I almost have no words for this post. Yesterday P had a farrier appt to get the egg bar shoes off his hinds and get back into regular shoes, and when I brought him inside, he seemed a touch antsy. I thought about asking the farrier if he could get someone else done first and I’d take P down to the arena and walk or lunge him, but then thought, “Nah, he’ll be fine.”
At the same time I was pushing those thoughts down, BO was thinking maybe she should’ve sedated him. But like me thought, “Nah, he’ll be fine.”
And simultaneously the farrier was thinking of asking one of us to hold P because he seemed a little off, but also went with the thought of the day: “Nah, he’ll be fine.”
Well, he wasn’t fine.
He had his right front up on the farrier stand and the farrier was filing down his foot with the rasp. Ya know, typical farrier-y stuff. I was around the corner when BO and I heard a crash, but from the farrier said, he either lost his balance or spooked (or both) and then he panicked. And panicked some more. I’ve owned him for just about 5 years and I’ve legit never seen him like that.
When I finally got close to him and put the lead around his neck (his head had raw marks from the halter), BO suddenly asked, “Where’s the blood coming from?” I looked down and I’m not even exaggerating when I say there was a river of blood heading for the drain in the wash stall. I looked at his legs, all seemed fine, until I glanced at his foot.
What we think happened was the initial loss of balance/spook caused the injury and the pain from that is what caused the rest of the insanity that ensued. The chunk was recovered in a nearby stall, which meant the sucker FLEW.
BO and the farrier started wrapping like crazy, and by the time the vet arrived an hour later, had so many layers (because blood kept soaking through), he had a 6″ platform going.
The vet looked in the hole (barf) and said nothing was in there and it didn’t look like any bone was affected but she didn’t have her x-ray machine (she was coming to the barn to do acupuncture and no other vets were available) so of course isn’t 100% sure.
So P is back in his stall, on SMZs and bute, with a heavy duty bandaging job, for a week until the vet and farrier come back out next Monday to x-ray and see if he can be fitted with some sort of shoe to support the foot while the hole grows back.
And looking at another 3 months off.
To say I’m angry at the world might be a little bit of an understatement. I spent the last 6 months meticulously rehabbing this horse and exactly 4 days before he can take his first little jump since July, he pulls this. Is he a horse and these things happen? Yes. Logically I know this, but I’m still so frustrated I could cry (and cry I have…literally all day yesterday).
Luckily I have some amazing friends. One offered to let me free lease the horse I spent last weekend riding.
And one is boarding a horse at her private farm for her student who’s off at college and the mare needs a job.
And of course BO, who along with the farrier, deserve all the gold stars in the world for their quick work getting P wrapped and the vet on the road. BO said she would make room for an additional horse if I wanted to bring one in (she’s technically full), and I can’t thank her enough.
So I did some preliminary budgeting and talking with Husband (who also deserves an award for rushing to the barn from work to let me rant and cry while we waited for the vet) and think I can swing it.
In the meantime, I can be found slaving away at work so I can continue to afford to be able to keep my horse in a stall for yet another undetermined amount of time.
So this AM, I’m ridding Big Dustina of a few weeks worth of accumulated trash
And I happen upon P’s last set of discharge instructions from Tryon. Now, I feel like I’ve read and reread these a thousand times. I had to, to recap the visit a couple posts back. But as I’m walking back through the garage to stick these in the house, skimming the page…some words suddenly stuck a different nerve in my brain (or however science works)
So I went back and double checked my earlier self- and yep, these instructions call for 4 weeks of cantering before re-check.
So, was I wrong before? Could it be that P can actually begin turnout two weeks EARLIER than I originally thought?
I have a call in to Tryon, to be absolutely positive, but tell me what you see!
Alternate title: What Not To Do When You Have an Injured Horse
My appointment at Tryon was at 10 AM, and lasted until about noon. Bette came to hang out with me, then we left P with some hay at the hospital and grabbed some lunch, then went to go check out the rehab place next door (which ultimately ended up being a hard no at $128/day). Tryon is a 2 hour haul for me, so I ended up finally getting home at 5 PM.
