Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Horse Showing: Rated versus Non-Rated

I've talked about doing this post awhile ago.  I show at A and AA shows regularly and an occasional unrated local show.  I can offer my opinion on the differences that I find in the jumpers and why I prefer one over the other.  I plan to also take this a tad further and do a series about horse showing.  I find it interesting to read blog posts about horse shows written by people that either don't show or only occasionally show because my perspective is typically different than theirs.  It could be the area, our experience level being different, or just being out there in it.  We all play arm chair quarterback, but it always different out there on the field.  So here you go.  This is what I know.

This is the most obvious difference.  Entry fees can vary by hundreds of dollars.  For instance a stall at our local non-rated show is $50.  At HITS it is was $250.  A jumper class at NR show is $15.  At HITS it was $50 and classic was $150 to enter.  Rated shows also have fees such as $18 drug fee, horse watch fee, office fees etc.  NR shows may have horse watch fees and office fees but since they don't drug test you don't have that one.  

WHY?  Why are there these big differences in costs?  Standards.  When you are regulated by a governing organization such as USEF you have guidelines to uphold to keep your rating.  Footing costs money, fancy jumps, rated judges, jump crews, office staff, stewards, stabling, tents for temporary stalls, water trucks, drags, tractors, etc.  Then there is the purchase price of the rated show "dates" you own.  And those can be coveted.  There is a lot more money that goes into making a rated show and that is reflected in the costs.  But don't think these rated show horse managers aren't making money.  They are.  In fact there is one on the East coast that if you follow on Facebook you will learn all about his private plane, yacht, water front homes (notice plural), etc.  Seeing that makes me pretty unhappy paying premium prices to show.  So why do it?

Now our local NR organization is made up of few members who really work hard to put in their shows.  They get about 150 entries.  I've been to rated shows with that low of a number and I've been to others with thousands of entries.  Now our local show has one guy who waters and drags the 4 rings.  He does this the day of and a couple times that day.  It's not enough.  When they hold a rated show there they spend weeks prepping the footing.  Footing is important to me.  Bad footing can give you a plethora of issues and injuries to your horse.  I won't.  WON'T risk taking Poppy to a place with bad footing.  And when Luxxx went to school at the local show I found myself picking up rocks and just praying he didn't come up sore from the hard ground.  Are all NR shows like this?  Of course not.  Do all rated shows have excellent footing?  Of course not but they won't be around for long if they don't.  Most NR organizations are non profit and run by volunteers.  They don't have the time or resources to do ring/footing prep 2 weeks out.

Here you will see a big difference in the quality of horses at the NR and rated shows.  Now I have learned my lesson at a big rated show. Do not snicker at that little paint horse that looks like it was just pulled out of someone's back yard.  That little paint horse can fly around a 3'6 course like its tail is on fire and snap its knees to its nose.  And I have also seen big gorgeous athletic looking horses that struggled to jump around 1m.  You see it all, you really do.  But when I was in the NAL Classic at HITS with 45 riders and horses, I was not in bad company.  They don't even have 1.15m jumpers at our local NR show, there aren't enough people to fill it.

I have also seen far more scary things at our NR shows than rated ones.  There are the lame horses (head bobbing or 3 legged not just NQR), people warming up over oxers backwards, beating of horses, running (why do people think jumpers must equate to running???), poor horsemanship (I'll just leave than one vague), oh and the one time that the jump off course included only the "b" element of an in and out (which is illegal by USEF rules, "a" must be removed to use "b" only).  Have I ever seen scary stuff at rated shows?  Sure but not to this magnitude.  It comes down to the NR shows bring out all kinds.  And that's what they should do.  It's for people and horses to learn about horse showing.  It's for people who have a smaller budget to still be able to go out and compete.  But sometimes it is more than I have the patience for.  When I am on a green horse and people don't understand ring etiquette (ie passing left should to left shoulder) I sometimes think to myself that I would rather pay for a rated show.  But ironically the 2 times I ever got run into in the warm up ring was at an extremely busy AA show!

