Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hitching Post

Often the first event of the year for many area 1ers, and usually our first event back in New England, is Hitching Post. They run one recognized event and many schooling events over the summer/fall. All of their events are great outings whether it’s your first event after a long winter, you are looking to move up, or if you are taking a young horse to their first show.

The winter was so prolonged this year that our move north was much later than it usually is. We wound up moving one week before the recognized event at Hitching Post. I was worried about entering because I wasn’t sure I would have enough time to get all the horses worked and the barn set up, without any working students to help.  In the end we decided to take Rosie to the recognized event and Simply and Jumbie to the schooling event the following weekend.
Rosie had a few days off with the move, but thankfully she is pretty reliable and becoming very consistent in her work. I took her hacking one day, jumped the next, and then did a light dressage school the day before the event and she was perfect. This was her first training level event of the year, her fourth ever. She performed just like a professional; she had a very nice dressage test followed by two double clear jump rounds, winning the event.

The cross country course was such a good early season course, and the footing was perfect. We had an unbelievable amount of rain the night/early morning of the event and the very hilly course wasn’t the least bit slippery. We went right to show jumping after cross country, which can be challenging if the horse is still in cross country mode. Rosie was very rideable and jumped well around the course. We are looking at moving her up to prelim sometime this summer!

The following weekend I took Simply novice and Jumbie did her first training at the schooling event. These two are a little greener than Rosie so it was nice to have an extra week to ride them after the trip. It again, poured right before the event, but the footing remained excellent, I didn’t have studs on either horse and it wasn’t an issue at all!

Warming up for Dressage, Simply felt like a ticking time bomb and kept screaming to Jumbie in the trailer. She is normally quite good, but she was in heat and apparently couldn’t control herself haha. We had a very distracted, inconsistent test, but we stayed in the ring and got to go jump after! She jumped well around the show jumping but was a little spooky to the first few cross country fences. I had to get after her a bit in the beginning but then she got into the rhythm and jumped clean, finishing in fifth.

Jumbie has been getting better and better, she feels like a different horse this year. Knowing the courses would be very similar, if not the same as last weekend, I felt confident that it would be a good first training for her. She was very relaxed and responsive in dressage, quite different from Simply! She won the dressage and had two double clear rounds, winning her first training! I was very proud of her, she jumped stadium like it was a walk in the park and came out on cross country confident and bold. In the past we have had ditch issues but she just skipped over the ditch on the course. There was one fence near the end that had a large white hitching post silhouette on the front of it, Jumbie wasn’t so sure about this one, but with some encouragement jumped it anyway. I was actually happy to see that even if she wasn’t sure about something and I said jump it anyway she would trust me and go do it.

I want to thank Laurie and everyone else at Hitching Post for having such great events. They are always so well run, the courses are great, and everyone is always so nice! Overall, the girls all had great outings and are set up nicely for GMHA this weekend. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Well, Rolex was awesome, but seriously, how could it not be?? I had only been once before, in 2004, when I had only competed in a few training level events. Going now, with a very different perspective, proved to be a very good learning experience for me.

I was lucky enough to leave for all four days so I could watch the entire event. Watching dressage made me realize how you really need a quiet horse, or at least one that will still stay with you if they are amped up. There is a big atmosphere in that arena and a "hot" horse could easily succumb to the pressures.  If you can have a fancy, quiet horse that is ideal but I feel that quiet, or at least rideable, has to come first, it doesn't matter how fancy your horse is if you can't go in the ring and ride it!

Obviously, cross country is the meat of the sport and what everyone is there to watch. I walked the course on Friday and it was big, but in my mind they had been so much bigger. The last time I had seen the fences I was 18 with very little experience eventing. Seeing the fences now made it seem so much more possible, something I felt very relieved about. Of course walking it as a spectator and walking it as a competitor are two very different things. It still looked very tough to me, but it didn't look impossible.

The thing that struck me most was how boldly forward you had to ride.  In every combination you had to land, knowing your distance, and riding forward to make it happen, even if things aren't quite right. You saw this a lot at the coffin, horses would get stuck over the ditch but the rider had to kick for the two strides to the next fence and kick for the next two strides. This made me aware of things I need to work on in my riding.

 I need to set more fixed distances (anywhere from 2 strides to 7 strides) and practice landing and making the distance happen. I also need to start setting up more combinations on different terrain, with skinnys and angles, knowing the distance and riding for it. My horses need to be more rideable and need to start really looking for the next fence. I also want to start doing things with three of four elements, not just jump one and run on to the next. These don't have to be big fences, just things to get them to start thinking and make them confident.

Show jumping was exciting because the scores were so close. It was amazing how well the top riders rode under such tremendous pressure. Knowing one rail would drop them significantly in the standings, they all came in the ring and rode beautifully. You have to have confidence in both your abilities and your horses, and you need to have practiced riding under pressure. Let's face it, just to qualify for Rolex, these riders have been under pressure many, many times. It also showed me how fit the horses have to be, to come into the ring after galloping for over eleven minutes, and leave the rails up. There were only a couple horses that looked tired, most of the horses looked great and jumped very well.

Overall, the whole experience was really inspiring for me. Being able to see the best riders in the country, do what they do best really motivated me to go home and try harder and ride better. I came away with things I know I need to work on to improve myself and my horses, now I can't wait to get to work!