Catalpa Corner and beyond!!

It all started in August when we went to the Catalpa Corner event in Iowa. We had been working really hard with Chris and there was a spot available in the trailer she would be riding with to the event. It all worked out perfectly, really. We decided to stick with beginner novice, though, until our dressage and my confidence improves enough to move up to novice.

That Thursday, Chris picked Coco up from the barn and we took him to Liberty, where we met Lorna, Sam, and Joan, the family that would be hauling the horses to Iowa. It was a 5 hour drive to Iowa City, but Coco had good company and so did I. We spent the trip playing Truth or Dare, talking horses, and just generally getting to know each other. We arrived at the show grounds after dark, got the horses settled and headed for the hotel. 

The competition started Friday afternoon for those of us in the starter and BN divisions, just because of the number of riders entered. And they changed the order a bit for this event so everyone could do cross country on Saturday. So the lower divisions did dressage and stadium on Friday with cross country Saturday and the upper divisions did dressage and cross country on Saturday with stadium Sunday. 

My parents came to this event! It was really great to see them. They're from Chicago and I don't get a lot of chances to go visit, so it's nice when we can meet half way. 

Coco warmed up really well for dressage. As soon as we went into the arena, though, his head went to the sky, he was looking at everything, and it wasn't our best dressage test ever. We ended up with a 37.6 with lots of comments about needing more bend and suppleness. Whatever. We had stadium next and I knew we'd rock that. It was a tough course with a lot of turns on slippery grass (oh, I forgot to mention that it was misting at this point). As soon as I could finish a quick tack change, clothing change, and a couple warm up jumps, we went into the ring and Coco was absolutely perfect. Double clear as usual. What a rock star! Before cross country, we were sitting in 8th place. 

Now all we had to do was wait until cross country on Saturday. We walked the course and it all seemed pretty straightforward. There were a couple fences that I would have to make sure I had his attention and kept him going forward, but nothing we couldn't handle. And very pretty. We walked the course several times. My dad even joined for a couple. And then we were ready to go. 

Coco was awesome. He looked at the first fence but as soon as I put leg on and told him that this is fun, he was more than willing. The rest of the course went by in a flash! Coco was absolutely perfect. He hardly looked at anything and I was having so much fun that I didn't want to slow him down. We came across the finish line with .2 time penalties for being 1 second under the speed fault time. Whoops! We were just having too much fun! 

Anyway, we finished in 4th place and I couldn't have been happier. There was a competitors party on Saturday night and it was nice to meet up with some of the other people I know in the eventing world, like my trainer Amanda from Fulton. We also took all the horses for a walk and took some group photos with the other girls I came with. 

Once I started looking around at the show before we left and at pictures when I got home, I realized that Coco looked really skinny compared to the horses he was competing against. Clearly, he had proved that he deserved to be at this level, but he looked nearly emancipated compared to the horses he was around. And you know it's particularly bad when your parents, who know nothing about horses, comment on how skinny your horse is. I guess I hadn't noticed when I was comparing him to the other skinny horses at our barn. I had to do something about it. I felt like a bad pony mommy. 

Chris offered for me to go look at her house to see if I wanted to move Coco to live with her. I went to check it out and totally fell in love. It helped that she's a trainer that I respect and would want to go to shows with, so even if just for convenience, moving to Chris's barn just made sense. Plus, she guaranteed that she'd be able to put weight on Coco before winter. 

Judy, the barn manager, wasn't happy when we left, but I wasn't happy with how my horse was being treated (there was one night when he didn't have any hay in his stall at all). She even tried to say that Coco was skinnier when he moved there than he was when we left (which is absolutely not true, because I have photo evidence on the contrary). My friend Molly moved her horse, Hank, too. 

So the next 3 months were filled with 3 meals a day, dressage shows, cross country schooling weekends, bonfires, pony club events, and making new friends. Coco has officially gained about 100 pounds since moving to Chris's barn. And he's still got about 200 to go. It'll take time, but I couldn't be happier with the direction we're headed. 


Annnnnddd... We're BACK!!!

Watch out, eventing world! We're back!!!

Coco and I have had a lot to deal with these past few months, but it has most definitely made us stronger as a team!

I got a dressage saddle last winter with the hopes of actually using it and progressing in our dressage. We have always had good success with jumping, but the dressage always kills us. This winter, we did a lot of dressage training & jumper turns in the indoor, but Coco also got a decent amount of time off. He's getting older and I don't want to work him too much when we're not getting ready for a show so that he can enjoy being a pony face and we can build our relationship in other ways. Side note: he's gotten so good at bowing & doing tricks for my friends and people who want to visit him!

