Shady’s Return To The Show Ring – GMHA September 2016

I’m way behind on Shady updates, but this past weekend was too much fun to wait on!

Shady and I had our ups and downs all summer with soundness, but we’ve finally got it figured out.  We had entered several events but wound up scratching.  We did get to GMHA June and completed, but she wasn’t quite herself.  Not lame, but not herself.  I will update more on our path to soundness later.

The night before we left I finally accepted the fact that Shady was too hairy and would be hot.  Thankfully my friend was generous enough to take time out of her day to do a beautiful clip job.  Shady appreciated it eventually, though she didn’t know it.

Green Mountain Horse Association, or GMHA, in South Woodstock, VT, is our favorite place to be.  Shady is very comfortable there, and settled right in like her usual self.  She was quiet in her stall all weekend, not caring that some of her old “friends” were there.  She had said hello to Aumara and Scribbles, but with a pin of her ears and a threat of a bite, she reminded them that she still doesn’t like them.

Friday evening we went for a long, stretchy hack then did some flat work in the warm up area.  She felt good, though not as strong behind as she used to.  It was a little more obvious to me at the showgrounds for some reason.

My dressage test wasn’t until after 11 on Saturday, which gave me plenty of time to take Shady for a walk, spot bathe, and watch some friends compete.  Finally, it was time to head to the warm up for our turn.  We drew the straw for the grass ring which isn’t always a bad thing.  Shady does seem to do better on grass, though the footing has been really hard this summer due to lack of rain.  We used a small stud on the outside front of our shoes, just to help with a little grip.

We didn’t do much in warm-up as she was quiet and felt good.  Circling around the ring I put my leg on and really sent her forward, asking her for just 4 minutes of uphill, forward work.  She responded beautifully, and down centerline we went.

I was pretty happy with the test.  I was really bummed when partway into it a fly landed on her neck and started biting, hence the head tossing and resulting slap to the neck in an effort to kill said fly.

We landed in 5th with a 31.3 in a very tightly scored division.  Two points better would have put us in first.  Reflecting later on the test, just a few improved movements here or there would have earned us the blue.  It is very reassuring to know that we are still competitive, and have a chance to make some easy changes to be at the top.

That being said, one rail in stadium would drop us down to 12th place, far out of the ribbons.  I do think that stadium makes me the most nervous.  There is very little room for error!

She warmed up very well, so we again didn’t do much.  I typically only jump 4-6 jumps in warmup, I don’t see much need for anything more than that.

Stadium went really well, and I felt that I had ridden well, she responded well, and we were back out there as our beautiful partnership!  We had no rails down to keep our 5th place.

I wish my friend hadn’t stopped the video, as Shady let out a series of enthusiastic bucks at the end.  I laughed at her, as she was clearly displaying her proud-ness.  She cracks me up.

The next day was our XC run.  I unfortunately don’t have video, though I do have this lovely picture that someone took of me because they thought my saddle was beautiful:

Trying to hold her back a little as she thought we were going way too slow!

It had rained just a little the night before, enough to make the hard ground just a little greasy on top.  The course was a little shorter than normal, at a slow speed.  The challenge for us was to get around safely, without incurring speed faults!  Having seen several horses slip out on course, I had some worries about that.  We have front shoes with stud holes, but are barefoot behind.

She was very quiet in warm up, but getting to the base of every fence well and listening to me.  Then, she saw the horse two horses in front of her go and whinnied at it as we were walking.  Suddenly, as I picked up the reins to head to the start box, I had a rearing, snorting, leaping horse under me.  It was quite comical as my 17 year old, very experienced horse, propped and pranced around, on a loose rein mind you, to the start box.  I laughed when the start box volunteer asked if I needed any help, and responded with “no thank you, this is normal.”

Not normal was our exit out of the start box, with a rear and sideways leap we sent the starters flying.  Sorry!

