Happy New Year

Happy New Year from me and Pluto!

A picture from our last ride of 2018!

2018 was such a great horsey year for us! We qualified for Indoors for the first time for both of us and ended up 10th at Harrisburg, which was a lifelong goal for me.

I got to ride a horse on the beach in Bermuda, which was a major bucket list item for me. I also started my podcast with three amazing friends, which has been such an exciting experience! 2019, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

Sorry we’ve been MIA recently (I say “we” as if Pluto helps with this blog. It’s time to start pulling your weight, bud…)! Pluto’s scratches progressed so we only lightly hacked from our lesson 12/17 until 12/28. (We also had family visiting, which was so fun).

With my sister at the Caves Holiday Party

At our lesson on Friday, 12/28, Pluto was very fresh from lack of turn out, so we did flatwork and cantered some rails set one-stride, bounce, to one-stride. The next day, we did another lesson. We cantered rails set one-stride apart then trotted in, cantered out a line in seven-strides working on keeping my body still in the air. Pluto was jumping great even though the jumps were small.

I hope you have a wonderful, happy, and healthy 2019!

Lessons 12/12/18 and 12/15/18

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had as much time for writing, but I’ve still found time to ride!

I was late to my lesson on Wednesday, and it really threw my whole ride off. I felt like Pluto and I were just a bit out of sync the entire ride. I missed the trot work, so just warmed up on my own. For the canter work, we did poles set a steady two strides to a long five stride; we got the job done but it didn’t feel as smooth as usual.

We then trotted into a grid that was set as a cross rail, one stride to an oxer, then one stride to a vertical. Pluto was just stepping over cross rail, which made the rest of the grid feel dramatic. We ended well when I got into jumping position and just concentrated on my eq through the grid.

On Saturday, we worked on getting the horses trotting forward, then figure eighted some poles set for a forward trot and alternated collected sitting trot on the loops. We cantered through poles set as a one stride to a one stride and worked on our track and lengthening and shortening our stride depending on where we were entering the poles.

We cantered a small single then trotted into the grid set as a small cross rail, one stride to another cross rail. Pluto did the same sticky take off at the first jump, so the next time through I used my crop behind my leg. That made literally all the difference, and after that he jumped in with animation and I was able to concentrate on my own equitation.

My trainer continued to build up the grid to the same cross rail-oxer-vertical that we’d done Wednesday.

Pluto was jumping well, and I was able to concentrate on keeping my hands soft, heels down, and eyes up.

My family is coming to town this week for the holidays (yay!!!). I’m hoping to get to the barn 3 times this week, but you never know when family is in town. This is a situation where it can be difficult to juggle riding with other aspects of life!

December Hunter Classic

Pluto and I had a great time showing at the December Hunter Classic yesterday. When I arrived at the show and got out of the car, it was so cold that I was seriously considering scratching. I made myself brave the cold to walk to the indoor ring where the show was running, and they had so many heaters that is was legitimately 20-30° warmer inside.

We quickly warmed up in the outside ring where the adults go in warmer weather, and Pluto was perfect. It was so cold, we only jumped about 4 jumps and went inside.

Pluto was really excellent! He felt balanced and forward, and most of our jumps came up out of stride. I was so pleased with his and my performance (and just as importantly, so was Katie)! We ended up 4th out of 20 in one trip and 9th out of 20 in the classic.

We need to smooth out a few rough edges that formed during our time off from showing (e.g. I need to stop turning around and looking if the rail fell when he hits a jump), but I’m always extra happy when we perform well right before the holidays.

Pluto says, “more treats please!”

We have two possible shows in January, and we’ll pick which one (or both) to do based on the weather. I find that showing always makes me want to show more, and I definitely gotten bitten again by the show bug!

Lesson 12/5/18

Once again, the weather was beautiful all week until it was time for ya girl to lesson when it was 29°! We lessoned with an AO jumper, which was so fun and interesting (as soon as Katie told me I was doing a different course).

We began with the forward, stretching trot work that we’ve been doing in the cold to let him warm up. We then cantered through poles set three strides apart alternating between doing three and four strides. To begin our jumping work, we cantered a single vertical on a circle to the left and then the right concentrating on getting to the very middle of the jump. And then it was time for… the gymnastic!

You can’t tell, but that second jump is an oxer about 3’3″ tall and 3’9″ wide. We trotted into this gymnastic from a very tight turn then hopped the crossrail, took one stride to the huge oxer, and then one stride to the vertical. Pluto handled the gymnastic perfectly and was very powerful and graceful over every jump. I felt very anxious and threw my body over every jump. We jumped through a few times and at the end I was a little better, but it definitely showed me that I need to work on my upper body control.

