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! 


Longview Horse Trials 2015

The weatherman said it was supposed to rain all weekend, in addition to raining all last week. Good thing Coco and I had dropped down to beginner novice and some wet ground wouldn't be able to hold us back.

Lorna and Sam were doing their first Training level event & it was very exciting for them! Coco got his bath Friday afternoon (he wasn't at all excited about it) and then Friday evening, we all went out to walk our cross country courses. The BN course was pretty straightforward with no real huge questions on the jumps. The toughest part would be remembering the course, because there were lots of S turns and U turns this time around. I even got lost the first time I walked it, going from jump 8 to 15 without thinking too much. It was nice, though, because the turns made it easy to add or subtract time depending on how we were doing at that point on course.

5:30am on Saturday morning came quickly. We loaded Coco up and headed to Longview. Lorna and Sam did their dressage and Coco decided that the morning would best be spent freaking out. He needed someone to hold his hand as he hand grazed all morning, stubborn little jerk. He whinnied and screamed the whole time I braided him at the trailer and then we spent lots of time grazing by the huge yellow tent at the edge of the arena that has horse-eating things jumping out of it.

We started getting ready about an hour early and had a nice long warm up, first by the trailers and slowly making our way toward the arena. My friend Stephanie had come to watch and it was exciting to share horse show life with her! Lindsey had to coach me before dressage, because Chris was busy with Lorna and Sam at the cross country warm up. Good thing we had plenty of time to devote to warming up, because it took Coco a full 45 minutes to relax. When we went down center line, everything felt like it had come together. Coco didn't even look at the scary tent and was bending. We could have had more impulsion (which is rare) and his free walk to medium walk transition could have been smoother, but overall, it felt like a good round. We ended up in a 3-way tie for fifth. Oh no, I was always worried I would be in a situation like this when I would need to actually get close to optimum time on cross country. 

Sam and Lorna both had successful cross country rounds. Lorna went clear with time penalties only. Sam had one refusal at the corner, which she said was her fault, and also had some time penalties. After she brought him back from his bath, though, he had a huge wind puff on his left front leg. Chris wrapped it and they were going to keep an eye on it overnight. Apparently, it got worse and he wasn't wanting to put any weight on it later that night. Sam decided to scratch from stadium in hopes that he would improve.

We had some Jazzy B's for lunch and hung out with Steph for a bit before I went to get ready for cross country. Again, we had a long walk warm up. I was nervous. I don't know if it was because of our experience at Holly Hill or because of something else, but I had the biggest lump in my stomach making it difficult to breathe, eat, and warm up. I kept feeling like I was going to throw up. As we started cantering and jumping, the butterflies went away and everything was ok. We went out on course and had a blast. I kept thinking of the course as a slow jaunt through the countryside instead of going for speed. It was actually quite enjoyable. Instead of knowing where my splits were, I picked 2 jumps with plenty of space in front of them where I could do circles or trot a bit and I picked a time that I wanted to try to go over these jumps. That seemed to work better for me than having to do math while I was on course. We ended up coming in within 10 seconds of optimum time. We weren't exhausted. And Coco was in better condition than he's ever been coming off a cross country course. It worked out really well, and we ended up breaking the tie and moving up to 3rd!

Coco got a quick bath and we were headed back to the barn as quickly as possible so we could try to make it to Lindsey's graduation at 6pm in Independence. Chris took care of Coco and let him play with his buddies in the pasture for about an hour while I rushed home to shower and change. After getting lost, we made it to watch Lindsey walk across the stage, like a boss. Then we went out to dinner with her family. It was about 11pm by the time we got back to the barn, and we decided that Coco would be alright without standing wraps, seeing as we would be taking them off in about 7 hours (and I was in a dress, so wrapping would be difficult- way to think ahead!).

After about 6 hours of sleep, I made my way back to the barn. I took all my dressage and cross country stuff out of the trailer and we fed the horses. Then we were off. Once we got to the park, Coco was perfectly content to sit in the trailer by himself and munch on his hay. We watched Lorna's stadium round. Scotty was slow and wasn't able to get himself over the first jump, plowing into it. I think Lorna got confused as she circled at the walk a few times waiting for them to rebuild the jump. Finally, she had a conversation with the judge and continued for the second fence. He jumped the second and third jumps fine, but lacking impulsion, and he skidded to a stop at the 4th fence. She was asked to leave the course. Apparently the judge eliminated her when she went over to talk to her for providing assistance and allowed her to attempt to finish the course as schooling.