She was excellent on course, getting to the base of every fence, with the exception being our speed.  She truly feels that we should indeed be in a race to see who goes the fastest on course.  Thankfully we weren’t in a tie!  We did slip twice, both areas were incredibly slippery and numerous other riders had slipped at the same spot, including a few falls there.  I felt bad to really bring her back, despite her opinions, but the slips would have been much worse had she been going at her choice of speeds.

We finished on our dressage score and wound up moving up to 4th.  Shady was quite pleased with herself and cooled out well.  She complied nicely with the USEF drug tester as well, as we were chosen for what I believe is the 6th time in our career.  Drug Tester Randy (as I named him) was pretty entertained by our group of people and horses.  As usual, not a problem for Shady and I, we know the rules!

Although we didn’t get out to many shows this year, I think this will wrap it up for us.  Perhaps a few fun local events, but it is already getting cold up here in New England and winter will be upon us before we know it.  Next year, however, we’ve got big plans.



Indy’s First Show

The day of the show dawned cool and calm, with the threat of heat later in the day.  Indy did not seem surprised to see me at the barn at breakfast time and greeted me with his usual whinny.  Being a gray, of course, he had laid in poop so he got a quick spot bath.

I was worried that he would be upset about the change in his routine, but he was very relaxed and went along with our new plan.  He stood quietly for his bath and while I put on his standing wraps for trailering.  He perked up when he saw his friend Borky on the trailer, and proceeded to literally run up the ramp and into the trailer.  Guess all that trailer training paid off!

All ready to go!  Indy looking excitedly at the trailer. Yes, he fits into his mom’s standing wraps.

It was a long drive out to Lakeville, CT, we actually wound up going into NY and then coming back to CT to avoid traffic.  We could see the boys through the trailer windows, playing “bitey face” the entire way out.  We stopped twice to check on them and they were perfectly fine.

Indy hopped off the trailer and proceeded to talk to every horse at the show.  Not nervous or scared whinnies, but literally sounding like he was answering each horse with a hello of his own.  He marched into his stall like it was his home stall and settled in to the task of eating the grass that his stall floor was made up of.  While Indy didn’t seem to mind the solid walls, Borky insisted on keeping an eye on his little friend.

“What are you doing?  What’s going on over there????” – Borky

Indy had a couple hours to relax, then it was time to prep.  I had been carefully pulling and shortening his mane over the past several weeks, to make his braids look nice.  We gave ourselves plenty of time, as braiding was a new thing to him.  I needn’t have worried – Indy took a nap while Borky’s mom braided him with impressive speed.  Even his teeny little forelock braid was of no concern to Indy.

Resting a hoof and slowly closing his eyes while getting his braids.

Borky joined us as we headed out of the stabling area and down to the arena.  They were a bit behind, so we headed into the indoor ring to wait our turn with the other yearlings.  It was fun to see all the other babies, including Indy’s half brother!  So fun to see other Riverman offspring.  I did note that Indy was only the second tallest and seemed to fit right in.

I had brought a lead with a chain just in case, and was glad I had.  I hadn’t used one on Indy but once before.  I was glad I did; with an indoor full of babies there were lots of little explosions.  Indy, excited and a little nervous, did have a few little “scoots” where he may have gotten away had I not had the additional leverage.

Finally, it was our turn in the ring.  He had relaxed quite a bit by now, until we got in the ring.  He knew immediately this was something different and I felt him tense right up, despite having all of the other horses grazing right next to the ring.  I talked to him and patted him, he did relax some but was still tight.  When standing up for the judge he would only stand for a moment, long enough to call to his friends before wanting to walk off.  The judge was very understanding and asked that I halt every few moments to show off his conformation, then allow him to walk a bit.  Getting upset with him for not standing still at this point would have only upset him more.  He will get used to it in the future and will calm down on his own.  Picking a fight with him now will only make things worse.

Next we had to perform the triangle.  For the in hand portion of the FEH and YEH, you start by walking a triangle with 15 meter length sides.  You then trot a 20 meter triangle, re-present to the judge, and you are done.

