Sunday, August 23, 2015

August JCHSS Show

As I mentioned in my last post, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to drive 4 hours on Friday (after spending the day packing up camp), drive 12 hours on Saturday, and then as soon as I got home, run to the barn to bathe my horse, and get ready for a show on Sunday. I figured as long as I could make myself do it, I could count on Lilly to do her part and be a good girl (she always does her part).

That's not exactly how the day went, and I learned a lesson... let's not do that again.

The bathing went well, and I had packed everything before I left for Michigan, so I didn't end up spending too much time at the barn. I still went to sleep rather late, though, and 6am came really quickly. I distinctly remember checking Google maps earlier to see how far away the fairgrounds were from my new barn, since I haven't made this drive before, and it said 35 minutes. I swear it said 35 minutes. So I gave myself 45 minutes of driving time when planning out the morning. As it turns out, it took me more like an hour to get up there because Google maps took me a really crazy way down back roads and through the city. We won't be doing that again! Needless to say, I was running behind when we finally got there, and I still had to find a place to park the trailer. The place was packed with people who showed all weekend, so I ended up squeezing between another trailer and a truck, which wasn't supposed to be parked in the trailer area. By the time I ran up to the show office, it was 8:45, and the show started at 9.

I had signed up ahead of time for my usual classes, but decided to scratch halter because it was the third class of the day and I was nowhere near ready. As it turns out, I could have easily made it (they never start on time), but I heard there were 16 horses in the class, so I didn't hurry to add us back.

Snack time.
There was quite a wait between halter and showmanship, so I did all that rushing for nothing, but it gave me some time to relax, get Lilly ready, and do a few prep items that I've been lazy about lately. I became seriously frustrated when I couldn't get the hoof polish open (good thing I didn't have a knife!!), and said "screw it", let's just go. From where I was parked, I couldn't hear the announcer and the showing was all done in the indoor, so I couldn't see either. I decided it was better just to hang out at the arena so we didn't miss showmanship.

Showmanship
So, let's talk about showmanship. Above is the pattern, which I loved when I saw, because it was so different from the other patterns we've done. We practiced our tight turn around the cone, worked on her pivot a bit (she didn't feel like leaving her foot planted at first) and waited patiently. I was extra excited when I heard there were 10 horses in the class... I don't think I've seen more than six in a long time, and there's usually only 3 of us. I hung back a bit because I didn't want to be one of the first to go in. I saw the first team head to the cone, and went back to working with Lilly. I didn't watch her pattern because I wasn't planning on going next, but when I realized no one else was going to the cone (as always) and the just was waiting, I jogged over, set Lilly up at the cone, and waited for my nod. She did great around the cones and I was so proud to set her up for the judge. Lilly wasn't cooperating and it took me a while to set her up, but when I finally got her set, I remembered I was supposed to back before setting her up. CRAP. CRAP. CRAP. I was so disappointed in myself, but I continued to show and completed the pattern as if I hadn't jacked it up. I beat myself up in the lineup, thinking about the lost PAC points because I forgot to back, and how mad I was that I hadn't watched the pattern before me to help remind me, and mad about how I am always one of the first ones to go.

Imagine my surprise when I was called for second place. No one else forgot to back and I was wondering how I ended up in second. Granted, our pattern was great minus that part, but I should have been sent to the end of the line. If I was one of the other exhibitors, I would have been livid knowing I placed below someone who did the pattern incorrectly. Nonetheless, I walked out with a red ribbon and 2 PAC points.

Things didn't get much better from there.

During the showmanship class, I was inspecting the footing and watching Lilly move to see if we could show without boots here. I decided that she would probably be ok, so for our first riding class, English walk/trot stock type, I skipped the boots. Lilly was awful. And by awful, I mean awful for Lilly. She was clearly unhappy about something, but I didn't know what. Was it the footing, was it the indoor arena, was it the noisy kids banging around in the seats when we passed? She was doing everything I asked of her, but she made sure I knew she wasn't happy about it. There was tail wringing, chomping on the bit, and just an unwilling attitude. I wasn't sure what was upsetting her, but I wanted to put on boots to eliminate that as an option.