As usual, I got ready excessively early and spent a long time just walking around and getting Coco used to the show environment again. We found a nice quiet (and minimally muddy) place to warm up before we went into the crazy muddy warm up ring to do a couple of jumps. Coco was taking everything  like the champ that he is and we had no trouble, other than taking long spots (typical). We went into the ring and Coco was amazing. I was having trouble waiting for him to the fences. I dropped him in front of the 4th fence and he told me he was going to refuse the 5th fence about 5 strides out. His canter was just cruising more and more to the left and my upper body came down to the right side of his shoulder. As a last ditch effort, with the ground getting closer and closer, I turned his head toward the jump and squeezed him as hard as I could in an attempt to avoid a refusal. He scooped to the right to pick me up and took me over the fence, like that was what he had been planning on doing the whole time. I honestly had to compose myself, because I should have been in the mud. My horse saved me in every way a horse can possibly safe his rider. (Check out the  video here... https://youtu.be/lNDpiWdRyZU)  He really does sleep on my pillow. We finished the course and just kept getting faster and faster with me apparently unable to hold my upper body up. The last jump was good and I walked out of the ring thinking that I had just survived the impossible. Unfortunately (for her, but fortunate for us), the girl who had been in 1st place overnight dropped a rail at the first jump, and we ended up moving up to 2nd place! With this, we are again qualified for AECs in September! We can redeem ourselves!! Yay!!!

It was an amazing weekend. And Chris said we can move up to novice for Queeny and Catalpa this year, which will be awesome, because then the jumps at AECs will look like they're tiny (hopefully).



So after 2 weeks of intense working out (2x/day) and riding (Coco got 1 week off and then we did 2 galloping rides & 3 dressage/hacks the next week), it was time for another test. This time, it was the Mid-America Combined Training Association's One-Day event at Heritage Park in Olathe, KS. We entered the BN division so that we could see how we might fare against similar competition at the MCPC Longview HT on May 9-11, next week.

Chris brought her horse, Stuey, to this show! It was going to be their first show this year and they had a phenomenal cross country school the day before, jumping all the starter fences with confidence and grace! I watched her dressage and he looked pretty good. He was a little strong and spooky, but nothing too bad. It was their second outdoor ride this year and their first judged test this year.

Our dressage went fairly well. Coco was very anxious about the boxcars that were sitting near the dressage ring. Apparently boxcars eat horses, but only when they're in the dressage arena. They were perfectly fine when we were going around the outside of the ring before our test and when we walked past them as soon as we got to the park. But when you're in the ring, everything changes! He was kind of a crazy man when I first got on, just very excited and checking everything out and generally ignoring me, but he wasn't terrible. As we continued to warm up, he started to really relax and come down in his neck and start listening to me. During our test, he brought his head up and kept his eye on the boxcars whenever we were in that corner of the ring, but he mostly stayed relaxed and listening to me. He was a little tense as we went from our free walk to medium walk (typical... if anyone has recommendations to improve this, I'm definitely open to suggestions), but other than that, it was a really nice test. We walked out of the ring and were met with congratulatory praises from my trainer (Chris). When we got our test back, it was awesome, we had 8's for the entrance and final halt and salute and all 7-8s for our rider marks to score a 27.25. Not too shabby! It put us in 5th place after dressage.

Coco relaxed a bit while we walked cross country. The course was pretty straightforward. Nothing too far off anything that we usually did at the Heritage Park HT in October.
When I got back on, he was a little crazy again. He knew what was next, for sure, and he loves his job. We spent about 10-15 minutes walking around the warm up area working on being calm. Then we did our typical warm up (2-2-2s) around the warm up area while the starter horses were finishing up their courses. Chris was anxious about the stadium jumps, thinking that they had been set too high for a starter division. She lost a little bit of confidence when she did her warm up and was dropping him before the fences. She decided to scratch, but she let Sam ride Stuey for the stadium course in hopes to train him and see how he would do with the height and pressure. He did really good. He jumped a few jumps like a deer, but overall, he seemed to enjoy his job. Coco's round was pretty good. The first couple jumps were kind of sticky (my fault. I get nervous and don't let him have the speed he needs to get over the jumps), but as we gained confidence and impulsion, he started doing a lot better. We went double clear.

