Preparing for the dark side

In the spirit of checking something off my summer bucket list, I pulled the trigger on entering Moe in a hunter/jumper show next month.  It’s a two day schooling show, and we’re entered in two “schooling jumper” (.90-.95 meter) classes each day.

We have lots of experience with the show jumping phase of eventing!
We have lots of experience with the show jumping phase of eventing!

I haven’t competed in a jumper class since college, and that was at a fun show benefiting the equestrian team. I’m eager to go to this show- Moe is a good, reliable jumper, and I think we’ll have fun. It’ll certainly be a nice change of pace from dressage shows.

But I need your help, internet! I’m certain jumper shows are different from show jumping in eventing, and vastly different than from when I dabbled in them in high school. What should I expect? The classes I’ve entered are listed at the end of the class list for each day, so I assume my classes will be at the last ones held. The show starts at 7:30 AM each day, so should I expect to ride at midnight? (Just kidding- kind of.)

I'll wear my best jumping face for sure.
I’ll wear my best jumping face for sure LOLZ

What should I wear? The prize list specifically states that show coats are prohibited due to the heat, and “we would like to encourage all of our exhibitors to wear their brightest polos for some added fun.” How fun do y’all think I ought to go? Neon or navy?

Moe's got this. I think.
Moe’s got this. I think.

What should Moe wear? A color coordinated saddle pad? A white one? Should he wear open front boots or wear his cross-country set?

And what’s the deal with open schooling? It’s apparently available on Friday from noon to 3:30 PM (hello, heat stroke). What do you do at open schooling? Should I even bother?

Finally, how do I win this thing? Are jump offs involved? Who wants to come to Oklahoma and hold my hand through this thing?

Breeding update

Before I left for Santa Fe last week, I took Gina to the vet for her 30 day pregnancy check. As usual, Gina was perfectly good for her ultrasound and was deemed still pregnant!

Baby horse!
Baby horse!

Gina won’t go back for another ultrasound until the three month mark, which is in September. In the meantime, my vet has assured me that Gina is totally fine to continue her normal routine. I specifically asked about taking Gina foxhunting early in the season; she’s such a good mount that I’d love to take her if I can. My vet told me I could certainly take her hunting through the end of the year. I’m so excited!

I’ll keep a careful eye on her as the end of the year approaches. While the local hunt doesn’t move at a terrifically fast pace, the usual fixture has hilly terrain and ditches and water crossings- if Gina seems like she’s struggling with it, I’ll stop hunting her rather than risk her health or happiness.

There are a couple more dressage schooling shows this year that I may attend. I have all the scores I need to qualify for year end awards, but they aren’t great scores. I don’t know if I can manage something better, though Gina has been much more pleasant to ride since she was bred.

 

A visit to HIPICO Santa Fe

I typically don’t get to go the “fun” show locations with work, like Dressage At Devon or the USDF Finals. However, I was sent to the desert last weekend for the inaugural Dressage at Santa Fe show, held at HIPICO Santa Fe.

HIPICO has an interesting history. The 137-acre facility began life as a polo ground, then eventually became the Santa Fe Equestrian Center. It hosted a variety of events- polo matches, hunter shows, and the prestigious Grand Prix de Santa Fe. The venue was put up for sale when funding dwindled and was purchased by the founders of the Grand Prix de Santa Fe and owners of Rancho Corazon, the nation’s leading Holsteiner breeding farm.

HIPICO1
One of HIPICO’s jumper rings.

The venue is absolutely stunning. It’s nestled in a large valley just outside the city; the sparse desert landscape is a striking contrast against the lush green derby and grand prix fields in the facility. Mountains can be seen in the distance, making for beautiful competition photos. There are bridle paths for hacking, several rings for schooling, and lots of stabling. The VIP lounge is a large breezy tent with comfortable seating and unparalleled views of the grand prix field and hunter ring. There’s even a very large art exhibition tent on site, filled with gorgeous paintings and bronze sculptures available for purchase.

The very large hunter ring where the dressage show was held.
The very large hunter ring where the dressage show was held.

HIPICO is a work in progress, which was evident while I was there. From Friday to Monday, I saw crews installing and maintaining landscaping, setting statues at the main gate, and constructing temporary stabling. The industrious activity never ended. As riders were performing their tests, a man was fixing railroad ties along a driveway border. Someone in a Bobcat was pushing gravel screenings to another location. A crew appeared to be constructing some Hickstead Derby Bank-like feature in a field.

