Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Blur that was Congress

I’m kind of a bad blogger and this will be a wordy post with not enough photos, but I hope you read it anyway as it's kind of huge.  Yesterday happened so very, very quickly.

First, the days leading up to Congress were far more stressful than I anticipated. On the 25th (I've blogged since then but didn't mention it) I had a great reining lesson and then I was careless about my feet and Huck smacked a hoof across the top of my left foot while coming off of the trailer.  100% my fault.  I thought I broke it and that Congress was over.  Luckily it was not broken and only took until the 29th before I could try to ride again.  Then on Saturday October 7, a mere day before move-in, my back self destructed (I have two old disk bulges and weak SI joints) and I spent Sunday in lots of pain while my BF and friend did all of the heavy lifting including bedding my stall, hauling everything into the tack stall, lunging Huck – EVERYTHING.  I still didn’t know if I’d be able to show. 

I admit that the pain and the fear that I wouldn't be able to show really clouded what should have been a fun, exciting celebratory time.  I planned to take pictures of us moving in and really document everything.  Instead I was too worried to do anything but try to get through it all.  

Thankfully Sunday night my back adjusted itself a bit and Monday I was able to go get it adjusted and by the evening I was riding, with a little dose of pain meds.  Huck was very chill as we rode in a big arena with some pros I recognized.  I was intimidated, Huck did not seem to be. 

Tuesday morning came very early.  Our Senior Ranch Riding class started at 8am, and we were draw 29 out of 83.  My plan was to get dressed and have Huck lunged and tacked up so I could go watch a few runs, come back for him, and ride until our go.  I got to the arena (which is the furthest spot from our barn you can imagine) only to realize the pattern was taking only about 45 seconds and they were already on draw 5.  I booked it back to the barn, grabbed my chinks and my hat and my horse and headed out with my friend.  Halfway to the arena I looked down and I was wearing purple tennis shoes.  F*&k.  So I sent the horse with my friend and ran back to change into my boots.  I got to the arena, got on, and had only about 8 rides before mine.  So our warm up time was quite short.  

Also, before I went over to show, I discovered a facebook message from someone who was at the show whose name I recognized because FAMOUS, and who was interested in seeing Huck.  So I knew they’d be watching too.   No pressure.

My friend and our equine Chiro were there with me at the in gate while I tried to breathe and remember the pattern.  There’s a moment when you ride alone into the Coliseum and hear your name announced in the same voice that you’ve heard all the top riders in the country announced, where it all feels like a weird dream and you’re not sure how you got there or what you’re supposed to do.  So I took a deep breath and smiled and trotted right into the pattern.

Huck was as good as I could have ever expected him to be.  He listened and stayed with me and I didn’t forget the pattern.  We were not as soft and finessed as we needed to be to place, but that’s understandable when you’re competing against pros.  There was a whole cheering section of my horse friends so it felt really good to hear them whoop for my lead change and cheer when I finished my pattern.

I let Huck rest in the stall while I watched the rest of the class and a few of the Junior horses go.  Then I went to get Huck ready for our Level 1 Amateur class. 

I kept our schooling quiet and Huck seemed really soft and responsive. The pattern didn’t go as well as the first, but I was really tired by this point and the pattern was much harder for us - there was an extended lope through the middle of the arena.  He didn't try to change leads, but he got amped up and I didn't have accurate steering so our straight lines weren't so much.  I blanked for a second before one of the poles, not remembering if that’s where I needed to come down to the walk.  Huck felt my hesitation and offered the walk before I could process it so that was a break of gait, which is guaranteed to take you out of the placings.  Oh well.  So I headed back to the barn, feeling relieved it was OVER.

I walked him back through the warmup pen and dismounted.  As I was headed back to the barn I ran into a judge/clinician friend of mine and we stopped to chat for a minute about my run.  The prospective buyer came by and looked Huck over and said he’d try him later.  !!!!!!

I put Huck away for the day and went back to watch my friend get 6th place in the class.  He had an AWESOME run and he’s worked so hard to get there.  Last year he was in the bottom 50% of scores in the class and it was such a thrill to see how much he’s improved over the year.  He's doing the Freestyle Reining on Saturday, too.  

After the last Amateur class was done, the prospective buyers asked if I’d bring Huck over to the warmup pen.  As I'm leading him over I hear their name over the loudspeaker getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places in the Amateur class...... I watched them both ride him and it was surreal just seeing them RIDE my horse, let alone be interested in buying him. Huck was very Huck during the ride and got a little uppity when she asked him for a couple of lead changes in a row, but she didn’t bat an eye.  I told them all about him and how I got him and what we’ve been doing and about his maintenance.  He made me an offer and I took it and burst into tears.  LOL. 