Time for XC! But first... water!!! I chugged about half of my Nalgene bottle! And we were off (after a tiny protest from Coco who didn't want to leave his buddies). The course was a breeze and Coco thought he was a real live race horse. He was FLYING!!! I was going with it though, because it was fun! Coco didn't look at anything and took all the jumps like he was a champ and I was actually maintaining my galloping position without being sore or out of breath (yay!!). We got 3 jumps from home and still had a minute before speed fault time, so we had to trot an excessive amount before finishing up the course. We came in about 15 seconds over speed fault. What a champ! We maintained our position in the pack and ended up in 5th place and with lots of confidence going into the Longview event next weekend.

This week will be filled with working out (and maintaining a healthy diet) for me and rest & relaxation for Coco. He clearly knows and loves his job, I just need to be fit enough to be able to keep up with him. If Longview goes well (and ideally, if we can qualify for AECs), we might move up to novice for Queeny, but we shall see. Right now, I'm going to try to live in the moment doing all I can to have fun (and do well) at the events and enjoy the time I get to spend with such a phenomenal friend of mine, my pony, Mr. Coco Bean!


Epic Fail at Holly Hill

Winter totally sucks! It makes it difficult to ride. It makes it easy to eat and sit around watching Netflix. And everything is sad.

To add to the depression that is winter, I had to take time off for my knee (I had surgery 12/23/14 for a lateral meniscus repair). And I told myself that after our strenuous season last year, Coco deserved some time off over the winter.

April came up quick. And when April rolled around, I spent a lot more time in the saddle. However, I mainly focused on dressage rides, because that has always been Coco and my least successful phase of eventing and we needed to be ready for Holly Hill in Louisiana on the 18th-19th. Our dressage was looking good and it felt like we remembered what we were doing. We had a few jumping lessons, but it's really difficult to do too much of substance when all we can do is ride in an indoor arena.

So Coco got his bath on Thursday morning and we left for Louisiana around noon. After a long drive and about an hour break to stop and walk the horses, we arrived at Holly Hill around 12:30am on Friday morning. 

Friday morning, we had a dressage school, which went incredibly well. He was totally listening to me and my aides and we were looking like we knew what we were doing and belonged there. The rest of the afternoon was spent washing tack, bathing ponies (again :p), and walking the cross country course. We had a good diet of Mexican food (Holly Hill provided lunch and dinner- both different varieties of Mexican food, which was delicious) and headed back to the hotel. The weather for the whole weekend was supposed to be rain, so we were happy that we had one day to enjoy the show grounds and Louisiana before the weather turned on us.

We didn't ride until 1:45 on Saturday (typical for beginner novice), so I spent the morning watching my barn mates & some of the prelim riders do dressage. It was gloomy and rainy, but nothing too crazy for us insane eventers. As the weather was clearing up, I started getting ready for dressage. The warm up area was absolutely crazy and I think the announcer might have been dyslexic, because she kept confusing numbers and saying things out of order. They called for me to go into a more exclusive warm up area at 1:15! What?!? 30 minutes early? I didn't know if I was ready, but I figured that I would rather just get it over with than stress about the test and how ready we were for 30 minutes. After a couple 20 meter circles at the canter, the announcer started yelling at me, saying that I had entered this warm up area mistakenly. So after some confusion, I realized she had called 207 instead of 107 (though I could swear she said 107 repeatedly when I heard her and the ring steward had told me it was my turn to go into the ring next). We had a little more time to warm up, but the warm up area was crazy, so much of our time was spent avoiding collision and talking Coco off the ledge (stupid saddlebreds and their ability to slow gait when they're excited... Show offs! :p). Finally, we got to ride our dressage test. I think it went pretty well. He was a little looky-looky at the free walk and I forgot my test at one point and came to the trot from the canter a bit too early. But otherwise, I thought it went pretty well. We ended up with a 36.8, which isn't too bad considering it was our first show of the year. This put us into 16th place in a class of 20. Must have been some pretty stiff competition! But I guess this isn't the first time we've had to work our way back up the ranks!

