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!