Those 7 hours were, for the most part, quite zen for me. While I definitely shed a couple of tears upon first hearing the diagnosis, talking to Bette, to the vets, and to Trainer B for sure helped a lot. The vet sounded very optimistic and Trainer B has been through similar injuries with horses. Neither made any mention of this being career-ending (provided P doesn’t escape and tear around like a maniac). It was all going to be ok.
So I get home at 5. By 5:01 I made my first mistake- Google. By 5:01:05 I made the most fatal mistake anyone can: clicking on a Chronicle of the Horse thread. NEVER DO THIS. COTH is the equine equivalent of WebMD.
But once I was in, I couldn’t stop…I finally ended up involuntarily passing out around SIX AM, after ELEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS OF GOOGLING & COTH-ING.
Now what did I do in those 11 hours? Let me tell you.
I read that front limbs have a great chance of recovery. If the injury is in the hind, you’re SOL. No exceptions EVER.
I read that once a horse is injured there, they will DEFINITELY reinjure it and will NEVER recover.
I read that horses who have this injury should NEVER be jumped again under ANY circumstances.
I read that only the STUPIDEST of stupid people would EVER ride a horse who has EVER had this type of injury.
I read that there’s absolutely NO WAY a horse can recover in less than 18 months from something like this. Better give it 5 years to be on the safe side. 10 if you actually care about your horse.
I read that if they sustain this injury in one leg they will DEFINITELY injure their other leg in a similar fashion due to compensation.
I read that the ONLY treatment for something like this to have even the SLIGHTEST chance of recovery is for them to have a surgery called fasciotomy. And then I became incredibly angry at the vets for not even having the decency to MENTION this to me. Clearly they assumed I was a pauper and didn’t care for my horse in the least bit. CLEARLY.
Despair kicked in around 1 AM or so. I was tempted to drown my sorrows in a bottle of red wine and the huge bag of M&Ms that Husband so thoughtfully had waiting for me, but no…my horse needed me to think clearly. Eating and sleeping would be selfish.
It was clear to me by then (yes, I was sober) that my horse’s riding career was over. So I looked for retirement farms (FYI there’s a nice one in VA, if anyone is looking), searched for local land for sale so I could have a place for P, and redid our household budget 1,000,000 ways to see how I could fund a second horse.
You’re probably thinking I stopped there, but you’d be wrong. As I was also convinced that P was in immeasurable pain as well, and obvi would be for the rest of his life, I may or may not have memorized my equine mortality insurance plan in looking to see how humane euthanasia worked.
Poor Husband woke around 4 AM (probably to the sound of me sobbing) and said to stop with the internet and get some sleep. I snarled something about him hating P, I believe, and he fell back asleep. Damn patriarchy. I was sure he was HAPPY P’s life was essentially (or literally, depending on which scenario I was convinced of at the time) over.
By 6 AM I had a list of retirement farms to contact about pricing/amenities, some land that I was going to call realtors about, had quotes for run-in shelters to place on said land, and had rehearsed how I was going to accuse ask the vet of not offering up the only procedure that could possibly work to save my horse’s life. It was a very productive night.
Let me tell you about the vet I saw, real quick. He’s been with Tryon Equine Hospital for the past 18 years, and owned it for the last 10 years. He’s trained at New Bolton and was Chief of Staff at Univ. of GA Hospital. His wife is an eventer, as well as an FEI vet for dressage/eventing and is the selector vet for the Canadian event team. The 2 of them are literally overseeing all the FEI vets for WEG.
So, uhhh, pretty qualified, right? Which is why I went there to begin with. But by 6 AM that next morning, I was convinced they were hacks and had some sort of conspiracy against my horse and I. Ya know, all rational things.
Tryon opened at 8 AM, so I gave them until 8:03 before calling because I’m considerate like that. I explained to the receptionist that I had been there yesterday and had a few questions, then left my number for one of the vets to call me back.
Then I put down my phone and stared at it. That never fails.