So we had some time off and some R&R before we had to get ready for cross country. The course seemed pretty straightforward. Nothing we couldn't handle. A couple of the jumps seemed maxed out for BN, but we did Novice at Heritage, so we could totally handle maxed out BN jumps. Or so I thought...

I got into the warm up area and again, it was a little crazy. Sensory overload (for the OT crowd out there). We started doing our 2-2-2s (2 laps at the walk, 2 laps at the trot, 2 laps at the canter). We got to the canters and I could hardly hold myself in two-point. I was exhausted. I hadn't even started riding the course yet or taken any jumps, and I was tired! I suddenly got a sinking feeling about this course. We started taking some jumps and I was getting tired even more quickly. I needed water, but there was none in sight. I guess we'd just have to go and get this stupid course over with while I'm still breathing (kind of).

The first 3 jumps were a breeze (2 logs and a vertical). I started getting tired and feeling my legs around the 4th jump (a simple red ramp). Between the 4th and 5th jump, there was a bunch of red clover (which was new to Coco) and there were some people sitting on the training jump next to our rolltop coming up. I half-halted and Coco listened a little too well. He popped up and to the left and I slid over his right shoulder onto the ground. (Check out the embarrassing video here: http://youtu.be/NkS08n8LJCk). "Welp," I thought as I looked up at my horse from the ground with the reins still in my hand, "I guess that's it for us, but thank God, because I'm SO TIRED!" As I stood up with defeat in my heart and a slight feeling of relief, I heard the girls on the jump ahead of us saying, "Get back on! You can still finish!" Oh. My. God. I have to keep going. I can't let Coco down. At that moment, I started running over to the starter fence nearby to mount back up. I got back on and we continued on our way. The rest of the course was the crappiest cross country course I think I've ever ridden. (Watch this video to prove it: http://youtu.be/G1ywyRwg-Z8I was having trouble staying in two-point, I was basically pointing Coco at jumps and hoping for the best (which is why we had a refusal at the 7th jump), and I trotted way too much before the bank. I was just in survival mode. I wanted to get through this stupid course as quickly as possible so people would forget about my miserable fall and stop embarrassing myself. We finished with 17 time penalties and 20 jump penalties, keeping us in 16th place after cross country. Ultimate defeat. I felt like I had let Coco down, because I just wasn't fit enough to be riding that cross country course. I went back to the barn and took care of my horse and had a couple tears of defeat. I even had a moment when I considered that maybe we should just switch to dressage (even though Coco and I both have strong anti-dressage feelings) and forget the whole eventing thing. The rest of the day, water tasted gritty, so maybe I was really really dehydrated. We went to dinner that night at a Japanese hibachi restaurant (per Sam's request, as usual) and I just tried to spend as much time alone as possible (which I'm sure really helped my situational depression :p).

I was bound and determined to do better on Sunday in stadium. Stadium has always been where Coco and I shine. It's our favorite phase. We watched the novice horses go in the morning, and a lot of people were having trouble. It had rained over night and the ground was definitely wet and slick. There were people sliding to stops, people falling, and rails coming down all over the place. My barn mates weren't exempt from the mayhem. One had a refusal and sliding stop into the second jump of a combination, one had a fall as her horse tried to take a nap and ride the course at the same time, and one had a sliding stop with her horse sliding onto his butt into the triple bar. Someone had to show them how it was done. 

Warm up for stadium was better than cross country (maybe Chris (my trainer) was going easy on me). Coco was taking everything well and the footing didn't seem to bother him (he doesn't have any studs, only front shoes with little nobbies). Every time we came near the in-gate, Coco had a minor freak out of excitement and was difficult to control, but he finally calmed down. We went in to do our course and everything went perfectly. He was taking distances well. He chipped into the second fence of the 2-stride to make it a 2.5-stride, but he saved me when I tried to jump for him and didn't knock a rail even though he would have been totally justified in doing so. He felt like he was flying, but he was controlled during the whole round and listening to me pretty well. He didn't have any trouble at all with the footing despite intermittent occurrences of motorcycle turns. (See! I DO know how to ride!!! http://youtu.be/ZuCs3oYK_Xw) We ended up going double clear and moving up to 13th place. My barn mates and I cleaned out stalls, loaded up the trailer, and carried our drooped heads and ribbon-less hands all the way home to Kansas City. We got home around 3am on Monday morning and I made the poor life choice of going to work that day with a clear case of sleep deprivation. I slept 10 hours on Monday night and a week and a half later, I'm finally starting to feel back to normal.