The grand prix ring being watered.
The grand prix ring being watered.

The venue staff were unfailingly nice, which was an added bonus. Some venues see vendors as an nuisance, and treat them accordingly. Every single person at HIPICO was friendly, helpful, and seemed genuinely glad to have us there.

But more bizarre than the staff’s incredibly nice demeanor was the staff’s demographics: almost everyone working at the place appeared to be a millennial hipster. This wasn’t a bad thing at all, but after a lifetime of seeing redneck and Latino men working at show grounds, it was extraordinary to see tattooed, pierced, skinny-jeans wearing young men and women dragging the rings, moving the jumps, and radioing each other about the status of the generators providing electricity to the vendor area.

Water tower at the entrance.
Water tower at the entrance. (From HIPICO site)

HIPICO is just beautiful, and it’s a place I’d be happy to spend two months. The weather in Santa Fe was perfect- under 100 degrees every day, cool and breezy in the mornings, and completely tolerable in the shade. I’m apparently not the only one who’d gladly escape my state’s humidity and heat for the high desert; the venue manager told me they’re expecting 1200 horses every week at the hunter/jumper series that started this month. Twelve hundred! That’s incredible.

Even though it’s still under some construction, it’s easy to see that it will be an amazing facility once complete. It’s thoughtfully designed and completely unique. If you have the chance to go, I’d certainly recommend it!

The Roscoe Saga III

This week, I’m pleased to hand the blog reins over to my friend and fellow rider Holly. Like many equestrians, Holly was a horse-obsessed youngster who delayed her dreams until she was an adult. She’s graciously shared the story of how her life intersected with that of a curmudgeonly ex-police horse named Roscoe. You can find Holly’s own website with links to her scholarly work (plus photos of her Irish setters!) at www.hollykruse.com.  


As it turned out, the process of the therapeutic riding center becoming independent of the university at which I work and becoming its own 501(c)3 non-profit created an opportunity for me to buy Roscoe. He became the first of the former Tulsa horses to be sold into private hands.

So, now I had my own horse. Roscoe! He was mine, and I was his. He moved to my friend Richal’s place in fall of 2014, where he has his own stall, he gets turned out on grass every day, and he gets full-care board. In the winter, someone puts his blanket on and takes it off. In the summer, someone sprays him with fly spray every day… and that someone isn’t me! I can ride him whenever I want. He actually has a buddy at the barn with whom he is turned out, an adorable bay half-Hanoverian/half-Quarter-Horse named Semper Fi. They are quite fond of each other.

Hooray that Roscoe has his own stall! Unfortunately, it turns out that he makes his stall really disgusting. Luckily, I’m not one of the people who has to clean out his stall. I WAS the person who had to buy the mats for his stall so that it would be a little less disgusting.
Hooray that Roscoe has his own stall! Unfortunately, it turns out that he makes his stall really disgusting. Luckily, I’m not one of the people who has to clean out his stall. I WAS the person who had to buy the mats for his stall so that it would be a little less disgusting.

With Roscoe at the barn, I was able to have all of my lessons on him. He still, however, had the same problems, and I wasn’t very good at fixing them. I missed being able to ride experienced lesson horses Sundance and Heza. But slowly, Roscoe and I became a better team, and I became more confident riding him: this, despite the fact that Roscoe has bucked me off twice in the past year. These days I am able to remember what to do when Roscoe tries to scrape me off on the rail, and we can canter without Roscoe veering into the middle of the arena.

I’m not sure when I decided that I might actually want to compete in a schooling show on Roscoe. It’s a fairly recent development. I’d competed and continue to compete with my Irish setters in almost every available venue – conformation, agility, obedience, rally, hunt tests – and I wasn’t interested doing horse shows. I think the change happened this year at an early spring schooling show when I saw a Prix Caprilli test, and I learned that there is a walk-trot test. Roscoe is easily bored, and he enjoys trotting over poles and low jumps. Maybe he would like Prix Caprilli? It seemed much better than just walking and trotting in circles and across diagonals. Two other developments might have contributed to my change of heart. First, although Roscoe doesn’t like wearing a bit, I’d been persuaded to buy him a dressage bridle. I found that he would tolerate a hollow mouth, French-link bit pretty well, and I discovered a blingy browband that Roscoe just had to have. For shows, I guess.