When they hadn’t called back by 8:05, I lost it. It was obvious they didn’t care that I was going to have to put P down. They probably didn’t even like horses AT ALL.
My makeup had been cried off by now, and half of it was all over my work clothes. My contacts were blurry from all the tears and Husband suggested perhaps I stay home rather than go into the office. I had actual work that needed to be done though, but luckily had my computer at home with me. So I opened up my computer to get said work done, and within 5 minutes found myself with no less than 2 dozen tabs on suspensory injuries open.
I declined breakfast, and Husband tried to gently close my computer lid which only prompted me to grab it and yell, “I HAVE WORK TO DO,” to which he replied, “But….you’re not doing that…” which only caused yet another sobbing fit. I had already accepted the vets didn’t care about my horse’s life, but now my HUSBAND was trying to prevent me from learning all I could so I could make informed decisions about the care of my horse?
By 10:30 AM I had taken to not only cursing the vets and my husband, but also their respective parents. What kind of parents raise people to be so hateful of horses and their loving owners? WHAT DID HORSES EVER DO TO YOU, KAREN?!
By the time the phone rang at 1:14 PM, I was blind from blurry contacts, looked like I had pink eye, my lips and cheeks were swollen and puffy, my nose hurt from blowing it so much, I was surrounded by wads of tissue, and I had a broken toe nail from when I lunged for my ringing phone 15 minutes earlier (which was a STUPID telemarketer who will probably never call anyone else again).
I started with my legitimate questions, first. I needed those answered before going in for the kill.
Me: You said he needed to be hand-walked/tack-walked every day. How long?
Vet: About 20 minutes would be good, no more than 30 minutes for now.
Me: After talking to the insurance company, I’ve decided to do the shockwave but Tryon Hospital is 2 hours away from me. Can any of the vets from your mobile division in Charlotte do it?
Vet: Yes, of course. The receptionist up front can schedule that for you. We’re all on one system so the mobile vets will have access to Pilgrim’s records.
Me (because I couldn’t help myself): Do you really think Pilgrim has a chance at fully recovering?
Vet: Yes, as long as you stick to the rehab plan. Some people just turn their horses out for whatever reason and the ligament doesn’t get the chance to heal properly. Resting it lets it heal while controlled exercise will help the fibers heal in the right direction and minimize scar tissue. We’ve had hundreds of cases similar to Pilgrim’s, and most return to their former jobs at the level they were previously working at. The ones that don’t are the ones that further injure themselves during rehab.
Me: Why wasn’t surgery brought up as an option?
Vet (after long pause): What surgery?
Me (thinking, “Aha! I KNEW you had no idea what you were doing!”): Fasciotomy.
Vet: Oh, Pilgrim isn’t a candidate for that surgery because he doesn’t need it. There’s a small amount of edema (swelling), but it isn’t cutting off any circulation or causing any pain, and will subside with healing. The shockwave should help it go away faster, as well.
So, my friends, learn from my mistakes and NEVER EVER EVER Google or COTH your horse’s symptoms or diagnosis.
When P and I had those 2 weeks where literally nothing went right (before I found out it’s probably pain-related), I was all about selling him. Or giving him away. If a glue factory worker had approached me after the 2nd horse trial, I would’ve paid THEM to take P. I spent the 3 hour drive home from Aiken alternating between bawling my eyes out (and I’m NOT a crier) and mentally writing his “For Sale” ad.
Then I talked to Trainer B, who I really thought would be thrilled I wanted to get rid of the horse. And Trainer B said, “No, don’t sell him. He’s too nice to sell.”
Uhh, earth to Trainer B. Have you ever met us before? We suck.
But then he said, “Everyone has issues. This is yours.”
And then BO brought up that a new horse may not be the answer as well. When you get a new horse, you never really know what you’re getting. Sure, an ad can say, “No vices” and the pictures/videos will undoubtedly show the horse at its best, but there’s no way to know exactly what you’re getting.
I’ve owned P for 4 years. And he’s pretty perfect. Let me tell you the ways:
He self-loads on the trailer.
He behaves the exact same off-property and at shows as he does at home.
He greets you at the gate.
