Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New!

I can't believe today is the last day of 2013.  It feels like the year has flown by.  It was a year where nothing seemed to go quite right, but nothing seemed to go horribly wrong either.  It was a year of mediocre.  I am ready to kick mediocre to the curb and come out AMAZING in 2014.  

I was not the greatest at keeping up with my blog this year, and I am going to work hard to do better with that this year.  

There are a lot of great horses in my barn right now, and my business is growing slowly and steadily.  I am very excited for this new year and hopeful that it will be full of greatness.

Onward and upward in 2014!!

Check out my newest EN article in honor of this new year:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Has Spring Sprung?

Bug and I in a jump lesson with Bonnie.  Photo by Alice VanBokkelen

Things have been moving along at a brisk pace since I last checked in.  It's nice to be busy, but I don't always know what day it is or which direction I'm going.
Bug's dressage test from Hillcrest!

Unfortunately, after Pine Top, Bug had a run in with an abscess which put him out of running the Advanced/Intermediate at Full Gallop.  Disappointing as it was, I am glad to report that he healed quickly and is back in work and ready to rock and roll in the Advanced at Southern Pines this coming weekend.  I took him to Hillcrest Farm this past Saturday to practice his Advanced test in front of a judge.  He felt amazing, and I really tried to put into practice everything Bonnie has been drilling me on.  We scored a 31 point something! (multiple 8's including his gaits and my rider!) This is the best score we have ever gotten in our entire career together...including schooling shows!  Having inspected everyone else's scores as well, I realized this judge wasn't giving away points.  I am still grinning when I think about how great our test felt.  Now, to remember how to do it this weekend!

Things with the other horses have been progressing as well:
Cole show jumping at TTC.  Photo by Alice VanBokkelen

1.  Cole has been making progress slowly but surely.  He did dressage for so long that this new job of jumping has been a bit overwhelming for him at times.  He's quite a good jumper if we can get his mind on the job.  I have decided to hold off from competing him for a few months, as I want him to really understand his job.  He seems to love the cross country, but I think the show jumping intimidates him a bit.  No worries, though, he's coming along great, and he sure can bring a smile to my face when he's on!
Hotty in a jump lesson with Bonnie.  Photo by Alice VanBokkelen

2.  Hotty, my fiesty redhead, has been making progress very quickly.  She is opinionated about life, for sure, but she is so athletic and smart.  Her dressage is coming along, and she's really learning to accept the contact.  We have work to do on getting her to push more, but she gets better every time I sit on her.  Again, I don't plan to do much competing with her until summer, as I want her to understand the game.  She did, however, get to make her eventing debut this past weekend at the Hillcrest Farm Horse Trials.  She did the 18" Green Bean division.  I am so thrilled with how well she behaved!  She got a 38 in her dressage (including two 7's in the test and a 7 on her gaits and my rider) and went on to jump double clear in both jump phases, even if they were a bit looky. :)  She finished in 3rd in a pretty decent sized division!  I am so proud of my sassy ginger girl.
Honey schooling at home.  Photo by Alice VanBokkelen

3.  Mardi Gras Gold, or Honey, has been fantastic.  This mare is so fancy and willing.  She is definitely going places.  I hope someone snatches her up soon before I am completely enamored.  She is gets better and better every time she goes out.  Her movement is so lovey and uphill.  She accepts the connection quite well in all three gaits, and she is starting to have correct bend most of the time.  She has started jumping little crossrail courses, and she seems to really enjoy it, though I think she's still figuring out her feet a bit.
Sonny getting ready for a hack.

4.  Sonny Crockett is a super sweet young gelding that has been a joy since he stepped on the farm.  He is just coming 5, and he has only been off the track for about 3 months.  He will hack alone or with friends all over the farm.  He is SOOOO FANCY.  Lucky for him, he will be going to Pennsylvania for a trial with my best friend.  I think they will make a great match, and I hope to see them out and about together in the future!
VooDoo Vicky.  So beautiful!

5.  Voo Doo Vicky is the coolest little baby TB.  She never raced, though she did train some at the track.  She did just enough to be well started, but not so much that she has any racehorse bad habits.  This girl has a "go get em" attitude that I just adore.  She is for sale, but I am not in any hurry for her to leave!  She turns 3 on April 1st, so we haven't been doing much with her besides hacking out a few times a week.  She is still growing, as she has changed butt to wither ratio at least 3 times since she arrived.
Cutie Renn

6.  Renn is being retired from eventing with me for the time being.  Due to his injury as a youngster, he is constantly battling an unevenness in his hips that just makes him uncomfortable.  He has always been sound, but as the questions get harder, he just doesn't seem as happy.  He is going to make a lot of babies, be an extra horse for me to ride at home, and be used in some lessons.  He is perfectly happy with his new life.  He makes such phenomenal babies, I know they will be in the upper levels of eventing soon.

