Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm Moving!

Blog sites, that is. Go check out Fly On Over's new homepage:!

Make sure you update your feeds and readers to stay up to date with Miles and I.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons Learned at our "A" Show Debut

Sometimes I forget how little I know about Miles: I haven't even owned him for a full year yet. We fit together so well, it's easy to think I know exactly how he'll react in certain situations; but the reality is I'm still learning his personality and how best to manage him and keep him happy and healthy. So far, Miles and I have competed in only three shows together, and each time out I've learned a lot. 

Prep Work

Before we ever step foot into the show ring for our class, there is a lot of planning and prep work that has to go on. For me, I consider the entire week leading up to the show part of our "prep time." I schedule a lesson early in the week, and make sure my horse is clipped and groomed well. I try not to do anything too strenuous, so trail rides and light hacks are usually in order. I usually give Thursday off (since we typically trailer to the show and school on Friday) but I don't think that's the best approach with Miles. 

Lesson #1: Do a light hack on Thursday 

Once we arrive at the show, Miles never has any trouble settling in and scarfing down some hay and water. Thus far, he looks quite relaxed in the stall, without a care in the world. But I've found out that he's a bit tricky that way, and it's all an act. 

Lesson #2: Lunge before you ride on Friday and Saturday (maybe even Sunday too) 

Remember to always lunge in a bridle and gloves, and don't be fooled by the western pleasure jog. He needs at least 30 minutes of lunging on Friday, and probably Saturday too. 

During the Show

It's not hard to keep Miles happy during the show because all he really wants to do is eat; which is 100% peachy keen with me. We bring lots and lots of hay and treats, sit back and watch him stuff his face. When your riding, the most important thing is to continue to keep him happy. 

Lesson #3: Evaluate his mood and adjust accordingly

If he wants to walk, let him walk. If he doesn't want to go all the way down to the spooky end of the warm-up, cut five feet off; it's really no big deal. When I ask for a canter departure, wait until he's happy and ready to do it. Miles is a very willing horse, but he can also be sensitive. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, wait a second and then try again when he's in a better mood. 

On course, I need to remember my horse's little quirks. Like that he jumps better long than short; his change from right to left is tougher and when he's tired, he jumps flat. I know how to correct all of these things, but they don't get done if I don't think about them. 

Lesson #4: Ride the entire course, not just the obstacles 

After the Show

I like to think back and reflect, which I think is very valuable. But sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the little details. In the end, it's important to look at the show as a whole: did I have fun? Was Miles happy? Because those are the things that matter most. 

Lesson #5: Enjoy the ride 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Equus Now Classic: Limit Hunters, Part II

Because Miles was just a bit too energetic on Saturday, Trainer and I decided to lunge Miles Sunday morning as well. We started to the left, and he was pretty good. We went around for about 15 minutes and then I changed direction. At which point Miles freaked out, and lost his marbles. He started cantering and bucking, and proceeded to drag me across the ring and out onto the concrete before I finally got him back under control. As soon as Miles stopped, I realized I was shaking about to lose my breakfast. His antics were just so unexpected, and I really thought he was going to get loose for a second and go galloping around the fairgrounds.

So I headed back to the barn, switched bits on the lunging bridle and attempted to compose myself. When I headed back out, Miles was none-to-pleased; although instead of trying to run away, he just refused to go forward. I'll admit, at this point I was pretty upset and I really got after him. But after our "come to Jesus" moment, he lunged well enough. 45 minutes later Miles was huffing and puffing, so I called it quits. 

By the time it was our turn to jump our final two hunter rounds, Miles was tired. Good. So we did just a little warm-up, and went in. We planned to continue doing the add-stride on Sunday as well, since both Miles and I were tired. Our schooling trip was okay, but we had some chips and late lead changes. But once we got rolling, things were much smoother. 

In the first hunter round I chipped in pretty badly to the first fence, and Miles knocked down the rail. I was mad at myself, because it was all my fault; I should have legged him for a longer spot, knowing he'd jump better that way and that since he had less of a motor, getting him back wouldn't be a big issue. But oh well, live and learn. We got a seventh, due to the pulled rail.  

Our second hunter trip was the best of the show. I really attacked the first jump, and galloped on in the corners to get my leads. We got the same placing for our effort (4th) but I was really, really pleased with my ride. 