He doesn’t buck. He tried once, about 3 years ago at our 2nd ever dressage show in warmup and has never attempted it since. I didn’t even realize what he was doing until I saw video after.
Did you sprint up behind him, not realizing he’s a flight animal? Don’t worry, P won’t mind. I constantly have to tell the kids that not all horses are like P and to pretend like he’s spooky.
He’s never reared. Has never even felt like he was going to.
If he seems a little quick while leading him up to the barn, hand the lead to the nearest 4 year old. P’s nose will hit the dirt and his legs will slow to about 0.01 mph.
Hs spook consists of a jump sideways, then he keeps going.
He doesn’t call for other horses.
Will cross-tie or tie to a trailer all day, no matter what’s going on around him.
You can clip him anywhere with no twitch and no sedation. He’ll put his head down so you can reach his ears more easily.
Even though he loves his turnout, he can be stalled anytime, anywhere. At a show and horses on both sides leave? No problem.
He loves his water. No worrying about him getting dehydrated.
He’s a dream in the warmup ring. Get cut off? Have a horse get too close? No problem for P, he lets it all roll right off his back.
If you fall off, he stands there and looks at you.
You will win lots of contests and get free stuff because he’ll go along with whatever scheme you have in mind.
He’ll eat anything and it’s quite entertaining. Want to see a carnivorous herbivore? Come visit P and bring McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
He has a fabulous walk and trot. His canter has gotten progressively worse, but that is most likely due to the, ya know, hock arthritis. Doh.
No tack? No problem.
Vets and farriers love him because he just stands there and gives no trouble.
You can pretty much do anything you want to around or even on him.
Of course, no horse is perfect. Here’s how he’s not perfect:
Sometimes he stops at jumps.
So…what’s your horse’s “thing?” What are they not perfect at?
Yesterday P headed back to the vet. As you may remember, he was super body sore and after 2 weeks of being on Robaxin and no jumping, the vet had said if he was still showing soreness, then she wanted to possibly inject the SI.
P’s basically had the past 3 weeks completely off and after sending Trainer B some videos, he recommended asking the vet about doing hock injections as well. So I was mentally steeling myself to shell out some moola.
But first…on Sunday I got a text from BO saying P had lost a shoe….his RIGHT HIND, coincidentally the same leg the vet was most concerned about. Since I knew the vet would want to flex/jog him, I pleadedbeggedbribedstalked asked P’s former farrier if she could get him in that day. Thankfully she agreed to do him that evening, so I went out to stick a diaper on him to hold him for the afternoon and this is what greeted me:
Uhhhh, yikes. I had no idea if she’d even be able to get a shoe on that. It was clear he needed to be done all around and the regular barn farrier wasn’t scheduled to come out until Wednesday. So she worked her majik:
Which brings us to yesterday morning. With his new kicks on, the vet spun him around on the lunge and noted something ever so slightly in his RIGHT FRONT. Holy crap. But it was so intermittent, and so slight that she decided against blocking him, and moved onto the hind. He still palpated sore over his SI, but when she went to flex his hocks, it was clear what the issue was.
Unfortunately I didn’t video the flexions, but trust me when I say he was definitely not a fan of the hock flexion. He hadn’t been a fan of the farrier Sunday night either, when she was shoeing the right hind, and was definitely uncomfortable. Trotting off, he would swing the flexed leg in a circle, rather than bend at the hock. Which is something Trainer B saw in the lunging videos and something the vet saw in some of the riding videos I could pull up for her. It was worse in the right than in the left, but there was still some uncomfortable-ness in the left side as well.
So she recommended injecting the hocks for now. She didn’t want to inject more than one joint at a time, so that in case this wasn’t the golden ticket, it would at least eliminate that as the cause. But her hunch is that the hocks are the root cause of the pain and soreness, based on how he was compensating with his body to avoid bending them.
So homeboy got some drugs, got scrubbed down with antiseptic and she started with the left. Needle slid right in, and right out. Easy peasy.
Then she went to the right and….it wouldn’t go in. It took a few tries, but she finally got it in. The cause of the difficulty? Arthritis. Mild, but still…it’s there.