As far as my students go, I am really quite pleased with how everyone is doing.  Life has been so much nicer since Alice Van Bokkelen arrived to be my working student.  She keeps things running when I'm off competing, teaching, and training.  She and her new horse, Classic Skyline, are quite a good match and are figuring each other out.  They will be going to FENCE in April to compete in the BN division.

Also, Amelia Lowe and her horse, Mingo, just won the Maiden division at Hillcrest, so I am quite thrilled with their progress.  Sometimes taking on a new ride can be frustrating, but when you stick with it and have patience, it can pay off!

In more exciting news, we now have 6 stalls in the barn.  My amazing husband finished building the stalls a few weeks ago, and it's so nice to have two more horses inside. :)  Next project is a double stall wash stall on the front of the barn.

I guess that's all for now.  Chin up and kick on!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bigger and Better Things!

Bug showing off at Pine Top.  Advanced isn't big enough. :)

Life has been a whirlwind since I last posted.  My clinic in PA at Lemaliza Farm went really well.  I go up there monthly to pick up my feed and teach.  I have a lot of regulars, and I love seeing them improve from month to month.  I have been going up there for about a year now, and the changes in everyone is amazing.  I'm so pleased with all of my Northerners. :)
I came home that Sunday night after teaching, and with the help of my amazing working student, Alice, and my amazing husband, we unloaded over 2 tons of feed in the dark.  Alice had been working on packing everything for my big trip South, so there wasn't much left to do.
Monday morning at 5 am, Bug and I pulled out on our way to Ocala, FL.  It was my first time driving to Florida, and it was Bug's first time in the Sunshine State.  I was pretty stoked for the ICP Symposium, and I was hoping to get there before the great Yogi Breisner had finished for the day.  Lucky for me, I arrived just in time to get Bug settled in and to watch the last session with Yogi.  There is a reason that man is one of the best coaches in the world!  Wow.
The next morning, I spent hours watching the great Linda Zang in the dressage portion of the Symposium.  Again, there is a reason she is one of the best.  I absorbed a lot, and I was anxious to put it into practice.  Dressage is my weakest phase, but I am DETERMINED to get it right.
That afternoon was the big ride with David O'Connor.  Bonnie was down for the Symposium, so I was happy she would be there to watch and absorb what went on with me.  David was great.  He immediately changed the way I was galloping, my body in the air, and my approach to fly fences, and it made a HUGE difference.  I need to work on my discipline about where I'm taking off and landing and now allowing for a drift.  I was quite pleased with how much I was attacking each combination and finding the distances with my leg rather than my hand.  David did compliment me on my technique, which made me very happy.  Everything he told me was absorbed, and I did get to put a lot of it into use at Pine Top.  Here is my EN write up of the whole thing: http://eventingnation.com/home/icp-symposium-riding-cross-country-with-david-oconnor.html
The following morning, I got up bright and early for a 7:30 am private dressage lesson with the great Linda Zang.  Our dressage is our weakest phase, but it's not for Bug's lack of fancy.  I tend to let him get on the forehand and rushing, instead of pushing him uphill and showing off his gaits.  Linda was super nice and very efficient.  We mostly worked on the canter, as he warms up best in that gait, and I really needed to understand how to get his flying changes cleaner.  She adjusted my position a lot and really had me riding him  more forward and up in front of me.  He felt amazing!  I wish we had more time, but alas, we were off to the next thing.  After Florida, Bug and I traveled back up to Aiken to Jodi Hemry Eventing, where we would stay throughout the course of Pine Top.
Bonnie came down to coach me for Pine Top, and I am so glad that she did.  She has been such an amazing help to me.  Not only is she teaching me how to ride, but she's teaching me to analyze things and really understand the game.
Of course, it decided to rain buckets for Pine Top, but in true eventer form, we were all out there competing anyway.  Our dressage test was so much better!  There are still a lot of things to work on, but I was really happy with our progress.  We got a 44 in our test two weeks before and a 38.8 at Pine Top.  He was much more uphill and forward.  I just needed more angle in my lateral work at times, and I really need to figure out the trotwork.  He even got two 8's!
Cross country was a good course with a lot of big galloping fences and some very good technical questions. I was prepared to use my new galloping position, and I set off.  Bug felt AMAZING.  The new position had him jumping even better (as if that even seemed possible!) than before.  I only had one table where I felt that I allowed him to drift at all in the air. (which is my bad habit)  My biggest problem was not really being forward enough at some of the combinations.  I loose time when I don't attack.  I had some amazing rides through some things, and some rides that I would like to do over.  Bug does whatever I tell him to do, so it's my job to tell him!  I was still pleased with our first Adv XC of the year, but I know what I need to do to fix things.  We came in clean with about 40+/- seconds in time.
The footing for SJ on the second day was a bit slippery, but Bug seemed to handle it fine.  The course was really eating people up if you didn't stay going forward, so I was ready to attack where I hadn't the day before.  Bug and I put in probably our best round to date.  I felt like I really attacked everything and hit all of my distances really well.  We did have an unlucky rail at the third fence, which is really out of character for him.  I asked Bonnie if I should have done something differently, and she said no.  He just wasn't quite impressed enough and BARELY touched the pole.  With the flat cups, it just didn't stay.  However, she told me that she was super happy with how I rode SJ, and I needed to remember that on my next XC.  Of course, after he touched that rail, he was jumping extra big after that.  haha  Typical Bug.
We ended up finishing in 9th place, which is pretty darn respectable, I think.  (would have been 6th without that silly rail!)
I am going to keep working hard and doing what I need to do to keep improving.  I'm on a diet and exercise program to get myself in fighting condition again.  My plan is Fit and Feisty for 2013! :)
Bug got a nice few days off when we got home.  It was a long, stressful week for us both.  He had a nice 50 min trot today, and he's feeling happy and healthy.
Our next stop will be the Advanced/Intermediate at Full Gallop  next weekend.  I'm looking to improve on the dressage and really attack in the SJ and XC.  Southern Pines II is just around the corner!  Cole will also be going along to Full Gallop to run the Beginner Novice again. We have a schooling show this weekend, so that should be fun too!

