Thursday, May 26, 2011


Well, not surprisingly, I wasn't the only one at the barn who was upset that people were still going to Woodside. Both my trainer and the barn manager sent out emails on Tuesday saying that, due to boarder concerns, no one would be going to Woodside!! I feel a little bad that I am excited about this since many of those who had planned on going ended up losing their entry fee, but ultimately, I am more concerned about my horse's well being.

Also, I checked the Woodsite site this morning and the new precautions they have in place to monitor signs of EHV-1 seem not only tedious, but also unreliable. They are having riders check their horses temps twice a day and place outside their stall, among other things.

Seeing as Woodside was going to be our last show till August, I guess Gatsby and I have a nice, relaxing summer ahead of us now:)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scratch That

Given the recent scare over the EHV-1 outbreak, I have decided to scratch from Woodside. Luckily, I was able to make this decision in time to still receive credit towards another event, many others are not in the same boat. However, I probably would have made the same decision regardless.

Granted, this decision was probably easier to make for me than for some. While I am trying to qualify for the Training 3-Day at Galway in November, I was not one of the many who shelled out big bucks to participate in the $15K Prelim Challenge, a once-yearly occurrence. I am by no means passing judgment on any riders who are choosing to still compete, I am simply stating my opinion on my personal situation.

After talking to Alexis about it on Saturday, I was seriously considering un-scratching but then I diagnoses in Marin County, under 100 miles from us, gave me the extra push to stick with my decision. Unfortunately, this does not prevent Gatsby from being at risk as several other boarders at my barn are still planning on attending. My barn sent out an email last week instating a no trailering in or out policy until this ordeal passes but I guess they made an exception for this show. This seriously bothers me, especially considering that at this point, no other barns in the area are accepting new horses so I am stuck there, regardless of whether or not others choose to attend Woodside.

My current plan? I will be sending a very polite yet adamant e-mail to my BO stating my concerns. I am hoping that others from my barn have reactted similarly and that the BO decides to firmly enforce their original rule that no one travel off-property if they plan on returning.

If that doesn't work? Upon the horses return from Woodside I will begin monitoring Gatsby VERY closely, taking his temperature twice a day and watching for any signs of neurological symptoms. At the moment, I am very disappointed with how they are handling the issue but can only cross my fingers that they well act responsibly and reasonably in trying to protect our horses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Down to Business

Gatsby had an unfortunately light week last week, I only got to ride twice:( So I knew he would be crazy when I went out yesterday because he had only been turned out 3 out of the last 4 days (not Sunday because it rained). However, I decided to brave the crazy and was determined to have a productive dressage ride regardless. Looking back, I think I should always get on with that mindset because we had a FANTASTIC session.

I was down to business right from the start, beginning with leg yields, shoulder in, and haunches in at the walk to get him supple and focused. When I picked up the trot I sat for a bit and really focused on my position which I think ended up helping set the tone for our whole ride. We did a few lengthenings and leg yields but I was mostly focused on keeping him supple, reaching into the contact, and listening to me!.

Our canter work is where the issues finally started to show up (I knew they would at some point). He was pretty good working on the circle with only a few spooks that were easily and quickly corrected. However, moving off of the circle was a whole 'nother story. He stayed nice and calm for all of 5 seconds and then his head shot up, his stride got choppy and before I could even correct him, he was trotting completely unorganized. NOT OKAY. My response to this was to stop him, immediately, and have him rein back until he came back to me. I know this isn't a perfect solution and I don't want him to learn rein back as a punishment but, it did work wonderfully after 2-3 times and he was much more focused and attentive to what I was asking for. We actually eventually had some really lovely canter lengthenings that I was really happy with. What I realized is that I normally ride these too much from the leg and that's why I tend to lose the connection. Yesterday, as I mentioned, I was really focused on my position and I rode the lengthenings from my seat and he stayed very relaxed and did not throw away the connection.

I ended our ride with some counter-canter work. I know this is not something he really needs to know at this time but I think it is really helpful in getting him to engage his hind end at the canter and also to keep him attentive as it really is hard work and he does need to be listening to my every cue to succeed. Our first few attempts were sloppy and he either broke to the trot or changed leads shortly after crossing the diagonal. After that though, he seemed to really "get it" and we had some really nice serpentines.