Even after putting on her boots, she wasn't much better. I did see a slight improvement, but she was still not happy to be in the arena. We didn't place in the stock type class or the adult class.

We managed a 5th in the English pleasure class and a 6th in the equitation class. Since the equitation pattern didn't have any pivots, we didn't do as well, but 6th out of 16 horses isn't bad, I suppose.

English Equitation
During the break between English and western, I made sure Lilly had lots of hay, lots of water, and I checked her over really well. Nothing seemed physically wrong, but I still thought about scratching the rest of my classes and going home. I ended up talking myself out of that, and decided to stay for the 3 western classes.

While we were standing around waiting for the western horsemanship class, Lilly was very fidgety. She kept twitching her withers and I ended up adjusting her saddle two different times thinking I had put something on wrong. That's usually what she does when she's uncomfortable with the saddle, but no matter what I did, she continued to twitch. When we did our pattern, she was SO CRABBY. I got all the maneuvers out of her, but her tail was wringing the whole time and I wondered how much we would be counted down for that. Her pattern was great, but everyone knew she wasn't happy to be doing it. We ended up winning the class, but I was ready to be done with everything so we could just go home.
Western Horsemanship
We did ok in our last two classes and we rolled out of there as soon as possible.

Here's a breakdown of our placings:
Showmanship = 2nd out of 9 (2 PAC Points)
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = No Place
English GAYP Adult = No Place
English Pleasure = 5th out of 11
English Equitation = 6th out of 16
Western Horsemanship = 1st out of 11 (3 PAC Points)
Western Walk/Jog Stock Type = 7th out of 11
Western GAYP Adult = 5th out of 8

I won a comb this time!
All kinds of scenarios were running through my head... was she in heat? (Usually not an issue for us) Was she just tired of the heat? Could she tell I was super tired and lacked the happy attitude I usually have at the shows? Did she just not like the indoor arena with giant fans blowing? (We've shown in there before but it's been a really long time)

I couldn't come up with an answer, but decided I wasn't going to try and do that again. It was just too much, and I thought Lilly probably just had a bad day.

Somehow, we ended up winning Grand Champion in the Adult Division. I didn't stay long enough to get my ribbon, so I'll probably wait for the September show and pick it up then. I do have a picture of what it looks like, though!

Very pretty!
An update to this, though... My trimmer came out on Tuesday and mentioned that Lilly had a little bit of separation on all four hooves. She asked if she'd been sore or tender at all, and I told her about the show. We concluded that perhaps even if the separation hadn't started then (I didn't see any when I picked her hooves), that it's possible the changes were happening in her body and were making her a little uncomfortable. I don't know if that's the case, but it seems likely since Lilly isn't ever pissy just because. She's always very easy going, relaxed, and happy at shows. It feels way too early for the grass to be going through changes, so it never even crossed my mind, but I wish I had scratched her when I first thought about it. :(

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Michigan Adventure!

The first week of August, I made my usual trip up to Michigan to visit my family and go camping up north at beautiful Elk Lake. So this post doesn't end up being a novel, I'll just post mostly pictures and let them do the talking.

First stop... my mom and dad's house to visit AJ, Justus, and enjoy being back home.

Still sucking on that tongue.
Handsome, handsome!
Justus and AJ

After a couple days at home, we all packed up and headed up to Elk Lake. We were met with an awful storm that produced 80 mile per hour winds, hail, broken trees, demolished tents, and no power. Despite the fact that we had to use an outhouse, had no shower, and no electricity, we had a really good time.

Elk Lake is amazingly gorgeous.


Rylee had a really good time too. She was SO good! I had to keep her on a leash the whole time because of park rules, so I was worried about lots of pent up energy, but she was on guard the whole time (she takes her job very seriously) and by the end of the night she was exhausted.

