Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

You know what's fun? Winning.

So to fully appreciate today's adventures you have to understand what led up to it...

I wasn't intending to run this HT -- I was supposed to do the earlier Woodwinds and screwed up my entries so didn't get to go (remember that stupid moment?  Yeah, it was fun).  This one was scheduled for the girls, but for some reason or another neither ended up going and I figured that since I'd already planned to go coach, I may as well go ride instead and sent in my entries at the last second.

On Thursday I find out they've switched it from a two day show to a one day show.  Meaning now instead of showing on Saturday I'll be showing on Sunday.  Meaning now I need to find staff for Sunday, see if my groom (yeah Brena!!!) can come Sun instead of Sat, and move all my Sunday lessons to Saturday.  Tons o fun let me tell you.   Most of my lessons managed to switch and HUGE thanks to Rebecca who took care of the barn for me :)   Thankfully the awesome Brena was able to come Sunday instead.  So ok, we can still go.

Friday I have a lesson.  Stadium.  Remember Lane's End?   Yeah - not so good.  And we really hadn't recovered.  Why?  Well let's see...  Monday she had off as the day after the show.  Tues was long/low hacking (always our first day back exercise).  Wednesday I was away all day at Equus and then puppy class.  Thursday was simply insane and I didn't ride at all.   So now it's Friday.  My horse hasn't jumped stadium since our last disaster.  And hasn't even been ridden in two days.  And I'm supposed to have a lesson.

Suffice to say it was ugly.  Really ugly.  Coach, rider AND horse were all expressing language not usually heard in polite company.  For instance -- our warm-up exercise.  3' vert with a placing pole 9' in front.  As simple as it gets.  We tried jumping it and bolting on landing.  We bolted before the fence and went right through it.  We managed to put a stride between the pole and the fence.   We took off BEFORE the pole and cleared it and the fence together.  Nice to know my horse can jump a 12' spread over a 3' jump, but definitely not what we were aiming for.  We came in off-balance, downhill, and sideways.  We knocked it down about 8 times -- a horse who almost never pulls rails.  And if she got it right, I'd get it wrong.  We were so *not* working as a team and both of us were being horrifically useless.  I'm pretty sure my coach was ready to fire us.  In a little over an hour of jumping, I think we got two fences that were boarder-line acceptable.  Nowhere near good.  But had to lower the bar a whole lot *sigh*.  One of those what-the-f-do-you-think-you're-doing-going-out-in-public type rides...  But the thing is, it was SO bad it was actually comical.  So in a laugh or cry moment, I decided to laugh.  I figure it's the next-best-thing to falling off in the warm-up ring (I used to win whenever I did that.  Hate that it's now boarder-line illegal *g*).

So needless to say I jumped her again on Saturday and it was *significantly* better.  Phew.  Not that it could've been much worse *g*  But she was balanced and listening and we were able to jump around in a civilized fashion.  So we did that once or twice and went for a walk hack instead.  Why mess around when it's going well?

Sunday am my alarm went off after a grand total of two hours sleep.  Not intentional - I swear.  I'm too old for this!  Got to the barn, fed, prepped, etc.  And when it came time, Athena loaded like an absolute star.  I was somewhat shocked and pretty happy :)   Away we went, getting to the show with just enough time (early start so I didn't leave much "bad loading" buffer -- sometimes you get lucky).  In dressage warm-up she was quite sticky, but we had time and I was able to work her through it.  We got bumped up a time slot as somebody had a conflict (and really, would five more minutes *really* change anything?)  so she was first in.  Had to laugh when I recognized the judge -- it was the same one who was there for our disastrous dead-last effort at Will O Wind.  hahaha I figured it could only go up from there.  She was a little tense when we first went out to the ring, but by the time we got around she'd gone from tense to high -- and a rideable/workable high.  Sweet.  The test went well.  Still not flashy really, but definitely our best test yet.  More forward than she has been -- less sticky.  Reasonable rhythm and bend and accuracy.  I was pretty happy with it.