Test ride...

I was so relieved to know that he was going to people who understood the kind of horse he is and can take him places I could only dream.  It’s not every day that a multiple world and congress champion Mozaun McKibben wants YOUR horse.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You know, just the guy whose demo at Congress years ago introduced me to Ranch Riding, and who holds just a few world titles in the class.  NBD.

Post test-ride, trying to make sure he had a ride back to Texas.

I took Huck back to the stall and untacked him and cleaned him up while Moz and Sarah put their horses away and tried figure out how they were going to get Huck home to Texas. 

They brought me a check and I signed over the papers.  Moz put a rope halter on Huck, tied up the lead and said, “Does he ride bareback?”  I said, “Uh, I’ve been on him bareback” and he jumped right up on him in the barn aisle and rode him away… bareback in a rope halter.  Huck didn’t even look concerned. The horse that scares me just found people who GET him and aren’t afraid to use him in the way he needs to be used. Hucks gonna go work for a living and I think he'll be all the better for it.  And I can't help but feel kinda proud that my horse was good enough for the McKibbens.  I'm not sure what their plans for him are, but I hope it goes well and that I get to see some of it happen.  

Me, Sarah, Mozaun, and Huckleberry

So.  Congress is over for us.  We didn't place, but we had respectable runs.  I believe Huck’s probably in his new home in Texas by now, stabled along with world champions. 

There will be more posts about Congress coming, including a "congress first-timers advice to other first-timers". 

I will eventually go read my scores to see where we ranked in our classes, and I’ll probably get some fancy Shane Rux arena photos if there are any decent ones.

What else do you want me to write about?  

Happy Riding. 

Moz and Huck, riding off bareback in a rope halter, like ya do.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Countdown to Congress - Patterns

In less than a week I will be showing at the biggest single-breed horse show in the world. 

The feelings of "what have I done!?!" have not diminished, but I am trying to remember that I'm doing this for FUN.  This is fun, right? 

I popped down to the grounds earlier this week to get my parking pass and to check out our stalls.  Parking is $25/day or $75 for Exhibitors which includes 24/7 In/Out privileges and parking much closer to the barns/arenas/shopping for the entire Congress. 

Exhibitor's Parking Pass!

We have our stall assignments. We are moving in on Sunday. We show on Tuesday.

There are 83 entries in the Senior Ranch Riding and 53 in the Level 1 Amateur Ranch Riding.
Senior starts at 8am EST, then the Junior, then our L1 class.  No draws yet, but I'll post them when I know.

You can find the full schedule and lots of info at The Congress Website.  

The event is live streamed via iEquine.  You'll need to give them an email address if you want to watch.  I'll do a blog post with my show number and our draw order when I get it.  The Congress starts with reining, cutting, roping, ranch, then there's a big shift over to the jumpers and pleasure folks.  I'll tell you the grounds have a totally different feel between the two factions and I much prefer the atmosphere of the first! 

Here are the patterns:

The Senior class is an open class for horses aged 6 and older.  It's mostly pros in the class riding client's horses.  I entered it as a warm-up, hoping that by going into the arena once alone before our class was worth the extra $65.

The Level 1 Amateur class is for amateur riders showing their own horses.  The Level 1 is basically the "novice" class.  There is also Amateur and Select Amateur for riders of a certain age.  

Here are my challenges going into practicing the patterns:

1. Bringing him down quietly from the extended lope to the collected lope.  Most times he will come down fine, but if he gets really excited I have to be more heavy handed, which doesn't make for a soft transition.  We are working on this with a few exercises so that hopefully he will be more willing to give with a smaller cue.  Practice practice practice. 

2. Coming down from the lope to the extended trot without breaking back to the lope.  This is really the same issue as #1.  We will have to err on the side of breaking to a jog for a few steps then asking back up to the extended trot.

3. POLES.  Sometimes he's super careful over poles and sometimes I think he's trying to step on all of them.  We will keep some poles in the arena this week, as well as working over the bigger logs out in the obstacle field.

4. In the Ammy pattern, elements 3-5 are somewhat unclear.  There has been an interesting discussion going on in a facebook group about whether or not it would be credit earning to treat those three numbers as a rollback, or if the judges want to see you stop.  turn.  lope off.  I'm leaning towards the latter, partially because it does NOT say rollback, partially because keeping Huck quiet leads to better control.   Plus, if there are three separate maneuvers listed, the judge will probably have three separate scores to enter so I want to be clear about completing maneuvers.  