Guarding the camp!
She went boating!
She went canoeing!
And then decided she was done canoeing, and rolled out into the water!
She did really well in the tent!
Such a fun trip... can't wait for next year!

After playing hard all week, driving a good bit Friday, and then driving 12 hours on Saturday to get home... I thought it would be a good idea to take Lilly to a show on Sunday. We've been doing so well with points this year that I didn't want to miss two shows, so I decided to make it work. More on that in my next post, though...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

We Made the List!

I've been waiting forever for my PAC points from the last show to post on APHA's website. I like to keep track and make sure what I have in my records is what they have in their records, but this time I was waiting for another reason as well.

They always post a Leader's List, where they post online the names of anyone with more than 10 PAC points. Since Lilly and I have 13 points in Walk/Trot, I knew we'd be on the list. We've never been there before, since we've never had more than 10 points in one season. I'm very proud of her, and excited to see our names out there.

We win! YAY!
Our next show is on the 9th, and it's up at the state fairgrounds. The show actually goes the whole weekend and counts as two separate shows, so it would have been fun to camp out in my trailer for a weekend show. I haven't done that in forever, but I'll be in Michigan until the 8th visiting my family (and AJ!), and didn't want to cut my time there short. So the plan is to drive 12 hours back to North Carolina on Saturday, run over to the barn to do show prep, and be up and ready for an all day show on Sunday.

Slightly crazy, and maybe a little ambitious, but we're doing so well in the points that I don't want to miss two shows. Missing one is bad enough... so it'll be busy, but fun!

Lilly has been doing pretty well and is waiting for summer to be over, I think. She had a few injuries this month too, but has recovered for the most part. She had a giant mystery scrape on the front of her rear cannon bone and some sole bruising, which I think is from stomping away the flies. Hopefully she'll be ready to go when I get back!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

June JCHSS Show

Lilly and I ventured out for another show at the end of June. Because of terribly awful weather on Saturday, the show was held on Sunday. The turnout is never as good when the show is pushed, but there were still quite a few horses there showing. The weather for Sunday was perfect, and we had another really good show.

I decided to set a goal for myself on Sunday, to give us something to focus on and work for. Lilly and I always place fairly well, but I wanted to place really well, and I wanted to do well enough to win grand champion for either the stock type division or the adult division. I've had reserves in both divisions this year, but I really wanted to win grand. The usual recipient of the grand champion ribbon has a really nice horse, and they nearly always place at the top of the class.

If I was going to have any chance at winning grand, I knew I'd have to sign up for the adult trail class. It's a walk/trot class, and I could ride either english or western, but I'm pretty sure Lilly and I have never done trail before. Usually I look at the pattern and say "eh"... and then I skip it because it's just not really my thing. The pattern looked ok, though, and had quite a few maneuvers that I knew Lilly would handle with ease. My plan was to ride it english, so I could use both hands.

My first class of the day was the stock type halter class. Lilly and I placed 6th out of 6, and my competition won the class. We weren't off to a good start for the stock type division.

I think she looks amazing. :)
Adult showmanship was next, and I was very surprised by the pattern... we had to do a 560 degree pivot. (I'll give you a second to do the math in your head. Ready?) I knew Lilly wouldn't have an issue with it, and I was hoping she'd be the only one. I convinced my friend to go in first, so Lilly and I went in second for a change. She was amazing. We had a great turn around the cone, an awesome pivot, and a very straight back. Something I've noticed with her this year is how quickly she sets up for inspection. In previous years, she'd set up fast, but I'd have to mess with her feet just a tad to get her where I wanted her. At every show so far this year, she squares up as soon as I turn toward her. I love it! It looks very impressive.

Showmanship, complete with 560 degree pivot!
I watched my competition complete her pattern and waited patiently for the placings. Lilly and I won the class, and my competition got second. Put a check in the box for the adult division! It also earned us a PAC point since there was a whopping three of us in the class.