So we’re hoping that this is a good place to start. He’s currently in his stall, and will be there until tonight, which he’s just thrilled about.
Then I can clamber back on on Friday.
And take it easy through the weekend. He’s been ridden 3 times since August 2nd, I believe.
And he can jump next week. I’m thinking I may let Trainer B do the honors.
And give it two weeks to let the injections take full effect and see how he is. If this is it, great. If not, she said the SI will be next. As far as other maintenance, she doesn’t think he needs to go the full joint supplements (Legends, Adequan, etc) just yet. Just keep up with the injections as needed. Assuming this is the issue, of course.
Sequence of events XC schooling with P: Great, fantastic, bad, super bad, super-awful bad, good, great, fantastic, phenomenal.
On Sunday Trainer B took the team XC schooling at Windridge. I’ve been there a few times before and always had a good time. Windridge was the first HT we won:
It was the site of our first hunter pace, and even though P was ridiculous about stream crossings, I still had fun with Sara.
It was also the first place we schooled some real BN fences. Bette can attest that I thought this BN cabin was way too big and wide to jump. My, how times have changed.
I got there just as Trainer B was getting the Starter/BN group going, so left P standing on the trailer to go watch. And, though I had been determined not to look beforehand, I caught glimpses of a few Novice jumps from the back of the golf cart.
The few that I saw looked enormous. Jumps 1, 2, 3, and 5 were just, well, intimidating.
Our Novice group was small: just myself, Trainer B on his OTTB, and another client. We started at jump 1, and P took one look at the jump and….
I know. I was as surprised as anyone else.
Then we went to jump 2. Windridge’s #2’s have never been kind to us. He had repeated stops at the starter one last year while schooling, and when we were there for BN earlier this year he peeked hard at it. The Novice one was next to the Starter one, so looked even more enormous. We started with the BN one and then circled back for the Novice.
He definitely didn’t give any indication he noticed the height difference.
So that was encouraging, and I was confident that it was going to be a good day. Trainer B remarked after jump 2 that P was ready for Prelim.
Everyone started with BN #3 and P sailed over it. It wasn’t so long ago that jump would’ve given me great pause, but I didn’t think anything of it (🙌).
Now, the Novice jump 3 was spooky, ok, fine. He wasn’t the only horse to stop at it, so it wasn’t exactly surprising.
A strong reprimand with the whip and spurs, and he popped over with no further issue. We ended up jumping that jump successfully at least 8 times, so fingers crossed next time he remembers there are no goblins hiding in it.
Then Super Awful Terrible P came out. We were supposed to jump 3, then head down to 4, which was a red rolltop. Yes, it’s Novice size, but it’s plain and boring. So we jump 3, and halfway across the field I feel P get wiggly, so I put my leg on and then right before the jump he does this incredible spin and TAKES.OFF.
I had one stirrup and honestly have zero idea how I stayed on galloping down the hill and back up. I thought for sure my DNA would be scattered among the Windridge fields forever. He’s spooked many a time in our life together, but he’s never just kept going like that.
So Trainer B comes up, gives me a little pep talk, and I head back to 3 again to re-attempt the line. This time P gets closer to 4, then spins even MORE violently and my right stirrup goes flying completely off my saddle. I had the time to think, “I’ve got to get off my horse to get the stirrup anyway,” and “I really don’t want to sit through another bolt,” and while it wasn’t exactly a dismount, it wasn’t a fall, either. It was more like a… surrender, if you will. I landed in a squat, still holding the reins, and was tempted for a split second to just let them go and hope P disappeared over the horizon, preferably forever.
Then Trainer B had mercy on me and asked if I wanted him to get on. YES, PLEASE.
You’d think by now he’d know that.
I walked back to 3 thinking, “We haven’t even gotten over 4, and 5 is absolutely humongous.” Honestly I felt a little defeated. He’d just cruised around CHP’s Novice (which is not a soft course by any means) and a little red rolltop is causing this many issues?
But off I went.
So that was a big win for me.