I was very proud of Indy here.  He was very tight in his back and didn’t show off his big swinging walk, or his floaty, ground covering trot, but he was well behaved.  Other babies were rearing, bucking, and leaping away from their handlers.  Turning was the hardest thing for us.  Otherwise, he was super.

And that was it.  It was a lot of prep work, long drive, and a long weekend for our 10 minutes in the ring.  That being said, I would do it all over again (and will next year!) in a heartbeat.  The positive experience that Indy got from this weekend will transcend all of our future plans.  After our ring time he grazed with the others until we had the awards ceremony, where Indy got a lovely pink ribbon.

Posing with his ribbon like a big horse!

That night when we returned to do night check, Indy was passed out cold!  Despite the very bright lights, he was snoozing away, nose resting on the ground.  I changed his water and gave him more hay without him noticing.  It was only when I opened his Lucerne Farms Alfa-Supreme chopped hay that he stirred (he loves that stuff!)  Clearly, he was exhausted!

The next day, we did have a minor incident while going for a walk.  I had gotten too bold, and took him out with just a lead rope and headed out towards the rings.  He was a little high strung, which I attributed to him not having turnout, but when the sprinklers directly in front of us gurgled to life, that was enough.  He spun quite fast and launched into a full speed gallop towards his stall, leaving me with rope burn and an embarrassed look on my face.  With calls of “well he’s got a lovely gallop!” as I went back to stabling, I scolded myself for over facing him a little.  He ran right into his stall like a good boy, and thankfully nobody’s horse threw them off!  I patted him and took him out for a short walk around the familiar stabling area instead.  Later that day we would go for a walk with his friend, and he was very good.

I was worried about him getting upset while horses came and went all day, but didn’t have to.  I had to leave to go on a sales call for a saddle and upon my return I found a sleeping Indy who wasn’t caring that his friend had left his stall.  When we returned later after Borky’s XC, Indy was the only one in the stabling row, as others had completed their day and left.  He didn’t seem to care at all, casually munching his hay.

It was another long drive home but this time the boys were quiet.  We got back to the barn after 11pm and they were clearly glad to be home in their own stalls.

I couldn’t be more proud of Indy.  He really was an absolute champ, acting like going to a show was something we did all the time.  He was well mannered, not acting herb bound, and brave.  Despite the weird things we were doing to him, he trusted and tolerated.

Can’t wait till the next one!

Indy’s First Show – Preperation

Last weekend Indy and I both got to experience new things together.  I had entered him in the Future Event Horse competition – something I had pushed hard to have. Long story short, Area 1 (New England and New York) hasn’t had something for the young horses in a while, due to lack of entries.  I began rallying fellow eventers to have the event, recognizing how good an experience it is for the youngsters, and for the selfish reason of wanting something for Indy to do.  Well, as luck would have it, I ran into an acquaintance of mine whom I had worked with years ago when helping to organize the UNH horse trials.  It just so happened that he was organizing an event at a venue we had been looking at to host.  After much discussion, he told me if I could get 12 total entries we would be on. We spread the word, kept reminding people (nagging) and on the day of the show we had 25 entries.  The biggest class turned out to be the Indy’s (yearling) division.

Having never done this myself I too had a lot to learn.  Thankfully, Indy and I have done a lot together already.  His only “show” experience was when he was 7 weeks old and went to his breed inspection.  That seems like an eternity ago.

Indy Inspection 04.jpg
Indy at his breed inspection


After studying the website for instructions and asking friends, we began to practice the triangle.  Indy would be expected to walk a triangle, each side being 15 meters long, and then trot a triangle with 30 meter sides.  It is important to show the judge relaxed, free flowing gaits.  The triangle is walked and trotted to the right, putting myself on the outside.  Teaching Indy to turn away from me, and not to keep floating forward, took some practice, but he picked it up quickly enough.  He did find it quite fun that we were running around “playing”.  I, on the other hand, found myself quite out of shape.  Indy, now standing at 15.2 (most of that being legs) is hard to keep up with!