5. My stress level.  (Note the name of this blog.)  Honestly part of me wishes I'd never even thought about doing it, let alone actually paid the money.  The other part of me knows that it's something I've wanted to do for a long time and this is the time to do it.  I'm trying to get enough sleep and eat well, an I'm trying to breathe and find the fun in it.  :)

More to come as we Countdown to Congress!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Countdown to Congress, and the Impending Departure

Hello Friends!

In TWENTY days I will be showing at the biggest single-breed horse show in the world.


YIKES.   Why did I think this was a good idea!?!  LOL!

Huck's been riding really well since the last show.  We've been taking it easy and really focussing on the things that are asked for in Ranch Riding patterns, which is mostly transitions, directional changes, and transitions mixed with directional changes.  Square corners, circles, lines, stops, turns, extensions, collections, just quiet quiet broke broke.  We are also working lots of gates and we need to up our ground-pole game too in case the patterns have walkovers, trot-overs, or sidepasses over poles.

The actual patterns haven't been released yet, but they should be by October 1st, which should give us a week with the pattern before we move into the Congress grounds on Oct. 8th.  I'm showing both the open Senior RR and the Level 1 Amateur on Oct. 10th so it's likely the patterns will be different with more difficult elements in the open, or it might all be the same pattern.  Congress was criticized last year on social media for just their lack of creativity/challenge for using one of the AQHA standard patterns instead of creating a new one so I'm interested to see what they choose this year.

The other day we even went out on some trails BY OURSELVES!!!  Then we schooled our extended trot out in the big grass field.  Man, that horse was striking himself he was taking such a big stride!  His extended trot is one of my favorite things about him!   I love riding in a fresh arena and seeing how his footprints overlap so he leaves the tracks of a two-legged creature.

So we are taking it quiet but doing a lot of riding.  :)

And what was that in the blog title about a departure? 

Spoiler alert: Huck has been listed for sale.  I actually made the decision back in March that the Congress would be our last hurrah and then he'd go find a new person. I didn't want to put it on the blog until he was officially listed.  Have you ever ridden a horse that you just knew wasn't "right" for you?  Maybe you bought a horse who you just didn't click with, or that lesson horse that could get the job done but just wasn't enjoyable to you?  And remember that other student who LOVED that horse you didn't get along with?  There's a horse for everyone and I finally accepted the fact that Huck isn't the horse for me.  I adore him and he's won lots of things for me, but I think I need less of a cow-horse, both for my physical and mental comfort.   I think he should go do more reining and cow work with someone else and I should find more of a ranchy pleasure horse.   Huck has come a long way in the two years that I've had him and I'm really proud of that, but I think he's just not quite the horse I want to invest any more time into. 

I've also never sold a horse before so this is pretty new territory and is causing some anxiety (big surprise) while I watch the "likes" pour in on the facebook ads and hope the right person finds him soon.

So shiny!!!!
So what next?   I am quite honestly looking forward to being horseless for a while!  The last time I was horseless it was not by choice and it was just awful. I was depressed and I got fat and it was just the worst.  This time I'm looking forward to refocussing my resources (time/money) and maybe doing crazy things like taking an actual vacation (like somewhere other than Minnesconsin!) like I've heard non-horse people do, and maybe buying myself some shoes or clothes that are less than 10 years old, you know, the little things.

I'm not done with horses but I'm excited to have less pressure about horse care and showing goals.  I want to be able to lay on the couch on a cold Saturday instead of having to go exercise the horse, or schedule farrier appointments or pay for vet bills, or.... well, you know.  And I want to not have to worry every time I get a text between 9pm and 10am.   At least for a while.

I do plan to go back to riding Kevin for his owner a few times a week, and I want to take some reining lessons somewhere. I may ask if I can show Kevin a little next summer, or I may consider leasing a horse for the show season if I can find one.  I expect I'll take one/two years off of ownership before I start to find my next partner.  None of this is set in stone as I'm quite excited that I DON'T have to plan it and I can just let it happen.

For the time being, I am enjoying my pretty little red pony, practicing a million transitions, and trying to breathe.....

Final Ranch Show of 2017

We had a really good last show!

Here's the TLDR Version:

1st Am. Trail
1st Am. Reining
2nd Am. Pleasure
1st Am. Conformation
4th Am. Showmanship
4th Freestyle Reining
NP in Ranch Riding
NP in Ranch Riding Jackpot
NP Horsemanship

I really pushed Huck more for this show than I ever have and I am really pleased with how he did.  We did NINE classes from 9am to 6pm. 

We practiced the trail pattern the night before since it was already set up.  The pattern ended with a walkover of a log jumble and he could not go over it without ticking damn near everything and knocking poles over.  I was so frustrated with him.  I have no idea how to teach a horse to be careful.  He has such big solid feet that he doesn't mind hitting things.... Junior was the same way. I did not have a good feeling when I left the show grounds Friday night. 