We did that a few times, then headed to a 2 stride. Oh, goody. My favorite.
But all the 2 stride practice at home and at Trainer B’s has paid off.
Then we wandered over to the water, which P is always fine with. So we put together another mini course: rolltop to the water, down the hill and a left turn to a u-shaped ramp, immediate right up the bank, right turn down the hill, then up the hill to a log. I had no idea what the log looked like, but Trainer B said it was at the top of the hill and to look for white numbers.
So my first glimpse of it was as we were galloping up to it.
Helmet cam view:
We went and practiced the up/down bank a few times, with no issues. Then the Novice group was done for the day.
So P & I thought. Muahaha.
On the walk back to the trailers, I think Trainer B could sense my disappointment. Even though most of it was great, I was still stuck on how terribly awful he had been for noreason. So he asked if I wanted to stay on and do some more for the next session, which was him on his own horse he’s moving up to Prelim and one of their working students who is going Training. P seemed just fine, so I said yes.
We got a 40 minute break or so, while the horses who’d just finished got taken care of and the 2 going out got tacked up. Then the 3 of us headed (back) to the start box, and I expected some serious fussiness from P since I figured he’d assumed he was done.
But he was great, and we ended up doing 1, 2, and 3. Then found some new Novice jumps we hadn’t jumped before, and strung together a longer course of 4, 5, 6 (a log coop), 7 AB, 8 (a bench), 9, and the water.
Let me tell you about this bench.
I’ve seen this bench a bunch of times the various times I’ve been to Windridge. It’s usually a jump close to the water, but when we got there on Sunday, it was nowhere to be found. And I was relieved. See, that jump is one of the reasons I thought Novice would always be out of reach for us. It doesn’t look like much in the picture (they never do), but whenever talk about Novice would come up, that jump (and 2 others) would pop into my head and I’d involuntarily shudder.
So here I am, thinking it’s no longer part of the course, since we hadn’t seen it earlier. So when Trainer B said to continue straight after the 2 stride and look for 8, imagine my face when we were galloping straight at 8 and I realized it was THE BENCH.
So so so so sadly, Cambox died and I have zero footage of it. Right now that’s my biggest regret in life (#firstworldproblems). But the entire mini-course was perfect, including the bench- you’ll have to take my word for it.
Then we moved to a whole different field that we hadn’t previously gone to and there was a jump there that was Novice/Training.
And so I got a good gallop going, and he didn’t even look at the fence.
At that point, I was content to stop. But as we wandered further, Trainer B happened upon a half coffin then 3 strides to the closest thing to a trakehner P has ever seen. And he was all, “Go back there and ride like hell at it.”
And I was all,
We did it a few more times until I stopped grabbing his face after the ditch and Trainer B declared it perfect.
Remember when I took P for VA for his Novice debut with Trainer B and thought they were joking about having P braided? Well, that’s NOT going to happen again.
I used to braid aaalllll the time as a kid, and always used yarn. After trying it out last week and realizing it’s NOT like riding a bike, I searched for new techniques.
Some of you mentioned the Quick Knot stuff, which I’d seen (and quickly disregarded because I, ya know, don’t didn’t braid) floating around on FB, so I did a search for that and stumbled across a video with the same premise, but with bobby pins. It was a mesmerizing video (maybe it was the music), but would it work?
After ordering the needed supplies from Amazon, and 30 minutes rather than 10…
It was shocking, really.
I had my doubts when I sectioned his mane off and it was a bit, uhh, wild:
Some of the sections, like the first section in the above picture, were too thin, so those were hard to roll up and not have any pieces sticking out. More hair is better for this type of braid. But I was thrilled with how it turned out.
And it was also easier to see the backs of the bobby pins with the thin braids. So note to self, thicker is better for these.
We headed outside so I could trot him around and make sure they didn’t shake out.
When I looked at the Quick Knot stuff, they were selling them for 100 for $39.95. Not a bad deal if they’re re-usable. But in their FAQs section it says that they lose strength when used, so I probably wouldn’t re-use them, lest they break at an inopportune time. The bobby pins are not reusable, but I got 200 for $6.99 on Amazon and used 10 (will probably use 8 or 9 next time), so even better.