Coco had a whole week off and I focused on myself, stepping up my healthy eating and exercise habits in an attempt to improve my fitness for the next show (only 3 short weeks later). I made the tough decision to drop down to beginner novice for Longview until I can get my leg and my fitness back. It feels a little sad and depressing to have to work so hard to do well at beginner novice, especially because I thought we would be ready to move up to novice this year, but I have to do what's right for me and my horse. I definitely learned a lot at Holly Hill about taking time off over the winter, the importance of fitness/endurance rides, the importance of taking care of myself and not just Coco... and that knee surgery totally sucks!!


Disappointment at AECs, Success at Heritage, and A Stupid Knee

So I’m going to be completely honest. I haven’t written in a while because I was embarrassed to admit that I was disqualified from AECs. However, if I want to keep up with my blogging, it is inevitable that I’ll have to share that experience as well as that of our last show of the year at Heritage and our winter endeavors. So get ready for a bumpy ride and a large blog, because there’s a lot to catch you up on!

American Eventing Championships
It was a dream to head to Texas with my barn. Lorna, Sam, and I were all planning on competing. Lorna and Sam went in 2013, so they knew the ropes. They would be competing novice. I was the rookie of the group competing beginner novice, and I was loving every minute of it. The atmosphere was phenomenal!  We got there on Tuesday so that we could spend the Tuesday and all day Wednesday watching other riders, acclimating our horses to the Texas-ness of it all, and shopping (of course!). My parents, who had just moved to Austin, were also planning on coming to watch us compete.

The advanced riders started their dressage on Thursday, and it was a real treat to see them all ride. Coco and I rode dressage on Friday afternoon around 2pm. It was a pretty good ride. We had had good warm up dressage schoolings in all the arenas and he was being really good as far as calmness while we were walking around the show grounds. I wasn’t worried. I was sure we would be middle of the pack after dressage, as usual. We ended up getting a 33.0, which is pretty good for us. It put us in a tie for 17th.

Saturday was cross country. I had walked the course 3 times and will admit that I was a little anxious. Some of the jumps looked really big and there was one line that was complicated going out of the first water. However, I knew that Coco would take care of me. The jumps themselves were nothing we hadn’t done before. We were definitely capable. Warm up went great. The warm up area was a bit hectic and we got weird striding to our first couple jumps, but after I calmed down, it seemed like everything would be fine. The course started out riding great. Jumps were easy and Coco wasn’t looking at anything. We were having fun. I was worried about time, though. We usually take cross country extremely fast and have to be careful not to get faster than speed fault time. However, because this was championships, the goal was to get as close to optimum time because that would be the determining factor in ties (which I had managed to find myself in). So throughout the course, I was more focused on my watch and my time than I typically would be. Everything was going well. I was coming into my jumps at just the right times. And then the weird line after the first water came. It rode well.  And the line after 7 rode well going to the 8th jump, a really big roll top that had seemed like it was maxed out and was the first jump of the course that really gave me any anxiety. Something went wrong as we approached. Coco tried to add a half stride and caught his front end on the jump, sending me over his right shoulder straight to the ground beyond the jump. I landed on my forehead and immediately started crying, not because I was in pain, but because I knew that my ability to complete the AECs was over. You can see all the fun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f3VlGbB3H4. Looking back and talking to my coach and seeing the video, there is nothing I could have done to prevent this fall. It was one of those freak accidents that just happened. Our pace could have been more consistent, but that’s always something we need to work on.  However, Coco obviously took care of me. After he tripped, he obviously took great care in where he was placing his feet so as not to step on me. And when I was on the ground, he patiently stood and waited for me to gain my composure and get up. He’s a great horse who clearly was looking out for me.

It was really upsetting to continue the rest of the weekend in Texas, but being unable to compete. I found myself frequently breaking into random tears of disappointment. However, we will definitely be back next year to redeem ourselves. It took a couple jumping lessons and a cross country school at Longview when we got home for me to regain my confidence and trust in Coco, but we came back better than ever and headed to Heritage Park in October.