BUT - the goal for the day was reasonable show jumping.  Happy with dressage just wasn't going to cut it.  So leaving the pony with Brena, Sasha and I headed out to walk our courses.  Stadium was busy so we did XC first.  The first couple fences were very upright -- not the best to get a good flow going...  But other than that the course seemed really easy.  There was nothing on it that I thought would concern her.   Course map was a little tricky to read -- I met several people wandering around looking for fence # whatever.  Having been there before I had a pretty good idea where the course would go, but I admit I prob wouldn't've found all of them relying on the map alone.  The best map I ever saw I *think* was Will O Wind one year (although I could be wrong on that) that used an aerial photo of the farm and drew the map on top.  Brilliant. Anyways - fences were all found and there was nothing on it that I felt would challenge her at all.  It's a sad day when XC is boring but you can't upgrade due to incompetency in show jumping.

So as I wander back I discover stadium is open for course walk.  Set at T level, but that's ok.  Close enough :)  And the course looked comparatively quite easy.  There was one line on a downhill that I figured would get a significant number, but the striding was textbook on all the distances and no particularly challenging turns.  The only turn of interest was to the last fence -- could go inside or out of fence five.  My thought was that I'd rather do the inside turn but clearly I really doubted the likelihood of that happening as I walked the outside line.

Had about 15min left to chill before tacking up for stadium.  All good.  Get ready, tack checked, and start warming up.  First fence...  She stopped.  Really???  For all the disasters we've had, I don't think this mare has *ever* actually stopped at a stadium fence (water/ditches/banks all a different matter :).  Huh.  Ok, re-present and she tries to stop and then momentum pushed her through (not the most balanced mare on the planet remember).  Really???  So I'm frantically wondering if there's something wrong?  Is she sore?  Is there a *reason* for this?  But she's sound.  100%.  And moving well other than neglecting to pick her feet up.  So we go for a third try -- and she clears it by about 3'.  And then the light went on.  It was a cross-rail.  Like every other show there was an x, a vert, and an oxer to w/u over.  But *this* x was still set intermediate style -- the cups were almost on the top hole.   And it occurred to me that I don't think I've ever jumped her over a big X before -- I suspect she was catching only the edge of it in her vision and thinking I was asking her to jump 5'+ out of a trot.  No wonder she stopped!  The middle was still baby-sized, but I honestly don't think she understood that.  So we switched to jumping the vert and the oxer and suddenly I had my mare back.  She was a little sticky and a little hesitant at first, but clearly much more comfortable and the more we jumped the better she got.

And then the gate person was searching for somebody to go first.  I was supposed to be third, but first wasn't there yet and second had only *just* shown up (this being the same one from dressage who had another horse running and some time conflicts).   So I volunteered Athena and I, took one more jump and in we went.  And had by FAR our best round ever.  We did pull a rail -- the second of the downhill line (gee, there's a surprise) which I was a little annoyed with myself over since I *knew* it was a trappy line.  But sobeit.  Far more important though was that we made the inside turn!   Yes that's right, we landed off a downhill fence balanced enough to make the inside turn and clear the next jump.   Sweet.  I was pretty stoked about that.   She also rode the combination with a little more confidence than she usually does.  And only really looked at one fence (had really funky standards).

So yeah, I was pretty happy after that.  Goal accomplished.  And all that was left was xc.  With nothing scary on it.  Sure - why not :)  Went out of order for that one too -- all sorts of missing people.  But we were ready -- with only an hour between phases we just untacked, bathed, and tacked her back up again so it's not as though we needed a long warm-up :)   This was definitely her most confident run yet -- she left the start box and was an absolute superstar till we crossed the finish line.  And it really doesn't matter how challenging or not you feel the course is, it's still an adrenaline rush and when you finish clear, you're still beaming ear to ear.  So. Much. Fun!  Had a few really good gallops and this course was no-stress for her; she's finally getting fit enough that it was an easy run even with the hills.  Sweet.