Really for me it is the standards, organization, and governing body rules.  I overall get a higher quality experience than I get at the NR shows (and the exhibitor parties are nice).  And to ensure show managers are keeping competitors happy and providing quality USEF even sends out a survey to you after each rated show.  Poppy learned the ropes of horse showing at some NR shows and so will Luxxx.  When he graduates the lower levels he will move on to the bigger shows and drain my checking account a bit more.  

And you know those blog posts where we have talked about those dream horse shows we want to go to?  Aren't most if not all of those rated?  It's the big leagues kids!  And unfortunately all that glitz and glamour (snicker) has the price tag to go with it.  More importantly, it's your decision.  You go show wherever it fits best for you, your horse, and your budget.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekend Review

Does anyone else have a hard time coming up with titles?  Why is that so hard?  There's only so many times I can name a post "Catching Up."  Anyhoo...

Last week I rode once thanks to crappy rain.  Oh maybe that should be my title, "It Never Stops Freaking Raining!"  So Saturday I rode baby Monster for the first time since last Saturday.  I was home alone so I was sure to give him some extra time in the lunge.  He ran and bucked so much I seriously questioned  my sanity for considering riding him.  But on I went.  He was so good too.  Oh and it was cold (and by cold I mean FL cold so low 60s versus 80s) and windy.  Then the neighbor started shooting their cannon aka rifle.  He shot forward for about 3 strides then came right back to me.  I was really proud of him.  Nothing new on his training.  For the next months we will continue to focus on riding in front of my leg, bending, and stretching into the bit.  He is better each ride and even with a week off I felt like he picked right back up.  He is moving forward nicely to the left.  To the right he starts sluggish but is getting the hang of it.  What I do is I give lots of leg and cluck, driving him forward.  Since he is better to the left I do figure eights every few times around and work to maintain the pace.  I keep a dressage whip on him so I can give a tap when he decides it's time to stop.  Anytime he tries to make a "let's take a break" decision he gets several more laps until I say it's ok to stop.  And also with babies it's important to stop in different places and never near the gate.  You don't want them getting gate sour or associating a certain place in the ring with stopping.  I am also working with him on standing quietly.  Since his favorite word is whoa he does this well but his 4 yo brain gets bored and he fidgets after awhile.  That's ok.  As long as he improves a bit each time.  He is actually stands perfectly still for mounting and dismounting now.  These may seem like small things but this is what will contribute to him being a well behaved citizen down the road.  

Poppy has been good too.  We didn't jump this weekend due to the ground being so wet.  I could have done some little stuff but I really didn't feel like she needed it.  The next round of rain comes Wednesday so I will try to get a jump school in by then.

Two and a half weeks until our next AA show!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HITS Million

Monday was the HITS Million in Ocala to wrap up the HITS circuit.  It was a gross rainy day and after intensely studying the radar all day I decided to go with some friends (and Nugget of course).  With this line up, how could I not go watch.

At big equestrian events like this we instantly become squealy little girls (toting wine).  Oohing, ahhing, and looking out for our idols.  McLain Ward and Quentin Judge sat diagnal from us watching the first few rounds.  

It was a huge, tough course.  Jumps were 1.60-1.65m.  HUGE!  Lots of rails, some stops, etc.  Several elected to voluntarily excuse themselves.  Those riders deserved a round of applause.  At this level they are not out there to school.  If they were struggling on course or having a bunch of rails, they elected to pull up and save their horse for another day.  This wasn't their day and that's ok. Bravo!

Sadly Beezie and Simon had a rail as well as Rich and Flexible.  I was really excited to see Flexible out there at age 19 and killing it.  One cheap rail at the end.  I was also excited to see my favorite horse from last year, Ammeretto.  He's a 15.2 dark bay and I love him because he's 15.2 and sails over these jumps.  It wasn't his day though and he had multiple rails.  6 returned for a fun jump off.  McLain set a blazing speed on Rothchild then Charlie Jayne came in on Chill RZ and took a LONG distance to a blue vertical and and beat McLain's time to win.  It was amazing.