Other show prep work had already been done.  Indy is at the point where I clipped his muzzle while he was on the crossties. He thinks clipping is great now; he seems to like the feel of the clipper vibrations against his muzzle and leans right into it.   (See Clipper Training with Indy)

He loads on the trailer like a pro. Every time the is a trailer hooked up at the barn I put him on it. Baths? No problem.  Wearing leg wraps (for shipping)? No problem.  He’s really been pretty well exposed to everything.

“Duck face” selfies in the trailer….Indy is horrified that I am embarrassing him….

Other than practicing the triangle, we went for long walks, often times ponying along next to Shady.  Not only did this help expose him to new places on the trails, but it also helped to condition him a little.  Indy looks fabulous – lean with some muscle, in good weight, with a beautiful neck and the beginnings of a top line.

Indy looking amazing!

The only thing we could not practice was the actual show atmosphere.  Thankfully, I had convinced a friend that she too should show her horse at the same competition, though she would show on Saturday and Indy Friday, meaning we would stable overnight.  It was too far of a drive (4.5 hours) to do it all in one day.  Had she not been going, I would have brought Shady.  It would not have been fair for him to go all that way himself; he would have been pretty scared and alone.  I could have never done that to him.

So, all prepped and as ready as we could be, Indy was off to his next big adventure.

Indy’s Bank – Part 2

Indy and I didn’t return to the bank for a couple of weeks.  I wanted to do more work on the footing first, and then of course some jerk had to go and break the top rail.  It’s really frustrating when you, (and my good friends!) work so hard to make something nice for everyone and then someone goes and breaks it.  Not only that, but they didn’t tell anyone and didn’t take responsibility.  Imagine my disappointment when, less than a week after building it, I walked by it and noticed it was broken.

You know, I wouldn’t have even been mad if someone came to me and told me they broke it. Things happen. Accidents happen.  It would have been nice if that person came to me and said hey, I broke this, I’m sorry.  I would have appreciated their honesty and moved on.

My friend came over and fixed it, stronger than ever.  It was finally complete and safe for Indy to try going down it.

I’ve done a lot of ground work with Indy.  We’ve gone for long walks, alone or with Shady.  We walk over logs, trough puddles, and over small obstacles.  He’s never learned to refuse anything; he simply has learned that if something is in front of us we go over it.  Simple as that.  He really doesn’t understand why he wouldn’t go.  I’ve always made sure it was a fair and simple question for him to understand.

Going down the bank was finally the first time he questioned me.  Not necessarily a bad thing; I like a horse that thinks for itself.  I will admit too that our bank isn’t exactly a rank beginners bank either.

I planned a time when we had time – not at dinner time, not when it is super buggy, or hot, and not when we would be rushed to beat sundown.

We started by going up the bank. A simple question he has already conquered.  We walked by the bank on top, getting closer and closer to the edge.  Then we walked up to the edge and looked down.

Something people often forget is that horses do not have the same depth perception as we humans do.  This is why horses are most afraid of ditches, puddles, holes, etc.  This is why we use ground lines underneath our jumps.  They simply can’t tell how deep that ditch is, or how deep that puddle is.  They can’t immediately see it and understand like we can.  They have to learn.

So I was patient.  We stood at the top, checking it out while I patted and scratched him.  Then I stepped down the bank.  I didn’t expect him to just follow.  I patted him, reassuring him that I was okay after falling off this massive cliff.  He stepped back.  I didn’t let him back away. He tried to turn to go down the side and I straightened him.  Standing and contemplating is fine; saying no is not.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he decided to jump down.  I was patting him and talking to him when he started to fold him little knees to prepare to lower himself. I stepped back to give him room, loosening his lead and talking to him in an encouraging, soothing voice.  He made up his mind, tucked his little legs, and jumped.

I tell you it was the cutest darn thing you have ever seen.  He was so trusting, and so unbothered by the whole thing.  While my heart was swelling with pride he dove for the grass.

We ate grass for a few, then went back up for a second attempt to solidify that this was indeed acceptable.  With very little hesitation, he bounded on down. I may have been slightly emotional.

