Posts tagged: competitions

2011 Season

Wow. So obviously I fail at blogging this year. And now the season is over, almost before it began… Behold:

In mid-September, Poe came in with a weepy right eye. A lot of horses had been bothered by a sudden plague of pollen and ragweed, and a proliferation of burrs. (I’m actually surprised there are any left in the pasture after the amount Poe’s brought in via his forelock — but he keeps managing to find them…) I consulted with the barn staff. Verdict: fly mask. It had cleared up other horses’ weepy eyes overnight. (I tried one on him last year, but he quickly started getting rubs, and after discovering several flies actually inside the mask, I gave it up.) So, fly mask.

The next day he seemed no better, and had some cloudiness around the edge of the eye, so I called the vet. He came out and stained the eye, revealing the lovely bright green spot you can see in the picture above: an ulcer. Probably caused by a bit of debris getting in there, and then being rubbed against the delicate surface of the eye. So he got a bunch of meds, and orders to dress as a pirate (to protect the dilated pupil from sunlight).

pirate pony

With one eye covered in strong light, jumping was off the table. We were given the go-ahead for flat riding, with the caution to stay out of dusty conditions. So we concentrated on flatwork, and actually had some really nice rides. I’d gotten lax about leg-yielding, something that was a regular part of our repertoire this spring, so I added that back in the mix. I schooled a lot of simple changes. We continued to improve our transitions down to the walk. When the vet re-stained his eye after four days of meds, he predicted it would be another 4-6 days before the eye was healed. I was optimistic about still being able to attend the October 8-9 Robeke’s Run show at Schweiss Stables. We did a schooling BN show there last year, and I was excited to have another run around their cross-country course.

Unfortunately, at two weeks from the original injury, he looked better but not good enough:

The vet advised against signing up for the show, and I agreed with him. There was no way of knowing how he’d respond between closing date and the show — and absolutely no reason to take any chances. I (hopefully) have decades ahead of me with this guy; we’re in no rush.

I feel like we got off the farm so much in 2010. We did tons of baby shows, schooling, clinics, and heaps of trail riding. By contrast, this year has felt like a long conspiracy against productive work: bad weather, personal upheavals, more bad weather, trailering woes, yet more bad weather, and now the eye. We did fit in one recognized show at the beginning of September, however, and it was an awesome experience. We had our usual tense, tense, tense dressage, which landed us in second-to-last place; a fantastic cross-country (double-clear, go pony go!), which moved us into second (which made me want to puke on my boots); and a spotty stadium round, which landed us in third. Which was good enough to help my group take first in the BN Team Challenge!

I was SUPER proud of him overall. The areas we really sucked at were known trouble spots, and he continues to impress me with what a willing, sensible guy he is. We had lots of green baby moments, but that’s to be expected. We did have an uncharacteristic stop at the second fence in stadium. He was unbelievably tense and nervous going into the ring, giving the bug-eye to the speakers, announcer’s trailer, all the fences… It was an honest run-out from a long ways off that I just couldn’t get a handle on, and when I gathered him up and re-presented he went right over it. After that I rode him more forward — which is something we’ve been working on, but which also let him get a bit flat and strung out, so we took a rail late in the course. (Sorry this recap is all over the place. I’m a bit sick and perhaps getting a little incoherent; I should just delete it and do a proper write-up of the whole show, but given my record on posting so far, I think it’s safer just leaving it a bit scattered…)

We still have the Hunter’s Pace and a foxhunt on the calendar for this year. The vet is coming out to have another look at Poe’s eye tomorrow, and I’m hoping we’ll get the green light for both of those. Have to defend our Hunter’s Pace trophy!

first time for everything

We had our first outing of the season on the 11th: a derby over at Steepleview. It’s kind of a cross-country stadium hybrid, and we ran it last September. Then he was a little sticky then but went over everything, and I was super proud of him:

You can see me pulling him back to the trot after the second fence. The ground was very slick: two horses before me wiped out on the turn between the second and third fences, and there was another fall in warm-up. You can see he was a little leery actually going over the ditch, but I think he’d committed to it before he realized how deep it was? I don’t really remember — the moment didn’t stick out in my mind at all when we were on course. I remember the whole thing felt very uneven; we never settled into a rhythm.

Similar story this year, but worse. He’s been schooling so well at home, and we ended the season so strongly last fall, that it was strange to be sitting on him feeling so incredibly backed-off. I was really proud of him through the water, but everything else felt more or less like a disaster — particularly the ditch, where I took my first tumble off him. I had to fight him a little for the trot before it; I was ready for him to take a good damn look at it and had my leg on. It felt like he was going to go, but at the last second he dropped his head and spun to the side and bounced me right off. Stupid fall — at least I landed pretty lightly! (Didn’t get the whole thing on video unfortunately.)

The video doesn’t have the first three fences on course (I was the first in my division, and they didn’t make an announcement that I was starting) — Poe took a look at them but went. Honestly the whole thing felt a lot worse than it looks (including the drive-by on the ramp; I thought about circling to re-do it, but just was not up for another fight).

So, it was a pretty disappointing day. I left feeling discouraged and unprepared to compete: the XC was a disaster, our dressage lessons at home usually feel like monumental struggles, and our stadium is a mess. I’m still feeling pretty fragile in my personal life, and I need this to be fun. So I have mentally wiped the rest of this year’s competition calendar. We’re going to go school a couple places, see if we can get our groove back, and reassess after that.

Yesterday I took him out in the back field for a little fitness work. I want to start doing trot sets but didn’t have my mp3 player ready, so I thought we’d just do a little introduction, make sure he hadn’t decided everything out there’s going to eat him. He was pretty excited to be out and very, very forward. When I first asked him to canter, he decided that meant he got to gallop at any old speed he pleased — so we had a few discussions about that. He came around to my way of thinking, more or less, and finished his work a happy, sweaty mess.

So much of our work lately has left me feeling like a failure, but just being around him is still pretty damned awesome. He’s been especially cuddly the last few months, so sometimes we just stand for ages with our faces pressed together, or breathing into each other’s noses, and there is nothing else on earth like that feeling. When I am going out to get him I always sing his name as I round the corner, and it’s a beautiful thing to see his face poke out of the shed, ears pricked, before he walks over to say hi.

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