In the under saddle, Miles was great; he dealt with some sticky traffic situations like a total gentleman, didn't break despite having to canter for five laps straight and really stayed long and low during the trot. I couldn't have asked for better! We ended up with another fourth, which is just fine. Overall, I just don't think the judge on Sunday liked Miles very much; and that's hunters. Sometimes you get a judge that loves you and sometimes you don't. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 Equus Now Classic: Limit Hunters, Part I

To say that I was nervous going into our warm-up round on Saturday would be an understatement. We were at our first A Rated show, the ring was a little sloppy and oh yeah, my horse had never seen the jumps before. Despite lunging in the morning, Miles was very alert and I found myself with just a bit more horse than I would have liked. And even though our first round was rough, I was proud of myself for going in cold and making it around without any major snafus.

Sure, he backed off the first fence, and played (a lot) after our third fence. He missed a few lead changes and we had some really tight spots, but overall he listened and we didn't have any super scary jumps. For me, that's a good trip considering the circumstances! Trainer and I decided to stay on a slower pace, and opt for the add-stride the entire day. In hunters, fences are set in lines, with a specific number of feet between the fences, which correlates to a specific number of strides. At my level, adding an extra stride into these lines is typically fine and doesn't make you significantly less competitive; however it's important to be consistent. So if you add a stride in the first line, for every subsequent line you need to do the same.

For Miles, the slower pace isn't difficult, but it does make his lead changes tougher to accomplish... and on Saturday the sloppy rings didn't help. So even though we missed a few, I was okay with it. I wasn't working on that, so I didn't really set him up for them. If he got them, he got them. If he didn't, we broke down to the trot and changed our lead that way. For me, the big win was seeing my distances and sticking to those decisions; I stretched up stayed confident. Plus, with each round, I improved; I remembered I needed to "whoa" in the lines, especially towards the end of the course and I used my outside aids during turns to help us get straight more quickly. Our first judged Hunter trip: 

We earned two thirds over fences on Saturday, which I was really, really pleased with. I know a lot of people don't practice fences before they have to show, but I always have; and it was nerve-wracking to not have that opportunity this time. But I conquered the challenge and rode well. And at the end of the day, what more can you ask for?

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Equus Now Classic: Limit Equitation

I have so much to tell from the show this weekend; it was certainly a roller coaster of emotions but I had a great time and I learned so much. In an effort to stay organized I'm going to break up my show report a little bit differently this time and focus on each division, rather than go day by day. Hopefully it all makes sense, but if it doesn't, I trust ya'll to let me know :-)

After not being able to school on Friday, and scratching our plan of riding in the Hunter Derby, I decided I still wanted to challenge myself and show in something other than just our regular hunter division. I'd already shown in Equitation Over Fences at the previous show, so I opted to add Equitation on the Flat and show in the entire Limit 2' Equitation division.

But me being me, a flat class wasn't nearly exciting enough (mostly because my equitation on the flat sucks because I never, ever practice it) so I also opted to add a 2' Medal class. For those that aren't in the hunter/jumper world, a Medal class is the same as an Equitation class, but it typically has two phases: an over fences portion and a flat portion, which are combined to determine overall placings.

All of the Equitation classes were held on Saturday, which meant in order to be successful, I really had to get my shit together. Our warm-up round was a bit tough, and it turned out despite his lackadaisical attitude on the lunge line that morning, he was still bright-eyed and bushy tailed. He celebrated hard after one fence and I almost came off... but I held on and finished my course. I had two hunter rounds after that (which is a story for tomorrow) and then my Limit Equitation Over Fences. It was a simple course, no rollbacks or bending lines or anything... which was kind of disappointing. But nonetheless, I went out and rode and focused on stretching up and looking ahead, just like we've been practicing in lessons.

And the round was beautiful! Definitely our best trip of the day, even with a few short spots coming out of the lines. I did an great job of making decisions and sticking to them, especially on the approaches to the singles; that far outside single was tough, and I kept seeing just a slightly longer distance to it, but I stayed with Miles well, and balanced back afterwards each and every time. Overall, our effort was good enough to get us first place out of seven! And in case you're keeping track, Miles and I have now won TWO equitation over fences classes so far this year. I guess we can equitate after all!

