Lost Hounds Horse Trials in Pennsylvania

Wow….what a weekend!  Michelle, Jordan, Gus, Oreo, and I headed to Erie, Pennsylvania this weekend to compete at the Lost Hounds Horse Trials.  I purposely picked this event to be a nice step up from the Preliminary event at Greater Dayton in May.  Gus was extremely fit after his Training Level 3 Day at IEA,  and I felt really good about riding at this event marketed as a course “average for horses with some experience at this level”.  No problem.

 Michelle was scheduled to ride all three of her phases on Saturday.  I was set to ride Dressage Saturday and my jumping phases on Sunday.  We got to Erie with plenty of time to walk our cross country courses for the first time.  Michelle took off to walk hers while Jordan and I went to walk the prelim course.

It started out friendly enough, but by the first combination at  fences #4a-b I knew I was in for a “big boy” course.  I just wasn’t aware of  how big it was going to be yet.   Fence 6 was a huge trekhener in the woods, fence 8 was a double bank up with just a bounce between them, fences 10abc was a water complex, fence 12a-b was a huge fence to an offset corner, 14abc was a bending line coffin, 16 was another water fence to 17 which was a skinny (barely wide enough to fit my horse over), 18 was a jump that looked like you didn’t have ground on the far side, and the last 3 fences were fairly normal.   Half of the jumps were flagged intermediate.  It was during that first walk that I started to feel like I was going to throw up.  I walked the course one more time, stopping at the double bank bounce to call Dorothy for some advice on how in the world to ride the thing.  I had never ridden anything like it before, and I felt better after talking to Dorothy.

On Saturday I put in what I thought was a horrible dressage test.  Gus warmed up really well, but by the time he got in the arena he was tense and hyper.  I got so flustered by the crazy extended trot he did (and was about to take off with me) that I forgot to turn down the centerline to salute at x.  I lost 2 points for losing my way for a second.   I later watched the video of my test and thought to myself….not too bad.  It looked way better than it felt, and the extended trot was actually fantastic (and got me a 9).  I ended the day in 8th place after dressage out of 26 riders.  I felt really good about that , but the reality of that x-c course was setting in.  Michelle had a great dressage test  which put her in 4th place in her Beginner Novice division after dressage.  She and Oreo had 2 rails down in the stadium and made it through the x-c course with just a few issues here and there.  She ended up in 13th place at the end of the day.

Later in the afternoon I walked the x-c course again with a friend, and yet again with Diana Rich–a level 4 instructor from Cincinnati.  Still feeling sick about it, I at least felt that I had a plan for my ride. 

 We ended the day with a great meal and some really cold drinks.  We were all sunburned from being out for 2 days.  It felt great to get back to the hotel and take a shower.

Sunday came way too soon.  Gus was wound up after his bath, and seemed to know what was coming next.  As I tacked him up and got dressed in all of my xc gear, I thought I was going to pass out.  I have never in my life felt so scared about a course on any horse I have ever ridden.  I prayed a lot about my ride, and then I climbed on.  When I started my warmup, I started to feel like myself again.  My horse felt great, my distances to the fences were good, and he was pushing off with ease.  I got into the box all by myself—which is a huge change from the past.  

10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1…have a great ride!

We were off.  It was absolutely thrilling.  Gus rode every combination with ease and was listening to everything I told him.  The rest is history.  I finished the course with a big smile on my face and just a few seconds over the optimum time.  The ride put us into 5th place.  I could finally breathe.

Stadium jumping was last.  I walked my course a few times, and got my horse tacked up again.  It was quite possibly the worst stadium course I have ever ridden.  Gus had warmed up well, but by the time he went in to do his course he was tired.  I rode him hard, but it was a miracle that we only had one rail down.  Everyone else was taking 2 or more rails and had time penalties.  Only 2 clear rounds out of 26.  I ended up in 2nd place after stadium.  Our victory gallop was great,  and I came home with a dressage ribbon, a pretty red ribbon,  $200 in prize money…………..and thoughts of intermediate in my head.  This will be the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time:)

Lessons learned today……

Today we had an extremely rough cross country schooling.   At first I was going with the whole “what happens at Twin Towers, stays at Twin Towers” philosophy,  but after a bit of thought, I decided I should write about it.