We went to a couple schooling shows this spring. Our first one was at Heritage Park. It was our first time out this year, and I was determined to try Novice for the first time ever. I knew we were both capable after competing so well in BN the past couple years and I was sure we were ready. Our dressage test went pretty well, until my horse noticed the gigantic train car sitting 100 yards away from the dressage ring with trees scraping across the top just as we were doing our salute... we made quite the scene with a couple mini rears and obvious spooking until I just gave up and hung my head low as we walked out of the ring. We ended up with a dressage score of 45, which made me pretty happy considering it was our first time doing Novice and we had quite the episode at the end. Everything would be ok, though, because stadium and XC are our forte... or so I thought! We ended up knocking a rail in stadium, which was totally unlike us, because we were rushing (surprise, surprise). Then, we had quite a terrible XC round, I think it was partly because we were both exhausted by this point, in addition to the fact that it was our first time doing a whole course of novice jumps (not just playing in a field) and you could say I was a bit nervous... My horse refused (almost) literally every single jump on the course at least once! I felt absolutely pathetic as I listed all of the jumps and the amount of refusals to the friend I had at the start gate who greeted us with "Is everything ok? I was wondering what took you so long!?!" So, we had a bad schooling show. At least we learned a lot (like I need to do a better job of sitting tall and riding to the fences while maintaining more control and that train cars are scary), and there are a lot of things we can do better.

I was pretty discouraged... let's just say, Coco had the entire week after that show off.

The next weekend, Longview was having a XC schooling weekend. I almost didn't want to go because my horse and I had had such a terrible showing the weekend before, but I figured it would be fun and a way to work out the kinks. Plus, Longview was having their official horse trials soon and I wanted to figure out what division to sign up for (because if Novice was going to be too tough, I'd rather drop back down to BN). It was quite the dilemma trying to get someone to haul there for us, but we ended up figuring it out. My friend Molly and her quarter horse Hank and Pancho and his mare "Big Mama" joined us. We got on and warmed up and sure enough, the first jump I pointed Coco at was an easy BN log, which he refused. I had brought a crop for this occasion, had finally had enough and calmly but sincerely told him that this was unacceptable. He didn't refuse another easy jump the rest of the day! He wasn't the biggest fan of the skunk out of the water or the brand new, shiny jumps that hadn't been dirtied yet, but he was taking trakaeners and other training fences like a boss! I think we even got a few prelim obstacles in there! It was a total blast!!! I was sure we'd be able to have a good test at the Novice level when Longview had their Horse Trials and I entered the Novice division as soon as I got home! So excited!!!

This is the first year I was able to go to Kentucky for the Rolex 3-Day Competition! It was incredible to see international riders and people who were just starting out at this level competing all weekend. We did the course walk to see all the jumps (WHICH ARE GIGANTIC!) and even met a few of the riders (Alexandra Knowles, William Foxx-Pitt, and Mary King to name a few). It was quite the experience. I would recommend it to any eventer, aspiring or established. The weekend gave me a renewed sense of belonging and enthusiasm for the eventing world.

We got back from a week away at Rolex and I was so excited to start riding Coco again and get ready for our competition at Longview! I got him saddled and walked him down to the arena for warm up. As soon as he started trotting, he was 3 legged lame. He never complains of pain (he had an abscess for a week before I knew about it because he just sucked it up because he likes working so much), and this was BAD!!! I started to break out. We had 2 weeks until Longview. I immediately called the farrier (who happens to live on property, which is phenomenal), who came to check him out. It turns out that he had really bad thrush. The whole week we had been in Kentucky, my horse had been turned out on wet dry lots and I hadn't even considered to ask someone to regularly pick his feet out for me. The thrush had gotten so bad that it had made him lame and all I could do about it was keep him in a dry stall, pick out his feet regularly, and put ThrushBuster on it. I felt so helpless. I wished I could do something more to make my pony feel better. I lunged him to get his energy out (he's a terrible stalled horse) and hopped on him bareback to check his soundness every couple days. It didn't seem like he was getting any better :( The Wednesday before Longview, I saddled him with the intention to do little (2 foot maximum) jumps, because he had been coming up sound since Monday. As soon as we started trotting again, though, he told me that he wasn't ready. I called the show secretary and informed her of my decision to withdraw from the competition. I didn't think it was fair to risk my horse's safety & happiness to put him in a competition for my sake. I spent the weekend at the show, in a continuous state of depression because my horse couldn't be there, but I was able to watch more of the competition and socialize a lot more with friends and acquaintances than I would have if my horse had been there. Although, I'm sure we would have had a good showing if his feetsies had been feeling better.

Sure enough, the Monday after the horse trials, Coco was consistently coming up sound. We have been working a lot on our dressage since then and throwing in a lot of low jumping to work on striding between fences, leads before & after fences, rushing, and just generally listening to each other during courses. Last weekend, we cranked up the jumps for the first time in a while (3 foot to 3'6" or so, nothing too crazy) and he did fantastic! I think all the ground work and low jumps have made us better at communicating between the fences and really built our confidence!

On Wednesday, I had a trainer (Chris) out, and Molly and I took a dressage lesson with her! It went really well! Both of our horses did fantastic and were really listening to us, and we all learned a lot! Chris said that both of our horses have very good gaits and that she is excited that Molly and I are such good riders. She is excited for us to do some schooling shows this summer and make a renewed debut at the Heritage Park Horse Trials in the fall! She was awesome about saying that she would be willing to help us haul to shows and XC schoolings and other events, too, because we are so close to her barn. We have a jumping lesson with her on Monday!

I'm so excited about this summer and the fall to see where the wind takes us. This lesson and all the stuff we have had to go through this spring has definitely made Coco and me stronger as a pair and more excited about working together to move up the ranks in the eventing world!