Our english classes went pretty well, or at least it felt like they did. We didn't place in the walk/trot stock type class (again, not doing so well in the stock type division), but I felt like we had a really good ride. We did a little better in the adult GAYP class with a fourth (and my competition doesn't ride english, so we got a little bump there), but again, I felt we had a really good ride. She's a little slow, but she's consistent. I entered us in the english pleasure class as well, which is something we tend to place well in, even if we don't do well in the walk/trot classes. It doesn't count for either of the divisions I was going for, but it's one of the only canter classes at the show and I like to try and get some different PAC points. We placed third in that one, but there were only eight horses, so it wasn't enough to get us a PAC point.

I had some time before my next class, so I headed over to the trail arena to see if they could squeeze me in. There was no one else there, so we were able to walk right in. She didn't give me any trouble on the obstacles, even though I anticipated we may have an issue with the L shaped back. Sometimes she gets rushy and wants to do her own thing, rather than listening to my cues, but she did an excellent job. I think now that she's 15 years old, she's decided that being lazy is the way to go. She really doesn't get upset these days. I wasn't sure if we did the obstacles correctly, but I knew we hit them all, and in the correct order. It felt like a win in my book!

Trail class!
Since we did so well in the equitation class at the last show, I decided to enter it again. This one doesn't count for division points either, but it was the same pattern, so I figured I might as well. I felt like we had a really great pattern last time, but I wanted to improve on it, so I really worked hard on keeping my circles nice and round, and matching. Without video it's hard to know for sure, but I was very proud of Lilly after our pattern. After a little bit of rail work, they announced the placings, and Lilly and I won the class! So proud of my girl! I heard a couple "two shows in a row!" comments from the crowd, so that made me feel good. It earned us two walk/trot PAC points.

English Equitation!
We didn't get our usual break between english and western like we usually do. The english equitation is the last english class, and they had no entries in the first group of classes after the break, so Lilly and I had about 20 minutes to switch from english to western and get out there for the western horsemanship class... we barely made it, but we made it! We just didn't have any time to practice anything western.

Cute!
I usually don't do western horsemanship either, because it doesn't count for division points, (and if I'm being totally honest, because I can't use two hands) but I figured I'd keep with the theme of the day and try some new stuff. Lilly does so well in the english equitation, I thought perhaps we'd rock the western one too! We had a little trouble walking in a straight line, which I found completely ridiculous, but she wanted to turn and head out toward the rail. I had to get after her a smidge with the reins to get her back in line, but that was our only issue. We had a really great pattern. When we went out to do rail work, the judge asked for an extended jog, which Lilly did really well. She's very easy to sit at the trot/jog/extended jog, so she helped me look good there. When they announced the placings, Lilly and I were first again! Two more PAC points in walk/trot!

Western Horsemanship!
We had our usual western walk/jog stock type and GAYP adult classes, and she did very well. We got third in the stock type (the competition won the class) and we got second in the adult class (behind our competition). I don't think we've placed that well in western before, and a couple people said they thought Lilly and I won the adult class. They told me I need to sit back, put a little more slack in my reins, relax, and just ride! I do keep her a little tight because of all the times she's decided to reverse on her own, or trot on her own, but she didn't do any of that this time around. She's becoming quite the little western pony! We got a walk/trot PAC point for each of those classes.

Looking very western-y!
We're really racking up PAC points in walk/trot this year!

After the trail class closed, we went up to the office to see what our placing was. Turns out, we won! My competition was the only other person in the class, but I quickly tallied up the placings for both the adult and the stock type division, and I was pretty sure I had placed well enough in the adult classes to win grand, but I had to wait for the results.

We didn't do well enough in the stock type classes for a grand or a reserve, but we did win grand in the adult division! I was so excited, and so proud of Lilly! Another great show in the books!