Heritage Park Horse Trials
After much deliberation with Chris and soul searching, I decided to maintain course and compete novice for the first time at Heritage Park. The cross country course is usually pretty straightforward and we had schooled most of it earlier in the summer. I was nervous, but very excited. My barn mates were awesome about helping me through my nerves, too. We had a lot of people competing at this event. Lindsey, Lorna, Sam, and I were all going to go novice. And Taylor was going to do beginner novice. Chris would have her hands full. We would be hauling to the show grounds every day and went on Friday night to ride a schooling dressage test. It went really well. Coco was too collected in his canters, jigged at the free walk, and we needed more bend (as usual), but it gave us some good things to make sure we did correctly the next day, for the real competition.

This is Sophie. Isn't she a cutie???

Lorna and I rode dressage on Saturday morning at almost exactly the same time. Jackie came to watch. I even brought Sophie (my new puppy) to watch and get acclimated to the show environment (hopefully she will be a good horse show puppy). I recommended that Chris watch Lorna, seeing as I got my best dressage score ever at Catalpa earlier this year when she didn’t see me ride. Superstition. My ride was good. The judge was the same one I had had the night before and she said that the ride looked a lot better. We got the same score, though, a 31.3. (Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTAhkCnY2U4&list=UUkmV2MiImdwXP6TtlR2wX2Q)

Cross country was that afternoon. I was really excited. I tried not to overthink it, though. The last event when I had tried that whole thinking thing hadn’t gone so well. My plan was just to go clear and not worry too much about the time. We were absolutely perfect. The pace of novice is absolutely perfect for us and everything rode great! No need to be concerned about the speed fault time. We had a blast and ended the afternoon on a double clear cross country, a crazy eventing high that can’t be described, and a new 4th place position.

Stadium jumping was Sunday morning. The course reminded me a lot of Queeny Park, so I was sure there would be a lot of rails dropped and a lot of movement among the positions. Our warm up was pretty disastrous. Partly because the organizers had decided that the Novice A and B groups would go together in reverse order, so it was really confusing because Lindsey was supposed to be a whole group of people ahead of me, but I actually ended up having to ride before her because I was in a lower position. Our warm up was rushed and the warm up area was hectic at best. We got through it, though. Coco got into the arena and instantly knew his job. He was really good, until the last line. I think I took too long of a line getting to it, giving him too much time to think about it, and then pushed him too hard in the middle of it. (Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYmyWgI_Xpg&list=UUkmV2MiImdwXP6TtlR2wX2Q). We ended up knocking both rails, which dropped us down to 5th place. Still not too bad, though, considering that was our first novice event ever. I was very happy.  Coco was very happy. Chris was very happy. Overall it was a great show season and Coco deserved some time off.

Show Season and Beyond
Coco got 2 full weeks off after Heritage. We rode in a dressage lesson with Amanda at Willow Creek and then he got some more time off for Thanksgiving and bad weather. We had a meeting discussing goals and schedule for next year. The plan is to go all novice (and hopefully qualify for AECs again) and then maybe do training at Heritage in 2015.

And then I broke myself. Sad panda. I tore my lateral meniscus of my right knee when I was playing board games with some friends and went from sitting on the floor to standing. I had to have surgery (lateral meniscus repair) and have been out of the saddle for about 4 weeks as of this blog. I’ve recently been depressed thinking of all the things I’m still having trouble doing and all the riding I’m missing out on. I don’t think I’d be able to bend my knee enough at this point to mount or even put my feet in the stirrups. However, this is probably the best time of the year for this to happen. No shows and no need to do any crazy conditioning. Hopefully my physical therapy and recovery goes well and I’ll be back in the saddle in no time. My friend Jackie has been riding Coco when she has the chance and plans to continue riding him. Chris and Lindsey also said they would help with lounging him and picking out his feet until I can get out more often. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how things go from here on out.

This last photo is me, my pup Sophie, my friend Jackie who was a huge support at Heritage and during all my competitions this year, and my boyfriend Matt, who's been super supportive of everything I do. I can't wait until he can come see me and Coco compete.