It was a great time and I am so glad I went.  Even from the stands the jumps looked ginormous.  It made me realize how itty bitty the jumps I jump are.  I can't imagine jumping something that big.  I've worked my whole riding life to move up to the A/O Jumpers and that looks terrifying enough!  So the first time I go show in the A/O Jumpers and think the jumps look monstrous I will remind myself of the jumps at The Million.  

What about you, would you ever want to jump 1.60/1.65m?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Pendulum

As equestrians we can all be like the swinging pendulum some times.  Maybe even a tad Bipolar-ish.  You know...one day it's "oh my god I suck, my horse has taken ten steps back , I will never get good again, I should just retire."  Then three days later we are all like "I had the lesson of my life, my horse is amazing, we are on track for the Olympics."  Sound familiar?  

Last month when I took baby Monster to the local show to school I was feeling a little like the first scenarios.  He was just not the forward ride I enjoy.  I told trainer I was open to selling him as I think he is meant to be a hunter.  Then my favorite holiday happened (DLS) and things are changing.  Monster is back to regular work.  It's almost like starting over with his under saddle work due to the inconsistent work over the winter.  That in itself was frustrating but then we had a light bulb moment last night.  It didn't take long to get him moving softly into my hand and forward.  Yes forward in front of my leg.  And stay there!  He was better to the left than right but we were able to end with maintaining this forward trot both directions.  The light bulb hasn't gone off at the canter yet.  Key word yet. It will, I know it.  I have been focusing on this at the trot for just a week and have made so much progress.  Yes, we have only walked and trotted for a week.  Why
move on to the next gait until we are at a comfortable point at the previous one?  Last night we cantered and worked briefly on moving in front of my leg.  His head was up and he was wiggly.  Once I have him going in front of my leg I will work on head position and the wiggly stuff will also go away as he gets more comfortable.  

I ended my ride last evening with that awesome top of the world feeling we all know.  That feeling we strive for and that keeps us motivated during the darker times.  I am so proud of baby Monster.  Not only for his progress under saddle but look how grown up he looks!

I need to get a friend to help me take a proper conformation picture.  When he is on the lunge I have taught him that when stopped he must face me so he didn't understand why I was asking him to stand like this.  As you can see I backed him up too much so his front legs are too far under him.  Luxxx deserves a proper picture.  He has turned a liver chestnut color with gorgeous dapples.  He's just lovely.

What about you, do you swing on the pendulum?  Come on, fess up!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Riding Bliss

Longer days, warmer weather, and green grass starting to sprout has given me a bit of pep in my step.  It's the excitement of spring and summer!  My favorite times of year!!

I am so thrilled to be able to come home and work the horses without scurrying along before the sun sets.  And best of all getting to spend time with baby Monster.   His behavior around the barn is already improving now that he is back in work.  We continue to work on moving off the leg, bending, and stretching down into the bit.  He always starts out like a giraffe once we pick up the trot but it improving immensely at moving forward and bending.  Our circles actually resemble circles.  By the end he is moving into the bit and relaxed.  I'm pretty proud of how he progresses each ride.

His mane is also slowly growing out finally!!  Yay!!!  Friday I even pulled the few stands that never got rubbed out.  I realized that I had only pulled his mane one time since I got him before he rubbed it out.  Since I was expecting him to react like wtf, I unhooked him from the cross ties and put a chain over his nose. I would have preferred someone to hold him, but I didn't have this option.  I unhook from the cross ties because when they want to avoid what you are doing they back up.  When they hit the end of the cross ties they might panic because they can't evade you or because they simple hit the end of the cross ties.  We want this to be a good experience so we want to avoid all that.  The first pull he stepped back.  I lead him forward.  Another pull and he stepped back.  I tugged lightly on the chain to let him know he's not supposed to go back.  Then with each pull on the mane I have big pats and talked to him.  He stood ground tied until we were done.  Then of course he was rewarded with a peppermint.  With babies it's all about making things a positive, drama free experience.  That way they grow up to be solid citizens with good manners.  He's getting there...

Poppy has been really good.  Nothing exciting to report on.  We are hacking and jumping a little.  I feel that she is tighter to the right so I will work on that (circles, bending, stretching, etc) until our next show in April.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Here!!!!!!!