After we finished taking care of Athena, I went to check the scores.  Dressage had been decent and we'd only had one rail and some time faults (oops - pilot error :).  So worth a look.  And I see first after dressage and stadium -- xc not yet posted.  Woohoo!!!  Followed instantly by Frig!  Only two points between first and second and I know I was off by more than that in time faults *sigh*.  So then while I was still thrilled with my pony, I was pretty thoroughly annoyed with myself for not paying more attention on xc.  But still worth sticking around.  And then when they posted all three phases I discovered second place had some issues out on xc and were no longer in the running.  Meaning even with the time faults we were still in first.  Woohoo!  I *know* at this level it's all about introducing the horses and giving them a confident ride.  And you should be happy any time you accomplish that.  But I'll tell ya -- it's a lot easier to be happy bringing home the red :)

And now, off to champs :)

Silly Sasha Story

Simply Stunning
Sasha was so cute in puppy class this week. Working on retrieving - each person throws their toy into the pile (one at a time) with all people/dogs in a big circle around the outside, and the dog has to go get it and bring it back.

So most of the dogs either go get it and come straight back (as they're supposed to). Or fail horribly and don't get it at all. But Sasha? Oh no. She be-lined it to her toy and picked it up, and then trotted her way around the entire room, just a few feet away from each dog, all proud of herself, pointedly showing every dog (and person!) what a great toy she had that was ALL HERS and *then* coming back to sit at my side. hahaha omg I love my dog.
The "look what I've got" trot :)

Running Lane's End HT

Not an insanely early start today given where we were going.  Left the barn at 8 for what Google told me would be just under a 3.5h drive.  Yikes.

Athena loaded reasonably well -- took a bit of discussion, but comparatively it was a good start :)  The drive was long but pretty and we got there in less time than Google had threatened, so that's all good.   Parking lot was pretty full though so we parked right at the far end of the universe -- which ended up being great as it put us right beside show jumping and xc warmup.

Made the long hike to the secretary and found the dressage rings in the process.  Athena was pretty high at this point -- Stephy was doing laps around the trailer with her and Sasha was hiding underneath the truck.  We got her tacked up though and made our way to the w/u ring.  Where she promptly chilled out entirely!  Sweet.  She was tripping a lot in warm-up but when we got in the ring was really good.  Sucky -- she didn't want to move forward and was highly concerned about what was going on in the show-jumping ring in the distance (yet really didn't care about the horses galloping by on xc???  Classic).  The test was accurate though -- she paid attention and did what I asked.  Not brilliant by any means, but acceptable. Possibly our best yet all things considered.

Then I had a break so left Athena with Steph and Emily (who appeared during dressage :) and went with Sasha to walk my courses.  Only thing is - about half way through xc I started to feel really weird.  Couldn't focus at all; had no idea where we'd just come from or what jumps were on the course.  ummmm less than good.   Finished my trek and walked show jumping as well -- and at the end had no idea how many strides were in any of the related distances.  Uh, less good.  Went back to the trailer and since I had a bit of time decided to grab a 20 min cat nap in the truck.  Felt a little better afterwards but not much.  Stephy got Athena ready for me and it took me *forever* to get myself ready.  Things were just not going well.  And a little disconcerting knowing we were going into our worst phase *sigh*

Warm-up was pretty disastrous -- from a rider point of view.  My poor horse was trying and I just was not getting my act together.  And of course, it started to rain.  Not a cloud in the sky all day until it's time for me to jump -- then suddenly it's midnight black and soaking wet.  Classic.  The coach inside me was spewing instructions at top speed, which the student was failing horribly to apply.  Finally it was just a case of go out there and Do. Your. Job.