I let him finish with a nice long stretchy trot and a long walk around the property. At this point, I am thrilled with my horse and I just hope we can keep up the good work for Woodside!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Prepping for Woodside

I have to say, I have been very pleased with our work since we've been back from Twin. We definitely had some solid issues there and although we got away with them mostly, we have to really nip them in the bud before we can even think about moving up.

Last weekend we took the horses to Woodside to school and it went really well. I'm starting to realize that XC really is not an issue for us and I need to stop riding like it is. This horse LOVES XC!! I just need to focus and let him do his job. We jumped most of the Training course and I can honestly say I'm not too worried. He did stop once at the log into the first water but I think as long as I am prepared it will be OK. It is pretty early on in the course and it's hard to say whether or not he'll be in his groove yet but if I ride strongly I think he'll go. We also got to jump the first two Prelim fences!!!! Neither are that big, I mean, they're the first fences, but it was still pretty exciting.

Tuesday we had a jumping lesson with Alexis and we decided to work on getting Gatsby to jump rounder, something we had noticed as an issue at Woodside. At this level, it really doesn't matter that much but, it will definitely effect us moving up. So, we put some draw reins on (Alexis also recommended that I ride in these more often to teach him how to carry himself). I was under the impression that these would magically change my horse and get him nice and round and I could just sit there and focus on me...NOPE! At least, not on my horse. I still worked my tush off even with the draw reins! We kept the fences fairly small, probably slightly lower than Training height and tried a variety of courses. When we finally felt that he had learned the lesson we took them off and just worked on a line, vertical to oxer. The line rode in about 4 strides I think but Alexis told me not to worry about distance. Gatsby jumped really well!! We kept putting the oxer up until the end when it was big, wide and scary with a pole across the top and he didn't even care! Love this horse.

Yesterday I had a short but sweet dressage ride. I worked the walk a lot before moving on to anything else and I think that helped him get down to business. He did feel slightly stiff from the day before though so I didn't do anything too crazy:) Just a little work with lengthenings and then lots of transitions towards the end. He almost always resists through the downward transitions so I decided to make him to some more difficult ones to really get his attention - canter-walk-canter-halt-canter and so on. By then end, he was really focused, relaxed, and attentive to what I was asking for:)

Today he will get the day off and the I will probably do another light dressage school before heading home for the weekend. Although I do want to keep him in steady work I don't want to push him too much as he tends to get burnt out and then blows me off when it really matters (at the show).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

April Recap & May Goals

I know, I know, it's almost half-way through May..but that doesn't mean we haven't been working on these goals!!

April Recap

  1. Make this the month of dressage. Even though our dressage work has improved tremendously since January, I am still not quite happy with where it's at. I would like our work to be more consistent so that we can start adding in new, more difficult elements. I also really want to feel confident in riding our test so I am not always dreading dressage day at events.

Half-success. We definitely did quite a bit of dressage work and I was pretty happy with our progress. However, I was seriously disappointed when we failed to break into the 30’s after dressage at Twin. I know we can do better than this!

2. Start adding in more difficult questions in our jumping lessons. I am really liking where our show jumping is heading but I want to make sure to keep Gatsby on his toes and thinking about every fence.

Oh god yes. Alexis has pretty much been scaring the pants off of me in all of our jumping lessons. And, judging from how stadium went at Twin, this NEEDS to continue!

3. Follow our conditioning plan more religiously. Although now that I've written that I've realized that I will be out of town the next 3 weekends and we didn't do anything last weekend...I will have to try to get some of these rides in during the week now that it is staying light later.

Ehh…this is probably pretty much a fail. We definitely did not follow our plan anywhere near religiously lol. However, I am happy to report that he was still raring to go after running XC at Twin and I am not too worried about his fitness at this point.

  1. Sitting trot! We have definitely come a long way in regards to our sitting trot, I mean, I can actually ride it now! But, we are starting to get to the point in our career where I really should be able to sit the trot for our whole test and we are not even close to that.

We actually had a breakthrough with this in one of our recent dressage lessons and Alexis alerted me to some issues in my position that were hindering my progress her.

  1. Finish Twin on our dressage score. My dream goal would really be to finish in the top 10 but I am focusing more on going clean right now. Fingers crossed!