BUT  Huck was sweet and quiet in the morning so I rode my trail pattern first to get it out of the way.  He seems to do better with that kind of stuff when he's fresh, which is opposite of my thinking, but I've found that after reining it's hard to get him to relax enough to just let me do things like drag a log or back through a small space.  He was so good!  He didn't tick ONE log! And we won!
I spoke with the ring steward after the show (someone I just know from being around horses over the years) and she told me the trail Judge said I had the best run of all 4 trail classes that used that pattern!  Video:

The pleasure class was deep as usual.  There were some horses there that we hadn't seen at our shows yet and I heard they were there to warm up for Congress. There were some nice moving horses in there and I was thrilled with our 2nd place finish.  I feel really good about the fact that the first time I tried to show him in a rail class he tried to do a rundown every time we hit the long side of the arena.  Now he lopes along like grandma's horse, extends, and comes back like NBD.    Video:

Reining went as usual.  I had a really hard time forming circles in that arena since it's kind of a square... then again I usually have the same problem in a rectangle too...  I have really been pushing his speed on spins since we needed to do 4 spins in the Freestyle reining so he was too reactive when I was trying to do just a 1 1/2 spin.  It was kinda ugly, but oh well.  Thankfully we managed to still have the best score in the class but it was low.   Video:

Freestyle was a hot mess - pun allowed but not intended.  I really shouldn't have done the class, but how can I not do a class that combines horses and COSTUMES!?!?!  I'd been choreographing a routine to Girl on Fire since I was showing Kevin and I knew Huck would look cool in a fire theme so I did it anyway. The streamers in his hair made the same "shhhhhh" noise as I make when we do our fast circles so he kept wanting to run and I kept holding him back which gave him mixed signals..... we basically scrapped our planned routine and just loped around and managed to get all the required elements in. We actually had our best stop of the day at the end of the freestyle so that was cool, and he backed up so well he stepped on and pulled out a small chunk of his tail. :( The best part of the whole thing was my wig so I'll just leave it at that.  My bad for not realizing I needed to practice in the hair streamers and also my bad for not trimming his tail lately!!!  LOL.

Ranch riding and Horsemanship were after the reining classes and they weren't great, which doesn't make me feel optimistic about showing RR at Congress.  I really feel like he has a hard time relaxing after we do reining.  He did all the things in the patterns, but lacked any finesse so we were out of the placings, especially with the other congress-bound horses there.  He looked anxious (on the hollow side) and he took every small cue as a big one and he guessed wrong several times. I'm hoping if we stop working on fast spins and hard stops and really focus more on quiet transitions that we'll be in better shape for Congress.   It may be fatigue, too.  I showed Trail at 9:20am and my last riding class at 4:40pm and I spent most of the time in between in the saddle either showing or watching or walking around and he probably only had 30 minutes in there where he was untacked and just loose in his stall.  Nine classes are a lot to ask when I usually only ride for an hour once a day. 

We won halter again so he went undefeated this year.  Showmanship he was so much better than the last two shows, but I suck at quartering and I missed an entire movement when the judge switched directions and Huck moved a foot. That's one of those things that is hard to practice when you don't have a coach.  I still placed but barely.  :(

Overall I'm happy with how the show went and I'm happy with how this series of three shows went. For the year-end high point awards, I came into this last show 21 points behind the leader and 16 behind the 2nd place rider.  I was pretty pessimistic about closing the gap.  I knew I'd have to have a really good show to even get to 2nd place.  But the day went in my favor because not only did we place high in most of our classes, the rider in 2nd place couldn't come to the show because her horse was injured (she's fine now, thankfully) and the other only placed ahead of me in 1 class and didn't place some of the classes I placed high in.  I'm not sure how the final math worked out because it's based on the number of entries in a class.  For example, I know I won trail, but I don't know if there were 5 or 8 or 15 in the class.  I know there were 6 in the reining so I know I got 6 points from that, but I didn't always pay enough attention to feel like I have an accurate count. I know I'm in the top 3 at least, and it's possible I squeaked by the leaders, and since it was my goal to win a year-end buckle, I'm anxious to find out.  The other two leaders are wonderful ladies with very nice horses, and I'm proud to be in the top three with them.

It was a fun show and I am grateful that my BF has been coming to the shows with me.  I didn't know if I'd even want him at my shows since I've been my own show-mom for ever and I didn't know if he'd just get bored or distract me or what, but he's learning how to be a good helper/gopher and he makes sure I drink water and eat and he films my classes and is generally quite enjoyable to be around.  And when the long day of showing is through I can hand him my car keys and let him drive us home.  It's worked out quite nicely.  He even wears a hat for me. *heart*