I think we as a collective group learned a great deal about each other and our horses today—–the good and the bad.    The names of the horses and riders have been left out completely— the way it should be.

These are some of the lessons learned today…….

1.  Horses that do not like ditches jump REALLY big when they actually go over them. 

2.  Fallen riders flailing around on the ground in the tall grass can be terrifying to horses who assume riders should be mounted.

3.  Horses that can twirl on their hind legs at high rates of speed are very difficult to jump.

4.  Distracted horses can make really poor decisions when jumps get in the way of their distractions.

5.  Loose horses are very frightening to horses who feel that riders should remain “mounted” at all times.

6.  Some horses are oldies but goodies.

7.  Some are just bad.

8.  Birds can poop on you once, but manage to hit your arm, leg, and saddle all in one shot.

9.  Following riders on foot (when one of your ankles is sprained) is not always a great rehabilitation plan.

10.  Last but not least…..Never forget to unhook yourself from your saddle when jumping off to catch a loose horse ——especially when wearing a blow-up vest.  “POOF!”

 

Although it may not have gone according to plan today,  I think we all came away with a better understanding of who we are as riders.  Some of us feel like x-c riders.  Some of us have to work through our fears to make ourselves into x-c riders. Some of us haven’t ridden enough to even know what we are.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  The whole reason we do this sport is for the challenge of it all and the feeling of accomplishing a competitive goal with our horse.   Whether it’s at starter or the advanced level……we all work to keep our fears at bay, our discouragement under control, and our perfectionist self tied up in a corner somewhere.  It sounds cliche, but the journey is more important than the destination.  Learning to take great care of our horses, learning to ride, and learning to take dissapointments in stride is all part of this thing we call eventing.  Trying our hardest, cutting ourselves a break when we need one, and learning to “move on” when we have given it our best shot—-are all part of the game.  Some lessons are harder to learn than others.  Some lessons I downright dislike.  Whether you are a starter rider or an advanced rider, we are all in the same boat.  Ride to the best of your ability at the level that you are capable of doing.  No one can ask for more than that.

More pictures from the hunter show

Erica and Aragon with Kelli and Cavalier
Corinthia, Kate, and Wade
Kelli, Joy, Cavalier, and Erica after a long day of showing
It’s very hard to be a “show team baby”—-baby Webster

The Trails End Hunter Show 6/11

Elizabeth "PREFERS" not to get her picture taken while she eats her strawberry:)
Jennifer—another great “show mom”
Kelli and Cavalier
Corinthia and Lakin
Aragon and Erica

Today we took 4 horses and riders to compete in the hunter show at Trails End Equestrian Center.  The girls/ladies rode really well, earning handfuls of ribbons each. 

Kate and Celine competed in groundpoles and one trotting x-rails and picked up 2 blue ribbons, a 5th and a 6th.   Great riding, Kate!

Corinthia rode in her first ever “away” show on Lakin and got a 4th, 5th, and a 6th place ribbon!  Way to go, Corinthia!

Kelli and Cavalier had a great day as well.  Kelli rode in cantering x-rails and future hunter.  She picked up a 5th and a 3rd in the cantering x-rails division and a 2nd, 3rd, and 1st in the Future Hunter division.  She also received a reserve champion ribbon for Future Hunter.  Great job, Kelli!

Erica rode in her first show as a member of the Wetherbrooke Farm show team.  She rode Jessica’s horse, Aragon, in the trotting x-rails and cantering x-rails divisions.  The pair picked up two 3rds, a 1st, and two 6th place ribbons.  Congratulations!

A big thank you goes out to Elizabeth for helping me with the younger girls and the horses that came with them!   We would also like to thank the Websters for setting us up with breakfast, fruit, and cookies today!  You are awesome:)

Kate and Celine ---looking good in blue
 

A big week for my small athletes

This week Kate found out that she made her select soccer team.  Although she is very excited about having made the team, she is just a little bit depressed about having to work out this summer to get in shape. 

Kate after hearing she made the soccer team

Wade has finally decided to get all the way into our pool without the use of his noodle.  Now that he is “swimming”, he claims that he wants to be the best swimmer in the world.  I told him that in order to beat Michael Phelps, he may actually have to put his face in the water.