Well let's just say it wasn't my best round ever *sigh*.  What WAS good, was for the first time Athena made a concerted effort to help me out.  Took about three fences before I got into the game and she did her best to cover for me -- getting us over all of them.  Then thankfully I clued in enough to get her through the ones that she was concerned about (combinations and related distances are still very tricky for her).  We both failed horribly at the last fence -- actually even pulled that rail which isn't something she does often.

Needless to say, I was none too thrilled with myself for that ride.  I went back to the w/u ring and jumped another fence or two out of a trot to idiot-proof it a little and rebuild her confidence a bit.  Then we had all of about 15 mins before xc, so Athena got a drink and a short break and I contemplated how to fix what I'd just broken before sending her galloping at solid fences.  Got our tack check done and I was playing all sorts of mental games.  Convinced myself that A - xc is my strongest phase so even in incompetent mode it's only PT, I could sleep through it.  B - Athena jumps better with pace, so again, even if I'm not all there it'll be easier for her.  And C - xc is fun!  So with B and C in mind I galloped her around the warm-up.  Just let her run and have fun and then randomly popped over a couple fences with the sole goal of staying out of her way and letting her jump in rhythm.  I needed her to remember that jumping is fun and I needed it to happen Right Away.  So applied what I often tell my students: "pretend it's fun and your horse will believe you" -- thank god that's not entirely BS *g*   And it worked.  After two or three fences I could just feel her confidence coming back and she was clearly enjoying herself.

Just in time -- as suddenly it was our turn for the long trek to the start box.  hahaha she *is* starting to understand about start boxes as she did a little jig when we got there.  That always makes me smile.  So we started out really well.  Incompetent day or not, I knew she'd already saved me as much as was going to happen in one show and I'd better get it together fast.  *Really* rode the first three fences and the world was good...  And then I got lost.  *sigh*   Well technically not actually lost as I knew exactly where I was and where I was supposed to be -- I just missed a turn (remember really not with it when I walked the course?) and it took us longer than it should've for my brain to process, turn around, get back where we should be, and get going again.  Definitely killed our rhythm a bit, but we got it back fast.  And then she *really* wanted to gallop - so I let her :)  That was So. Much. Fun.   Had a bit of a discussion about if/when she should come back to me to prep for the next fence.  Wasn't brilliant, but not horrible either.  The one after that we had it figured out and all good.  She actually listened when I asked her to come back for the reasonably technical bank complex so I was very happy with that.

The long gallop through the woods was tons of fun, but she was struggling so I let her set the pace and she chose a trot.   A nice forward trot, but definitely needed a minute to catch her breath.  Fair enough given the non-break between phases and how much extra jumping/running around we had to do to prepare.  After a trot break she seemed ready to go again, albeit at a canter pace rather than a gallop.  So we loped our way around the rest of the course -- clear, rideable, and under control.  But did end up with a few time faults (ummmm detour AND extended trot break.  hahaha the fact that she didn't have a ton MORE faults gives an idea of how fast she was going when I let her go :)   Passed the vet check no problem and after a walk and a bath (or two :) her temp and respiration were back to normal in a reasonable amount of time.   Yeah pony!

I was still feeling pretty out of it, although by this point adrenaline was fighting with whatever was slowing me down - and winning.  Food and liquids helped, so by the time it was time to pack up and drive home again I was feeling more normal.  My best guess is probably dehydrated (ie - stupid *sigh*), but will never know for sure.

Athena got back on the trailer for the ride home and away we went.  Got home exhausted and happy.

So overall - more than 9h of driving today to compete for less than 15 mins.  Worth it?  Totally.

Sex and Grammar

For all my grammatically correct friends.

On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife.

The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction.

After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man, and wondered what he was in for.

The old man handed a potion to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned,

'This is a powerful medicine. You take only a teaspoonful, and then say '1-2-3.'

When you do, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life, and you can perform as long as you want."The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I stop the medicine from working?" "Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon."

He was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved,took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom.

When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!" Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes,and then she asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.