Friday I headed to Trainer B’s with some mishaps from the week on my mind. So when he asked the usual question about how P was this week, I was all, “How do I choose which of my horrible habits to present?”
Here, Trainer B. Here’s all of them.
It’s super hard for me to sit the canter to the right. It’s P’s stiffer way and he’s really bad about putting ALL of his weight on his front right. So much weight you can practically see his left hind peddling in the air.
2. I can’t stop micromanaging P to fences. If we’re 3-4 strides away and I see that we’re not going to meet the fence perfectly, I pick at him. I think back all the time to the Clayton Fredericks clinic I audited this past January, where he said if the distance is wrong you have two options: push or wait. Never pull, because if you pull going into the fence and it doesn’t go well, the horse blames you for it. I KNOW THIS. I understand the concept completely. Nevertheless, I’m fiddling with his face nonstop.
3. I sit too long before fences, get left behind, and in an attempt to “catch-up,” I pinch with my knee, which swings my lower leg back and tips me forward. This is the opposite problem that I used to have- where I’d lean at every fence, but P stopping really taught me to not to trust that we’re leaving the ground until we’re in the air.
So we started with the canter. And the fix is, uhh, awkward. I have to sit back and waaaay to the left. Like, ridiculously to the left, while keeping my right leg on for bend, left leg behind the girth, and open left rein as if I’m leg-yielding. OMG so awkward. We worked on that for a bit, and I get to do that every time I canter. Fun.
Next he addressed both jumping issues with one exercise. He put a ground pole down 42 ft away from a jump that P has jumped many, many times before, to make it 3 strides from the pole to the jump. Then he had me get in half seat and practice getting P’s hip angle further underneath him and his shoulders elevated, and then keeping that around the corner until we reached the pole. When we went over the pole, I had to give a little tap with my legs and soften, to sorta “slingshot” P forward over the jump.
Once we had done that a couple times and it was clear P was going to jump, we worked on me. I did all of the above, and then thought of keeping my knees soft, shoving my feet forward and keeping my chest and head up.
But it was great, and it’s an exercise that’s easy to set up at home.
So we only have to do this a million more times, give or take a few.
Saturday I headed to a local jumper show to put all this into practice. My plan going in had been to use the 2’6″ as a warm-up (yes, really), then go into 2’9″, 3’0″, and, if those went well, 3’3″.
The website said the show started at 1, and 2’6″ was class #9, so we pulled in at 12:45…and they were already on class 3 after starting at 12:30.
I had this moment of panic when I realized they were about to start 2’3″ and thought maybe I should go in to let P see the jumps. But I didn’t, and stayed with my plan to use 2’6″ as our warm-up.
And…it was fine.
He felt like he hesitated when I got him straight to 7 and he saw both jumps, but when I saw the video I think he just chipped in vs thought about stopping. And he’s clearly unimpressed by 2’6″. So unlike last year when we couldn’t make it around a 2’6″ course for anything.
So we had awhile to go, since there were a bunch of other riders, and I hopped off P to let him graze while I talked to BO, who had come along to help and take videos (hooray for great friends who understand the importance of media). Then one of the volunteers came over to where we were standing and handed me a blue ribbon. I asked if they were done with 2’6″ and he said yeah, so I headed to the counter to add 2’9″. The lady looked a little crestfallen and said there were no entries, so they were going to conclude the show. I said, “Ok, so I can’t go in then?” and she said, “Well, can you help us raise the fences since you’re the only entry?” Uhhh, sure.
So I did, then hopped on P, trotted him in a circle and we headed in.
He felt awesome, and I so badly wanted to see if we could raise them to 3′, but when I headed out the gate, the volunteer handed me my blue ribbon (since I was the only one) and walked in the opposite direction. So I rode to the counter and before I could even say anything, the woman told me she had filled my check out for $40 (I had left an open check so I could add classes), and asked me if she could get my number from me. Okkkkk then, guess we’re done.