The next Michael Phelps
 

Poetry by Kate…..a barely 11 year old

“Riding”

Riding is like flying

You squeeze and she sails over

The jump

Like it’s nothing but a pole on the ground.

It’s almost as if

You’re riding at the speed of light

Your balance is impeccable

Like a gymnast’s

Wind roars past your ears

As if you’re riding in a tornado

She gracefully soars over

The last jump

The crowd starts clapping

Like a roar

You pat her neck and whisper,

“Good job, Celine.”

——-by Kate

 

“What is …..Happiness?”

Happiness is

A book to read

A summer breeze

A long walk

A friend’s smile

A poem,

Leaping

                       from

                                       line

to

                   line

Happiness is

My world

—by Kate

day 4—-the final day

Kate hanging out with Gus before our jog

Our final jog was scheduled for 8am this morning.  Erica was up at 5 am to get Gus fed, clean his stall, and start the whole “beautification process”.  I woke up at 6am to start bringing tack and stuff over for my 10:30 stadium ride.  I was dressed in my jog outfit with makeup on by 7:30am.  I put some clothes on over my dress clothes and hung out at the stall with Erica while she put the finishing touches on Gus’s quarter marks.  His braids looked great, and he was as white as he was ever going to get.  We opted not to leave him alone at the stall for fear of him rolling in his manure again right before the jog.  Erica finished with Gus and did my hair for me as Kate held Gus outside the stall.  

8am—Time for our last jog

Our final inspection of the competition

Gus looked fantastic as we jogged in front of the vets and ground jury for our final inspection.  We were cleared to compete.

We took some pictures, I changed into my riding clothes,  unpacked all of my tack, and and then I headed off to walk my stadium course twice more before it was time to get on.

When I got back to the stall Gus was tacked up and ready to go.  He warmed up for stadium well, but I could tell he was a bit tight through his back.  People were having a lot of trouble with the fences and rails were flying everywhere .   One horse freaked out and actually jumped out of the stadium into the stadium course next to it.  Dorothy gave me some last minute advice on how to ride a few fences, and then it was time for us to go in. 

Gus jumped the first 7 fences perfectly.   I felt that I rode fence 8 really well, but somehow he must have rubbed the rail lightly and it fell.  He then got distracted and pulled the first element of the triple combination before he got himself together to finish the triple and jump 10 beautifully. 

I thought we had a chance to actually move up from 8th place due to the fact that a lot of the riders ahead of me had more rails down.  The math didn’t work out in our favor….landing us in 10th place by less than a point.  Without those 2 rails, we would have been in 2nd, behind 1st by less than a point. 

I received a really pretty “light” blue ribbon, but as we did our victory gallop there was just a twinge of dissappointment creeping in.  I guess I wouldn’t be able to call myself a true competitor if I didn’t have a little case of the “what if’s”.

As I pulled Gus back to the walk and headed out the gate, I heard an announcement that made my day a bit brighter.  Gus and I had won the award for “Best Turned Out” from the ground jury.  The award goes to the pair that was best dressed, best groomed, and won the overall presentation at the jogs.  Although I can claim full responsibility for my outfits, I have only Erica to thank for the fantastic grooming  job this week!  I really appreciate all of your hard work, d box organization and camping savvy. My horse looked fabulous, and although we didn’t win 1st place, I think good things are headed our way.

Joy and Gus ---squinting in the sun

It was a great experience for me and for Gus.  I learned a great deal from the whole process, and am hoping to get 2 more qualifying scores to be able to do the prelim 3 day in October at the Kentucky Horse Park.

In the meantime……..I’m home and things are back to normal.  Wade and Kate are glad to have their mom back.  I may not have won first place today, but I got to play in a “pillow fort” built especially for me by a special 5 year old.