That was it for the bank.  We won’t visit that again for a while. There is no sense in drilling him over it, no sense in putting stress on his joints.  He has seen it, he was great, and it made our relationship that much stronger.

Indy’s Birthday

How it happened so fast, I don’t know. Before I knew it, a year had a gone by.  May 21st, The Big Day, raced at me like a hungry pony. Suddenly, before my very eyes, Indy turned the big oh-one. 1 year old. When did this happen? How did my spindly giant bundle of legs turn into this giant horse? Who let it happen this fast? I certainly do not remember approving this.

The day was perfect – sunny and bright with a light breeze to keep the bugs at bay.  I had planned a jump cleanup day followed by a BBQ to celebrate Indy.  Friends and well wishers stopped by throughout the day to wish Indy a happy birthday.  To him, it was just another day in the limelight (he gets lots of attention every day).

Starting the day with a little Dunks

Indy hung out with his best bud Cal while the rest of us got ambitious and built a bank jump. I have to say I was pretty proud of it when we finished.  We hadn’t rally planned it; I looked at a pile of wood and a natural slope and said, hey, let’s make a bank.  Worked out quite well!

Our new bank jump, built in honor of Indy

Indy joined us for the BBQ and supervised the cutting of his cake.  He did not think the green frosting he got all over his face was very impressive.  Grass, he says, tastes much better.

Indy’s Cake!

We did an official measuring on his big day and somehow, unbeknownst to me, Indy is already 15 hands.  I can only imagine what next years height will be.

Official measuring time!

Before everyone left, Indy got to christen the new jump, built in his honor.  He was distracted by all the tall grass surrounding it, but then followed me up the bank like a champ – straight to the grass on the top side. No big deal.  I couldn’t have been more proud. Nothing phases this boy! We ended there – I wanted the new footing to settle for a few days before attempting to go down it.

After everyone left Indy enjoyed a thorough grooming (he absolutely loves being groomed).  He and Shady the both got a nice Mash & Mix snack, complete with carrots and apples.  Before I left Indy was already laying down, snoozing away in his stall.  I took that to mean he had a good day 🙂

Indy’s return to the big field

After 6 weeks of stall rest and 30 days in the round pen, Indy went back down to the clinic to get cleared to return to the big field.  His surgeon was quite happy with his movement and how his legs felt.  He got the go ahead to go back out! (see Indy’s OCD SurgeryThe Big Day – Indy Returns To Turnout if you forgot what happened!)

He went out with his best buddy, Cal, and two other older geldings.  All he wanted to do was run!  I, of course was terrified he was going to hurt himself.

The older bay had to be taken out; as you can see in the video he’s not impressed with Indy.  He started chasing him more and more, not leaving him alone.  Indy, quite out of shape, was likely to get hurt, so he was banished from the paddock.  The older chestnut, while grumpy, remained with Indy and Cal, as he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but would instead teach Indy about space and manners.

I’m so happy that Indy has friends.  I think it is really important for a youngster to play, learn boundaries, and enjoy life.

It’s a little crazy though, how big he’s getting!  If you look quick, it’s hard to tell them apart sometimes…



Yes, I’m still alive!

So I apologize greatly to everyone for dropping off the face of the blog.  I’ve been quite busy and life, work, frustrations, and joy have gotten in the way.  I usually don’t get home until late and when I do I eat a quick dinner, shower, and am out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow.  Most of May I was away on work related business, picking up a third horsey job, because well, who doesn’t need three jobs? June flew by and here we are, a good way through summer already.

How I feel every night…

I have, of course, been setting aside time for Shady and Indy.  Both are doing well.  Shady and I have had some ups and downs with soundness issues, while Indy continues to amaze me each day.  He has baby moments, of course, but his intelligence and personality have been thrilling to watch develop.  

I’ve got a lot to catch up on here on the blog.  Plenty of pictures and videos to share too!  I’ll try to keep in order and not jump around too much.  

It’s good to be back 🙂