After the fence round, we had our flat. It went fine; Miles was a bit up and not quite as relaxed as I would have liked, so I focused more on him than I did thinking about my equitation, since it kind of sucks anyways. By the end of the class, Miles was a bit more soft and his head wasn't quite reaching for the sky anymore, so I called it a win. And we ended up placing fourth -- which was not last! Go team! Overall, our placings were good enough to garner our very first Champion tricolor, which came complete with a baggie of treats for Miles and a snazzy saddle cover. GO team!

Unfortunately our 2' Opportunity Medal class didn't fill, so everyone scratched and I was left as the only one in the class. It was the same course as our Equitation Over Fences, so I just jumped around again and got myself a (hardly deserved) first place ribbon. The judge asked me (jokingly) if I wanted to drop my stirrups and go in for the flat. I laughed and said "No way, I'm too old for that!" I think he just wanted to see if he could get me to fall in the mud, especially after my near-acrobatics in the warm-up earlier that day.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not As Planned, Part Deux

It's the second show of the season for Miles and I, and again schooling day went not as planned. Last time it was Miles's fault (although with such a cute face, it's hard to ever stay mad at him for long), but this time it was Mother Nature who got in the way. As soon as we pulled onto the show grounds, the skies opened up and let out a torrential downpour.

It rained for a good hour straight, and by that time the rest of the classes scheduled for Friday were cancelled and moved to Saturday morning. The best part? All schooling was cancelled too -- no horses were allowed in the show rings at all. So that meant no lunging, no practicing in our Limit division ring, and definitely not trying out the jumps in the Big Ring for the Hunter Derby Saturday night. Too bad I forgot Miles's floaties at home, I joked with my trainer. But really, I was devastated inside.

I wanted to show in the Big Ring so, so badly. I looked at those jumps yesterday and thought "well, they look a bit wide, but Miles and I could totally do it."

But I'm sticking to my beliefs: if it's not right, we're not doing it. Could we show in that ring without any practice? Probably. But that's just not how I roll; I'm a nervous adult amateur who needs to practice. And my number priority is giving Miles every opportunity to succeed. And going in cold isn't setting ourselves up for success.

So that means, most likely, no Hunter Derby for us, and we'll have to wait until next time to show in the Big Ring. Here's hoping we can make it through our division without any practice tomorrow!

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Dream Barn

One of the things I like to do in my spare time is look at pictures of massive, eye-poppingly gorgeous barns. You know the ones I'm talking about: perfect white fences, lush green grass and so clean on the inside you'd eat off the floor. I find it fascinating to compare different styles of stall fronts, and I love analyzing tack room layouts. Maybe I'm a freak... or maybe you enjoy taking a peek into how the other half lives too.

First things first: the outside. If I'm talking dream barn, I want massive, impressive and drop-dead gorgeous. I don't want a run-of-the-mill stable that looks just like every other equestrian facility... I want unique. I think this one fits the bill quite nicely:

Who wouldn't want to drive up to that everyday?! 
Of course, acres upon acres of rolling pastures are a forgone conclusion. And they'd probably look like the ones above: perfectly manicured and mowed, with big water troughs and run-in shelters for those pesky summer pop-up storms. I could go either way on the fence color, but they'd of course be in perfect repair. There's nothing worse than broken boards and peeling paint on a fence line.

While we're still outside, let's talk arenas. 'Cause my dream barn has arenas all over the damn place. I want a big ass outdoor sand ring (with that super cool footing they have at the Kentucky Horse Park), a grass arena, a jumping field and whole bunch of connected trails. With hills.

And of course a few indoor arenas wouldn't hurt either -- a bigger one for jumping and a smaller one for flatwork (and winter turnout) would do just fine. Bonus points for sweet architecture and really high ceilings. And I'll take more of the KHP footing in those rings too.

Since we've moved inside, let's discuss stalls. Now this is where things get tricky for me. I've seen so many pretty stall fronts, I don't know how I'd ever choose just one style. So I guess as long as the stalls are big and airy, I'm happy. My architect can decide on the design -- I mean, that is what I'm paying him for, right?

Automatic waterers (heated in the winter), fly spray system and fans in the summer would all be there too... cause ponykins needs to be comfortable! I'd also really like runs off the back with awnings, I think. Miles hates to be cooped up, so maybe some mini-paddock time would help him out. And since the biggest pain about runs is keeping them neat and tidy, with all of my wonderful staff I wouldn't have a thing to worry about.

Finally... the tack room. There are so many options for greatness here, I'd really have to spend some quality time with the architect again. Although, something like this would do quite nicely:

What do you dream of in your barn?