From fierce competitor to "pillow fort princess"---all in a day's work.

day 3

It's been a LONG , HOT day.
Home away from home
Jeff and his new phone/best friend
Kate and her Ipod touch

Day 3 was awesome!  Hotter than blue blazes, but awesome!  It started at about 7am….horse chores, daily bathing of Gus, grooming, taking a few misc. items to the d-box, giving Jeff and the kids the tour of where the day’s activities would take place…etc….etc…

I was supposed to start phase A at 10:48am.  The optimum time for Phase A was 15 min. 55 seconds—a little over 3 km of trotting.    I was supposed to maintain a pace of  240 m/m, but we were going way too fast from the get go. I tried to get him to walk wherever I could, but he was having none of it.  We pretty much did an extremely fancy extended trot for the entire first 12 minutes of phase A.  At the end of phase A I galloped a straightaway to get him ready for the steeplechase— phase B.  We got to the start box for phase B about 1-2 minutes early.  Just enough time for Erica to check Gus’s boots, give me a drink, and check for 4 shoes and studs.

Phase B was FANTASTIC!!  We were supposed to jump 6 steeplechase fences set up around a grass course at speeds that were absolutely crazy.  Gus literally leaped out of the starting box and was galloping like a champ to the first fence.  I cannot tell you that the first few fences were pretty (he was trying to see his distances like x-c fences), but the next 3 were perfect.   The optimum time for steeplechase was 2:56…..and I think I came in 30 seconds under time.  I have never gone so fast on him before, and I was thrilled with the way he galloped and balanced to the fences.  Everything the adrenaline junkie could love and more!  I started my watch for phase C as I crossed the finish line to phase B.  It was on to the “assistance area” for another quick check for 4 shoes, boots, and another quick drink.  Erica was at every stop along the way to check him out before each phase. 

Optimum time for phase c was 35 min. 30 secs.  It included 3.9 km of trotting and a mandatory hold for 10 minutes due to heat.  The avg speed for this phase was to be 160 m/m which could involve a great deal of walking.   We tried to walk as much as we could because if we were not walking, we were doing our very fancy extended trot again.  At the c hold, Erica checked for shoes, boots, etc. while I sat in a chair to drink some water.  His temperature, heartrate, and repirations were good, and we took off again after 10 minutes.  This time Gus thought we were going to gallop again, so when I reached the area where we had last galloped before steeplechase, he got really hard to hold back.  We finally finished phase c, and headed into the “d box”  —-a few minutes ahead of schedule, of course.

The vets met us as we trotted (extended trotted) into the “d box”.  I jumped off of him as they proceeded to take his temp, pulse, and respirations (TPR).  After they got the first readings, my crew (Erica, Kate, Jeff, and Wade:)) began to cool him down with water, ice, and lots of scraping.  I sat in a chair to drink some water and eat a granola bar while they got him cooled off.  Erica then jogged him up for the vet, and he was cleared to go on to  Phase D—-x-country.  At 2 minutes before my ride, Jeff threw me (literally) back up on to Gus, and I headed to the x-c start box to await my countdown.

“10, 9, 8 , 7, 6, 5, 4, 3,2, 1 ….have a great ride”  may very well be my favorite line of all time. 

Gus finally realized what was going on.  I think he thought that steeplechase was cross country and that roads and track were me just “getting somewhere” in a hurry.  When we stood in the start box, he was just starting to get it.  The rest of phase d was a blur.  He was an absolute star.  We had a difficult double down bank complex to a big brush, a coffin going down the hill that ended with a bending line to the 3rd element, a  water complex with 3 elements, a house to a corner where the approach was completely hidden by trees until you got right up to it, and a crazy 2 stride combination that sat up on a hill shaped like a tootsie roll.  He never looked at anything.  I think I smiled from beginning to end. 

When I came across the finish line I trotted my way back into the d-box.  I jumped off as the vets began taking his TPR’s again.  Then we began cooling him off.  His pulse and respirations were “stellar” the vets said, but as he stood longer in the sun his temperature started to climb.  They made us stay in the box for a few more minutes to make sure it would come back down before they let us go back to the barn.  Once they cleared us, I walked Gus back to the barn while my “crew” packed up the equipment and tack to take back in the truck.  Once we got back to the barn I hosed him down and Erica began icing his legs.  We iced fronts and backs, packed his feet with magic cushion, mudded and wrapped his legs, and let him hang out in the stall for awhile.   Scores were posted, and our clean day of riding put us into 8th place.

We headed back to the trailer/campsite for a bit before we had to meet Dorothy for our stadium course walk.