Roscoe4

The second development was getting the results of Roscoe’s DNA breed ancestry test, performed at the Animal Genetics Laboratory at Texas A & M University. I sent in $35 and more than the minimum 50 mane (or tail) hairs that the DNA test requires. The results showed that Roscoe was indeed not the Quarter Horse that his police paperwork had claimed that he was. No, his big head, big feet, big bone, and big ears finally all make sense, because he is in fact a Warmblood. Well, with some Mountain Pleasure Horse thrown in, which I assume accounts for his smaller stature and his flaxen mane and tail.

DNAresults

Now that I knew that I owned (or was owned by) a Warmblood, I had to enter a dressage show. It’s the law, right?

I’d never ridden in a horse show, and Roscoe had never been in a horse show, so I wasn’t foolish enough to ride him in his first schooling show. I made Stephanie do it. You may recall that she wrote about the experience here. They did well! After watching them, I decided that I could probably ride Roscoe in a schooling show and not totally humiliate both of us. So I entered us in a show in late May.

I spent some of the day of our first (and so far only) show walking Roscoe around the arena and around the barn, and standing near the gate, so that he’d be familiar with the surroundings and maybe not be the whinnying baby that he was at his first show. Success. He behaved quite well, including during our ride – even though as with Stephanie, he had the first jump down – and we scored a 65!

I like to think that this blurriness reflects us flying through the air at high speed rather than the mediocre quality of the phone camera used by the friend who took the photo
I like to think that this blurriness reflects us flying through the air at high speed rather than the mediocre quality of the phone camera used by the friend who took the photo.

I was hooked. Someone put the idea into my head that Roscoe and I should try to qualify for the Schooling Show Championships in the fall. We already have one of the two Prix Caprilli scores that we need, and hey, we could probably qualify in Intro B too. Plus, I seem to have acquired the entire wardrobe required to show in a real dressage show. I do not know how that happened. It’s kind of a blur.

After a late June lesson focusing on jumping low jumps (and plowing into a few of them – my fault), Roscoe is a little off in his right front leg when he trots, so he is getting a break from being ridden. He is not complaining.

Roscoe on rehab.
Roscoe on rehab.

I of course hope that Roscoe’s hiatus from being ridden is brief, because even if we never enter another show, this summer I’ve learned that Roscoe likes trail rides. I was brave enough to trust him to behave, and he was stellar on the trail ride that we went on in June. But whatever happens, I am thrilled to have this overly intelligent, very handsome guy and his loads of personality in my life. A guy who loves face rubs and attention from his public, who is bankrupting me, and who admittedly often tries to knock me over to see if cookies fall out. Everyone needs someone like that.

Roscoe7

The Roscoe Saga II

This week, I’m pleased to hand the blog reins over to my friend and fellow rider Holly. Like many equestrians, Holly was a horse-obsessed youngster who delayed her dreams until she was an adult. She’s graciously shared the story of how her life intersected with that of a curmudgeonly ex-police horse named Roscoe. You can find Holly’s own website with links to her scholarly work (plus photos of her Irish setters!) at www.hollykruse.com.  


It was a while before Roscoe could truly be my horse. A local foundation controlled all of the former Tulsa police horses. It was clear that Roscoe was not working out as a therapy horse, and the likely outcome was that he would be sent to another facility, one for troubled, non-disabled teenagers. In exchange, the therapeutic riding program would get an ex-police horse who was currently at the other facility.

This development made me panic for a few reasons. The home for troubled teens was 80 miles away. How often could I visit Roscoe? Would they even let me visit Roscoe? Also, if Roscoe was stopping and refusing to walk while being led, how well was he going to respond to independent riders kicking and whipping him in frustration and trying to make him move? Not well. Finally – and this is a delicate point – the home for troubled teens was very Christian. Very, very Christian. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, except that Roscoe is a heathen. A heathen who, I could tell from the other facility’s website, would have to witness for Jesus. That wouldn’t end well for anyone.

As Roscoe’s departure became imminent, and as I grew sadder, the director of the therapeutic riding facility approached me with a proposition: I could take over Roscoe’s bills (paying for food and board, and for vet bills and supplies), and, for all intents and purposes, he would be “my horse.” I could ride him at the facility when there were no classes, and he wouldn’t be sent away. I didn’t have much, if any, extra money, but I had some savings, so I went for it. I bought a saddle (an essentially brand new Wintec Pro for half price), a couple of saddle pads, a girth, and grooming supplies. I’d bought him a halter several months earlier, and his old police bridle came with him.