What’s funny is that if it weren’t for my horrendous ride to fence 9 in stadium we would have been in 8th! But, that cost us both the ribbon and my goal. Oh well:(

May Goals

  1. Keep making progress in dressage! I really want to work on keeping him round and working through his back more consistently and this will ultimately help him with his own self-carriage.
  2. Along those lines, work on his jumping technique. As Alexis and I discussed yesterday he is just too athletic and too talented to have any rails in stadium. However, his technique leaves something to be desired as he often jumps fairly flat. This isn't a huge issue right now but it will definitely become one as the jumps get bigger.
  3. More trail riding! Now that it is warmer and staying light later I want to take him out of the arena more. I think it will be a good break for both of us:)
  4. Not score any 4's in dressage at Woodside!
  5. On that note, actually finish on our dressage score this time! (top 10 would still be nice:))

Monday, May 9, 2011

Twin Stadium & XC

I know I am SUPER last posting this but real life has gotten in the way of blog posting lately. I do still want to get this down so I have something to look back to though.

The schedule at Twin has the lower levels riding stadium on Saturday and XC on Sunday. We walked our course on Friday after dressage and I was feeling pretty confident as we were walking around. The course was super twisty which is exactly what I like for Gatsby, lots of turns to make him think and help get him back to me. My only real concern was that most of the turns were to the left and he just loooooves to pop that right shoulder, I knew though that as long as I paid attention and really used my outside aides we would be fine. The course was as follows: Oxer, rollback to a vertical, bending line to a wall vertical, right turn to another vertical, rollback to an oxer, left turn to a looky vertical, right turn to another vertical, bending line to a square oxer, left turn to what I thought would be reset to an in and out. Oh no, I was wrong, as we approached the end of our course walk Alexis commented that he was "surprised they would put a triple combo on the Training course." WTF?!?!? At this point, I was scared out of my pants but hoping that they would at least lower the first fence of the triple, a huge oxer. Again, oh no.I practically had a mental breakdown in warm up on Saturday and Alexis commented on my round that he was surprised I was able to hold it together so well in the ring. Ugh. The first 8 fences were beautiful, according to Alexis it looked like a hunter round, despite the fact that I almost threw up before fence 5 LOL. And then, as we approached fence 8 I started to realize what a great round we had and that we were almost done. It only took about 3 seconds for me to realize that my nemesis, the triple (oxer-1 stride-vertical-1 stride-vertical) was all that stood between us and a double clear round. Unfortunately this was going through my head during the time where I actually should have been kicking him on and setting him up for the line. Oops.
We kind of crashed through the first fence and Gatsby legitimately did not have enough room for a stride before the vertical so he stopped. The rang the bell, I regrouped, told myself I had better ride it perfectly this time and not let it become an issue, and started through again. The second time was great, he did hit the middle rail but I am chalking that up to him being a bit shaken up from our first go through. Those 12 penalties would ultimately cost us the 8th place ribbon. Definitely a disappointment but at least I know what I need to fix for next time.
This is where I started to feel sick...


I was surprisingly not nervous at all in XC warm up on Sunday. I was super excited to get out there and just hoped that Gatsby felt the same. He warmed up great and before I knew it we were heading over to the start box. We took it slow to the first few fences, fence 2 was super looky and I really didn't want a stop early one. After fence 3 my first minute marker went off a bit early and I kicked him forward into a gallop, there was no turning back after that. I got a little nervous to the u-log on the hill (our previous nemesis) but I rode it just like Alexis told me to, picked his nose up and away we went. At this point, I was remembering that this horse really does LOVE cross-country. My half-halts were pretty much ignored and I had no option but to really trust Gatsby that he could gallop this fences without killing me.

Clearly having the time of his life
I could tell he was really enjoying himself and everyone said afterwards that he looked amazing. And despite the fact that he was mostly ignoring my attempts to slow down (he took the angled houses in 2 strides where everyone else was doing 3 or 4), he did come back to me when he knew it was necessary. The drop into water sharp turn to the corner, down banks to the skinny house, coffin, and twisty turns through the second water were non-issues for him. I'm pretty sure I galloped through the finish flags with a GIGANTIC smile on my face. I could not be more proud of my horse.
Don't think Training height will be an issue for him:)