. Very few people were going completely clear. We warmed up and Coco was again completely asleep. In fact, I kind of wondered if there was something wrong with him as I hand-walked him to the stadium course area because he was walking so slowly. We got there really early because I wanted to walk the course one more time after they got rid of the extra jumps that our BN division wouldn't need to take. It walked nicely. Coco was good when I started riding. He had more energy, but he wasn't being too crazy. When we started jumping, he did his job perfectly (as usual) and any problems we had were totally my fault (also typical). When we went into the ring, he immediately spooked at a jump as we were headed to the first jump. That was the jump he fumbled over, but everything else rode really nicely and Coco was a rockstar, as usual! We went double clear. (Check out the video here: http://youtu.be/V1qRNYZV3Ng) The worst we could finish was 3rd! And then the impossible happened... the second place person knocked a rail! And the 1st place person knocked 2 rails! And we were 3.7 points behind first. We got bumped up to first place! Coco is such a champ! We were both so happy! Catalpa has been good to us! I couldn't have been happier with him!!! 

With the drive home, dropping Scotty off in North KC, and then driving to my house from the barn, I didn't end up getting home to sleep until about 12:30am that night. Waking up for work on Monday was rough, but totally worth it after an awesome weekend! And then Tuesday I started my new job. So far it's been going well!