I even won a new sweat scraper.
Here's a recap of our placings for the day:
Stock Type at Halter = 6/6
Adult Showmanship = 1st out of 3 PAC Showmanship Points = 1
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = No Place out of 13
English GAYP Adult = 4th out of 6
English Pleasure Open = 3rd out of 8
English Equitation Open = 1st out of 8 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 2
Adult Walk/Trot Trail = 1st out of 2
Western Walk/Jog Horsemanship Open = 1st out of 8 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 2
Western Walk/Trot Stock Type = 3rd out of 10 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 1
Western GAYP Adult = 2nd out of 6 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 1

Another great day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Time To Upgrade

I haven't been into showing much these past couple years. The reasons are numerous, ranging from a little bit of burnout, to frustration, and into some personal issues that just left me without the energy to devote to showing, or really riding in general. Lilly and horses will always be my "happy place", but while I found comfort in her, I didn't have the urge to ride. I just wanted to be with her and not feel pressured to ride or perform or improve or anything else. I still feel like I'm working up to riding regularly again, and I'm not quite there yet.

I dove head first into showing this year because I have really missed it, I miss my horse show friends, and I only have to commit to one day of riding, so it's easy to talk myself into going. It gives me a chance to set goals, have fun, and enjoy Lilly in a social environment outside of our barn. Also, even though it's not "old" per se, Lilly is 15 this year and it makes me a little sad. I've had her since she was three months old and she's now FIFTEEN. Where in the world does the time go? Some would say these are the best years of her life, so I want to enjoy them with her, and not watch them pass us by.

Being fifteen definitely agrees with her. She is just so relaxed, so happy, and finally healthy. We're riding barefoot 90% of the time, she's not having diarrhea, her weight has evened out and she looks amazing... she's doing excellent on her ration balancer, hay, and no fuss lifestyle. Taking things back as close to nature as possible has done her well. Our boarding barn is as close to nature as I can get too, while still being able to enjoy some of the perks of stall boarding. She has a stall, but it's all open. She has a nice pasture with a bunch of friends and they all get along. She's not bound to any specific horse, either. In fact, they're bound to her, but she could care less. And she's with MARES. The whole environment is very relaxing, and we both love it. I can't remember the last time I've been (we've been) truly content with a barn like I am here.

She's just in an excellent place right now, and I'm very thankful for that. I'm not sure I could have handled the drama that sometimes comes with being Lilly's mom, while handling my own issues at the the same time. So I don't know if it's her age, or her location, or if she knew what I needed, but she's been the one source of calm and happy things for me.

Things are starting to even out in my life, and get back to what seems to be the new normal. It's a lot of work making time for Rylee and Lilly, and not being completely exhausted and worthless at work, but I'm getting it figured out. That being said, I'm ready to start taking this horse thing seriously again.


As my desire to show dwindled, so did my collection of horse show necessities. Here are some examples of what's happened to my horse show life:
  • I no longer own tall boots. I wear old, beat paddock boots and half chaps.
  • I no longer own a pair of proper breeches. I wear riding tights.
  • I can't remember the last time I wore my hunt coat.
  • I have a gorgeous showmanship outfit custom made by Sillypony I've never worn. I haven't even had the pants hemmed! Instead I show in jeans and a western button up shirt.
  • Lilly has a super long mane.
  • I have the ugliest western saddle on the planet. No bling, a torn up horn, dry rotted fenders, and it's paired with a very plain headstall to match.
None of those things are a big deal at open shows, but I do feel a little bit like a slacker these days. I'm in the market to do a little upgrading. I don't want to go crazy and buy a bunch of really expensive items, but I would like to dress myself and my horse properly again. A bridle with a little bit of silver, a pair of breeches that I can wear with my hunt coat, and a saddle that I'm not embarrassed to show in. The saddle will be the tricky part because she's so hard to fit, but I'm going to try.

I'd also like to try and be a better blogger. I've been keeping up with all of your blogs, and even though I don't comment much these days, I'm living vicariously through you all!