I feel like this weekend was my birthday, Christmas, tooth fairy, and all grand things rolled into one.  Daylight Savings!  I can feel less bitter about people at at work who are allowed to leave early due to having children while I have to stay because I do not and watch my ride time slowly setting as I commute home (ok, maybe still just a teensiest bitl bitter).  I don't care that I lost an hour of sleep, I get to FINALLY work BOTH of my horses!

I love the speed limit sign in the background

I worked Luxxx on Saturday and he was pretty good.  It was cool, windy, and the neighbors were running their four wheeler up and down the street.  Not the perfect environment for a 4 year old who hasn't been ridden in a week.  He handled it well.  He likes to pretend he's forgotten how to steer, bend, and move off my leg.  By the end he was doing all of the above pretty well.  Most importantly he was relaxed and moving into the bit.  We wrapped up with practicing leg yields and it seems so easy for him.  The lateral movements are good to touch on as we are walking and warming up or even cooling down.  He's the best at halting and even backs up perfectly now.  He also loves selfies (ugh...kids these days...)

I have to say this is my favorite picture from last week.

I feel very lucky to have so many pictures from HITS.  I can't wait to have a couple blown up for the house.

Rain is forecasted starting Wednesday through the rest of the week.  This means horses will need to get worked today and tomorrow before the mud sets in.  At least it's warm...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Photos

The temperature has dropped 30 degrees from yesterday and is raining.  This makes me thankful to not be at the local show with baby Monster.

Due to today's lovely forecast I decided to hack Poppy last evening since everyone will likely get this evening off.  She was sassy and a tad full of herself.  Mare thinks she's awesome or something...

Being awesome means hacking, and circles, and bending are boring.  Such is life...

A wonderful example of why white breeches are awful.

I'm hoping the rain moves out tonight and I get some ride time in with baby.  I should probably clean out my trailer and unhook it to.  It's still sitting exactly where I left it Sunday night.  

I hope you northerners (and Texans) are unthawing and have a warmer weekend!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Sigh.  HITS is over for me.  I had 2 great shows there and now it's time for a break.  Maybe I am neurotic, maybe a tad obsessive, but I like to give my mare a break.  After 3 days of jumping she will get 3-4 days off and probably a week + off from jumping.  

I have pondered hard about returning next week for the $25K Classic.  I think it would be fun and we have as good of a shot at it as anyone but realistically it is a lot of money to go show for one class (entry fee is $475 + $25 late entry fee).  There is a 24 hour rule so I have to get a stall (at $250 + shavings to use for 1 night) and also enter one other adult jumper class ($50).  Then add fuel, hotel, training, office fees, late entry fee, etc.  I have reasoned that the next show is only a month away and what I would spend to go do the classic would be best spent toward other shows coming up.  That's my adult decision.  Not the fun decision but the financially wise one.  I also want to continue to focus on my goal of moving up a division.

So next up for Poppy is an AA show in April.  This also gives me time for baby Monster.  There is a local show this weekend that I am skipping even though it would be good for him to go school.  I am tired and want a weekend home.  Plus my employees are tired of me taking off all these Fridays I am sure.  

My most favorite day of the year is coming up this weekend.  Daylight Savings!!!!   I have lunged Monster the past 2 evenings and am looking forward to getting him back into regular work this weekend.

I am so thankful to my friend's husband for taking these beautiful pictures of Poppy last weekend.  I have a few more to sprinkle through my posts this week :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HITS Week VII (Part 2)

You know how you just get that feeling about something?  You just know.... Yeah well I knew I would draw first in the order of go in Sunday's High Adult Jumper Classic and I did.  Perfect.  There are positives and negatives to first.  Positives: get it over with, lay down a great ride and make everyone chase you, & you don't have to watch a ton of people go and consider changing your plan from the course walk.  Negatives: EVERYONE will be watching your round, you have to hurry after the course walk to get on and warm up, you don't get to watch any rounds to see if that 6.5 stride line rode long or right on a 6, you have to wait until the very end to jump off and re-warm up your horse, etc

Fortunately the Children's class went first so I did the course walk with them and got to watch a bunch of rounds.  They changed it to an ab option which means you can stay in the ring and jump off if you are clean or come out and jump off at the end.  Alot of kids chose to stay in so I got to watch jump offs too.  There were a number of time faults in round 1 so I knew I would have to be efficient to each jump (keep the pace, don't lollygag in the corners and get sucked up in the big ring).  2 people also added the class which meant they had to go first!  Yay I was bumped to third.