A digression: a few months after I began volunteering at the therapeutic riding facility, I started taking riding lessons. Dressage lessons. Finally, in mid-life, I was fulfilling my horseback riding dreams. My first lesson horse was an older OTTB, Heza, on whom I learned to post and identify diagonals. My second lesson horse was much younger but much lazier; Sundance, a half-Thoroughbred/half-Belgian who was almost 17 hands tall.

Handsome Sundance, being smooched by not-me. Photo credit: Richal Flannery.
Handsome Sundance, being smooched by not-me. Photo credit: Richal Flannery.

Once, for a Halloween fun show at the old barn, one of Sundance’s child riders dressed as a Viking and dressed Sundance as a Viking ship. As someone who had recently visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, I can attest to the authenticity of Sundance’s costume. He was, and is, not unlike a Viking ship.

Sundance may not appear entirely seaworthy, or ready to embark on pillaging adventures. There would be too much effort involved. Photo credit: Richal Flannery.
Sundance may not appear entirely seaworthy, or ready to embark on pillaging adventures. There would be too much effort involved. Photo credit: Richal Flannery.
Me on a replica Viking ship in Denmark while at the museum. Maybe it doesn’t look so much like me riding Sundance. Except in its extreme dorkiness.
Me on a replica Viking ship in Denmark while at the museum. Maybe it doesn’t look so much like me riding Sundance. Except in its extreme dorkiness.

It was on Sundance that I started to learn about cantering, and that’s when I also learned that young children at the barn find it highly entertaining when old people yell out obscenities on horseback when the old people  think that they’re going to die. This is a problem with starting semi-serious horseback riding at an advanced age. When I was a kid, sneaking around and riding horses, I didn’t think about my safety at all. Now, I’m pretty sure that I’m a good candidate for a traumatic brain injury and a broken hip.

Occasionally, my riding instructor and friend, Richal, would come to the therapeutic riding facility, and I’d have a lesson on Roscoe. Riding Roscoe was a challenge for very-novice me. For instance, he thought standing still in the middle of the arena was a good idea, and I didn’t have the confidence to make him move. Once I got past that stage and was able to make Roscoe move, and even move at a trot, I learned that Roscoe had a habit of veering sharply sideways across the arena toward the gate through which he entered and exited the arena. In addition, he discovered that I would make him stop if he ran my outside leg into the rail. What did I know about making him not do that but instead keep trotting? Pretty much nothing. Worse, there were small plastic baskets used in games that were duct-taped to the rail in four places around the arena, and during some rides Roscoe and I came close to knocking all of them down. With my leg. (Apologies to Stephanie. I always tried to put the baskets back, but I wasn’t always sure where the roll of duct tape was.)

Still, as a team we made slow progress. Roscoe hated the bit, and we made an important equipment change by replacing it with a hackamore. Before that, I often just rode him with reins clipped to his halter. I tended to ride him one day a week on the weekend, or on Friday afternoon when there were no classes at the facility. He was conveniently located between the university where I teach and my home in Tulsa. I tried to visit him as much as I could. Most visits were fairly short, and I would groom him, feed him treats, and hand-walk him to let him graze. Whether he was turned out on grass or in a smaller dirt pen depended on the facility’s needs, and he always had a loafing shed. Roscoe had neighbors, but he was too territorial to be in the same pen with other horses, and that was a problem for the staff, space-management-wise. There were several weeks a couple of summers ago, however, when he shared his turn-out with a cow… a cow who mounted him and just generally didn’t know how to be a cow. It was a confusing time for all of us.

“Baby Cow,” Roscoe, and Brutus. Roscoe may have been responsible for kicking Brutus blinding him in one eye when they cohabited, but I choose to believe that Roscoe was not responsible for Brutus’ eye accident. Yes, there are cookies in that bag.
“Baby Cow,” Roscoe, and Brutus. Roscoe may have been responsible for kicking Brutus blinding him in one eye when they cohabited, but I choose to believe that Roscoe was not responsible for Brutus’ eye accident. Yes, there are cookies in that bag.

In the summer I would try to make the half-hour drive from home as much as possible so that I could fly-spray Roscoe. In the winter I would try to be there to blanket him if the weather was very cold, and to take the blanket off so he wouldn’t get too hot once it got warmer. I couldn’t always get there.

When Richal got her own farm in 2014, I dreamed of moving Roscoe to it. But I couldn’t, because he didn’t belong to me. The situation at the facility where Roscoe lived was changing, and I was much more limited in where and when I could ride him. What could I do?