It was still fun, though. To put it like Michael Jung, P “gave me a great feeling,” and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Even better, I feel like I really used all that we worked on the day before in the rounds, and even when things didn’t go perfectly, I was able to let P sort it out rather than start meddling. Sort of a crucial quality in an event horse, no?
After that whirlwind of a weekend, I’ve finally had some time to process. I was really grateful for the day off on Monday- horse show hangovers are definitely a real thing.
So here are some things I learned:
-I never want to to be a professional rider (not like there was a chance, but still).
It was impressive that one person can ride 4 horses 8 times in 3 different phases (2 Novice dressage, 2 Novice XC, 2 Training dressage, 2 Training SJ) in one day and not have to be peeled off the floor afterwards.
-Playing owner is not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful that Trainer B rode P this weekend. Best decision ever, really. But handing my horse over to someone else made me realize how much I love competing. Not to mention I didn’t sit on my horse for 6 days, and I missed him.
-Even when things get busy, I really need to MAKE the time to get P out of his stall more often.
I failed miserably at time management. We were busy from 7 AM-7 PM both days and I was so tired (even though I didn’t ride…) that after dinner I just went straight back to my trailer and passed out. But P was definitely itching to get out more, and I need to find the time to make that happen to keep him as happy as possible. Thank goodness for GastroGard.
-I need to (re)learn how to braid.
As a kid, I braided all the time. Not so much as an adult. In fact, I don’t think P has ever been braided. I didn’t realize this was a thing people did at the lower levels, but I only saw one horse that wasn’t braided for dressage (my kindred spirit, apparently), so ya, it’s a thing. And a thing I need to figure out how to do again. So if anyone can point me towards supplies that I need and perhaps a good tutorial video or two, I’d be much obliged.
-Showing with a team is 100000x better than showing alone.
Still a concept very new to me. So much help was given: they all trooped out to XC and stood in the humid, muggy air to take videos/pictures, hung around to video P’s SJ round (he was the last ride of the day), helped with grooming, polishing hooves, grabbing last second forgotten items, braiding (another shoutout to E for that one!), and were just plain ol’ fun to be around. I’m such a shy person (introvert to the core) and quite socially awkward since I use up all my “coolness” for my job and have nothing left to give when not at work, but I really enjoy hanging out with them. Definitely better than getting Taco Bell and eating it alone in my horse trailer while reading a book. Except now I want Taco Bell. Oops.
-While I may never be the rider that Trainer B is, I do need to learn the ride he gives P.
Because, uhh, did we all just see my horse tearing up XC? I’ve probably watched that video no less than 500 times.
-Novice actually doesn’t look so bad.
Yeah, that’s really me saying it. Besides a couple of the jumps (like the table above), after walking the course I was wishing something fierce that I could ride. The course just looked like FUN.
-P can do Training.
When Trainer B said that to me, I really didn’t know what to with that information. Training isn’t something I saw anywhere in our future (if we’re being honest, I was thinking even BN was a lost cause…), but knowing that the next step up is well within his capabilities definitely makes me more confident that we can be successful at the level that we’re at now.
-But I need more XC schooling.
At this point, since coming back to riding as an adult, P now has more XC experience than I do. Sure, only four minutes and thirty-seven seconds more, but it still counts. So if I want the same results with P, I’ve got to make that a priority.
-My horse is something special.
Going to full-on, unashamedly brag here. The Novice Horse division was filled with quite a few amazing riders, including pros like Lainey Ashker, and a lot of SUPER nice horses. P on the other hand, has had 99% of his riding (and therefore training) done by me, a weenie adult ammy. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying had I been riding we would’ve gotten the same result (we also would’ve been in the Rider division), but clearly P isn’t as screwed up as I’ve sometimes let myself believe.
And I also have to mention the fact that P has never been to a show quite like VHT- the atmosphere was huge with so many things going on, he’s never been in an indoor like he was for SJ, and he totally stepped up. I was so impressed with him all weekend.
Mainly, I’m just still thrilled with my pony and soooo happy I’m getting to ride him again!