Jump 1 was an oxer, around to jump 2 a vertical.  Left turn to 3 an oxer on the outside, seven strides to 4 the Equifit jump, and five strides to jump 5.  Poppy stared down the Equifit jump.  It had 3 or 4 individual black panels under it that apparently resembled a monster.  I rode hard and she jumped it.  Normally I will show her spooky jumps before I start the course and this one did not occur to me that she would look at it.  Jump 6 was a white plank six strides to 7abc, a combination which was a one stride to one stride.  Jump 8 to 9 was a 4 stride,roll  back to 10ab two stride.  Jumps 11 to 12 were on the outside, down the hill toward the gate. It walked in a 6.5 stride so I opted to whoa for the 7 to avoid getting flat.  We finished a nice, smoothe, clean trip well within the time allowed.  I opted to return at the end for the jump off so we had a nice 2 hour wait.  Only a few of us opted to do this.  The jump off started with jump 2, roll back tight to jump 3, a hard inside turn to jump 14, tight roll back to the two stride 10ab, then gallop to jump 11 and do 6 strides to 12.  I was worried about the turns from 2 to 3 and 3 to 14.  They were tight and both oxers.  I was slow from 2 to 3 and got deep which rang the bell in my head to speed up!  I found our gear and remembered to keep the pace out of the turns so I could ride up to the jump.  We finished great (and clean).  The initial slowness hurt but still good enough for 6th place in a large class.

Last jump in the jump off!

No video (boo for no friends available to video) but more pictures to come!  Although I was disappointed in myself for not having pace from jump 2 to 3, I fixed it and we finished up on point.  Poppy was great and jumped confidently out of the tight turns.  She did spook at the Equifit jump again before we started the course haha!  I need to figure out how to make that jump!  Overall I am beyond pleased and proud of her.  I feel like our jump offs are coming together. Tightening our turns and adding more pace (not speed---I would whoa and add versus riding up and finding the go distance) will put us out on top in the future.  Love that little mare :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

HITS Week VII (Part 1)

We are back and we survived HITS!  In true Florida style (they call it the sunshine state but really it is the swamp state) we had a deluge of rain the night before we left.  I got a late start to the show as usual.  I won't get into why but it involves getting stuck in the mud, my four wheel drive not engaging, wheel rolling off my manure cart, etc.  We finally made it to the show Thursday afternoon.  I unloaded, unpacked, set up, & hacked.  

Friday was cooler (for Florida) but no rain so I will take what I can get.  We did the High Adult Jumpers (1.10-1.15m).  It was a straight speed round.  I was using it as my schooling round so although I tried to be efficient with my turns I didn't push the speed and wanted a nice school. 

We were clean but not fast enough for a ribbon.  Perfectly fine, we accomplished our goal of a nice school.

Saturday was cool with an off and on drizzle all day.  That always makes it hard to motivate myself to show.  On the positive side it also kept me from wandering around the vendors.  I got lucky and the rain held off for our class.  we did the High Adult Jumpers again.

This course seemed simple and twisty.  Simple was probably the illusion the course designer wanted so people get sloppy and bypass the technical questions.  4ab was a simple one stride vertical to vertical.  In the jump off this same combination was used but backwards (13ab).  Because it appeared simple it was easy to get there too flat which is exactly what I did in the jump off.  I got there deep and flat and punched the top rail.  We finished with 4 faults but it was also a good learning round.  Poppy is jumping amazing and confidently so I need to move forward out of my turns and move up to the jumps instead of pulling.  Got it.  We were out of the ribbons but again, she was great and I just need to tune my jumps offs so I am giving her the optimal ride.

Gimme my peppermint or I eat your face!

Next up, Sunday's NAL Classic!