We are showing this weekend, so we did a course similar to one we might see at McDonogh. I was a a bit rusty and Pluto was a bit excited towards home, but we put in a good course.

Having It All

If you watched 30 Rock or are an adult who is alive in 2018, you probably know the struggle of trying to have it all. It can be so overwhelming and anxiety provoking trying to keep all those balls in the air: raising kids, spouses who apparently also have wants and needs, jobs, friends, etc. Add horses to the mix and just reading those words makes my chest tighten (deep breathing. In and out). So, how do other people juggle their full lives with this time (and financially) consuming sport? That’s a question I think about a lot, so this is the first of a series of posts where I’ll interview riders to discover how they juggle everything. But I’m going to start with myself, because that’s easier than talking to other people.

Thank goodness they love each other

Even without horses, I am blessed to have so much in my life: I am raising my daughter full time and I work part time at the pediatric clinic. I am lucky that we have a babysitter (who just started nursing school) or my mother in law (who lives 2 hours away) to watch my daughter until my husband finishes working on days that I am in the clinic; however, this means we have no one who is readily available to watch her while I ride.

I try to ride three to four times a week: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (although a lot of Sundays are non-riding, family days). On the weekends, my husband can stay home with my daughter, and our babysitter can often watch her on Friday afternoons. On Wednesdays, I have to cobble together childcare, which can be stressful. I’ve learned to ask for help, and she’s been watched by friends, old babysitters, and my mom during work breaks. Thankfully, my trainers are very understanding about difficulties with childcare.

How do I keep things from falling through the cracks? I don’t. Between paperwork for my job, working out, play dates, etc, something often falls through. But, I’m always thankful for everything in my life and that so many people are available to help me. And if I ever feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that there isn’t anything that I would give up. I’m so fortunate to have such a full life and to be able to spend so much time with my daughter and ride and show on this level. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in trying to have it all is to ask for help when I need it. Asking for help can be really hard (because I feel like I can do it all myself or I don’t want to inconvenience anyone), but I’ve found that people are often happy to help if they can.

Lesson 12/1/18

I had a really great lesson yesterday, and, even more exciting, my mother was able to come and take video!

It was raining and 40°, but Pluto was absolutely perfect! I could feel my toes for the first ride in weeks, so maybe he was warm enough to feel his hooves and that made him happier. We began with trotting just working on a going forward and coming from behind. We then added circles and worked on letting them really stretch to both sides. We carried that over to our canter work and worked on bigger bends and more subtle bends in circles and keeping their bodies straight on the long sides of the ring.

We began our jumping work by cantering a pole that was five strides to a small vertical. It was set comfortably, so the first time we go to the vertical a little early. Our second time, we were able to even it out. We then added a second vertical seven bending strides away followed by a right turn back to the five-stride.

We added a forward five stride across the diagonal back to the broken seven-stride to the five-stride. The only hiccup was that we accidentally did six in the seven (oops!). I knew getting him back from the diagonal would be hard, but I didn’t ask quite hard enough. The next time we were able to smooth the last line out and I put more bend in the line, which helped it work out nicer.

I also worked to be more disciplined during my downward transitions, because that helps us develop the important muscles to have beautiful lead changes. I love to pick up my heels and keep my arms straight when I halt, but then Pluto likes to keep pulling through the halt. When I sit in the saddle with correct equitation, Pluto is noticeably softer.

Lesson 11/28/18

I can’t believe I’m about to type these words, but Pluto was wild* today! Katie and I were both shocked. She was like, “He’s so good that I took him for granted.” It was 32° and he’d just gotten clipped, so his freshness was pretty understandable.

*wild for Pluto. Not like wild-wild

“Me wild? You cray!”

When I was mounting, he spun a little and started walking, and he was snorting and spooking at everything in the ring. We trotted for a long time to help him calm down, and it worked pretty well. We cantered through two rails set as a one-stride that were set right out of the corner, and he felt great–only like 2 scoots!

Katie put two flowers on the ground in front of two jumps as a tunnel for where we should leave the ground as we did a big figure eight over the jumps. The first time we did it, we left with our feet in the correct spot but cheated as our straightness was not great. We tried again, and Pluto could hardly contain himself! He crow hopped away from the jumps (but a little bit of a pathetic crow hop since his feet only got about 2″ off the ground). We decided we’d reached his limit, and I let him trot out on a loose rein.

I found his freshness really endearing today, because he just seemed like he was having fun!