The course walked well, but it involved a great deal of tight turns and a roll back.  I was slightly concerned about forgetting the course,  but not so much about the course itself. 

After the course walk, we fed Gus and headed to the covered arena for a competitors’ party and some puppy races.  I ended up winning a t-shirt in the door prize drawing, and we all ate cake………

Needless to say, we were all exhausted.  The heat had been brutal——but a storm was headed our way.  Erica and I ran around and packed up as much stuff at the campsite as we could while Jeff and the kids went out to buy us some slushies.  The storms hit late at night and early in the morning.  The “tenters” survived all three rounds of storms, though I layed awake all night worrying about them.  I even made Jeff go outside in the middle of the night to make sure they were all still okay.  Of course they were all asleep.  This morning when we asked Wade if he had been afraid of the storm, he said “what storm?”.  Enough said. 

the stadium course

day 2

Joy and Gus at the steeplechase schooling
Joy and Gus doing dressage on the first day of competition
Joy and Gus at the steeplechase schooling

 

Day 2 was nothing but a whirlwind. I did my dressage test at 9:45 am. It had some great moments and some not so great moments.  Gus was quiet and relaxed for most of the warmup, but by the time we headed down the centerline, he was awake.  The score of 37.3 put us into 9th place after dressage. Three advanced  level riders accounted for five of the top placing 8 dressage tests.  The whole division was filled with some really nice horses, so I walked away fairly happy with my score. 
After dressage I had a little bit of time to reorganize. Erica took out his braids while I got ready for my steeplechase lesson with Dorothy. What a blast! Galloping as fast as you want to go over a really cool brush fence…..Gus was in heaven.
We then went out to do our XC course walk with an advanced level rider. It was a good walk, and although the course had a lot of challenging combinations, I knew it would be a lot of fun.
After the official walk, I walked the course again by myself.  After that I biked my roads and track courses again.
At 6:30pm we had a dinner and a lecture on how to deal with situations in the D box given by a vet from Rood and Riddle in Lexington.   It was supposed to be in the high 90’s by the time we started x-c, and everyone was a bit concerned about keeping the horses cooled down during the 4 phases of cross country.  After the meeting, Erica  and I went to set up all of the buckets and extra equipment we might need in the D Box on x-c day. 

Then….finally….it was off to take a well deserved and definitely necessary shower!

Jeff and the kids arrived at about 10pm.  We went over our plans for the morning, and all of us went to bed.  X-C day tomorrow!

 

day 1

 
Gus and Joy before first jog
Gus before first jog

Today was a day filled with meetings, walking, biking, jogging, and riding. I didn’t sleep well last night, so 8 am came very early today. Erica and I got Gus fed and the normal morning chores. After that I had a really good and amazingly quiet dressage ride. I got done riding about 11 and left Gus with Erica so that I could run to take my shower before my mandatory rider meeting at noon. We met at noon to discuss the schedule, roads and track, and trotting up for our first inspection. When we were done with our meetings we all piled into the back of some trucks to take a tour of the roads and track courses.
Once we were done with that, it was time for Gus to get bathed, groomed, and spray painted for his jog up. We practiced trotting up with Cathy weischcoff before running back to the trailer to get dressed and put on my makeup. In the time it took Erica to do my hair and oil gus’s bridle, Gus had pooped multiple times and rolled all over in it—– braids and all.
I was dressed and met Erica at the stall–where she was nearly in tears. Needless to say, the next 15 before my jog was a whirlwind.
We made it to the jog up on time, and I had an absolute blast! We ended our jog hearing the words “Augustus has been cleared to compete”.
With that under our belts, We breathed a sigh of relief and headed to taco bell for a Mt. Dew.
We headed back to the park for another meeting about the d box on xc.
Just when we started to get tired ,it was time to bike our roads and track courses and walk the xc course for the first time. The xc course is really neat and has some pretty interesting combinations. There’s a lot of room to gallop between fences, and I think Gus will love it.
Erica and I are hanging out at the campsite eating some snacks and getting our day planned for tomorrow.
I do dressage in the morning, walk xc with Dorothy in the afternoon, and take a steeplechase lesson tomorrow evening.

Busy, busy, busy……but the weather today has been perfect!

Goodnight!