Also, I have just started taking orders for the 2013 Spring Fundraiser for Bug's show season.  Our ultimate goal is the CCI*** at Jersey Fresh.  It's expensive trying to fund my own upper level horse, so since the shirts were such a hit last year, we are doing shirts and bumper stickers this year!  You can order on my website! http://www.rockystartstables.com/fundraiser.html

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bringing it home!

February 6th was a one day horse trial at Full Gallop Farm.  Trying to make things work for a midweek event can be a bit difficult, but it fit into my schedule best.  I went down to Aiken with Bug to run the Advanced/Intermediate and Cole to run his very first BN.  Also, my working student, Alice VanBokkelen, tagged along to do BN with her new horse, Classic Skyline.

The weather was quite lovely, so I was pretty excited to get going.  Bug was pretty frisky in his early morning dressage test.  I can get him so lovely at home, but I haven't quite mastered the correct warmup and then test riding skills that I need.  We are getting there slowly, but I would prefer if my brain would kick into gear in the dressage!

The show jumping for Bug was quite big and a very windy course with a lot of verticals on a downhill approach.  Of course, Bug rocked around it with ease.  We still have some work to do with staying together, but in all, I was happy with it.   It was our first Advanced height SJ course that we didn't have any time penalties.

The XC was a pretty decent Intermediate for this time in the season, but after walking it, I was sure Bug was ready to tackle it.  He was clear with some time, but he was being extra careful, and I wasn't always riding to quite the right balance, so we had time in front of the fences.  I wasn't thrilled with how I rode, but I was happy with Bug for answering all of the questions well.

We ended up winning our division and bringing home a lovely blue ribbon!  I am thrilled with that, but I am working hard to improve, improve, improve.

Cole was quite good for his dressage, though a bit tense.  He was a very good boy about going into the arena.  As he was a dressage horse, I was hoping that he would behave himself, and he did.  The jumping phases proved to be a bit of an exciting time with him, though.  He was pretty riled up in the warmup, and I ended up getting bucked off, much to my surprise.  haha  It wasn't really a bad buck, but I wasn't expecting it.  I got to fly through the air in front of everyone.  I got up, wiped the sand off, took my now inflated air vest off and tried again with a smile.

He actually went on to jump great in the warmup, but he was very looky in the ring.  I am surprised that he didn't have any rails, as he was backing up to things and jumping from nothing.  Luckily,  he has a lot of jumping ability.  He went on to jump around cross country with a lot of peeks and looks, but he really grew up as he went around.  I am quite pleased with him.  He will run another BN in March.

I have also been teaching a lot of clinics lately, which has been GREAT FUN.  I really enjoy helping people and seeing the results.  I taught a clinic in Franklin, VA hosted by Dark Horse Eventing owned by Kate Mason, and I also taught a clinic in Preston, MD hosted by Close Up Show Stables owned by Julia Jesu.  I think both clinics were a success, and I am excited to be teaching more.

This weekend I am off to PA to teach another clinic.  I will be coming home Sunday and turning around to leave bright and early for Ocala and the ICP Symposium.  The end of next week brings Bug's first Advanced of the season at Pine Top, and I am really excited!

Until later.....kick on!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kicking off 2013 right!

On Saturday, Bugger and I set off to Aiken for the Full Gallop Horse Trials to run as a one day on Sunday.  I was stoked to get the season started and to practice what we have been working on all winter.  We were to compete in the Open Intermediate.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning in Aiken was a bit chilly.  Our dressage time was 7:51 and the grass was still covered with frost.  Bug was feeling a bit frisky due to the cold, but he warmed up pretty well.  Unfortunately, the dressage arenas are right next to a barn which happened to be housing a panicky screaming horse.  There was also a woman taking her horse for handwalk directly behind the judge's car.  All of these things combined with the cold and it being the first show of the season......Bug was a bit distracted.  We had some really nice moments, but we had some that were just not up to par.  I was pretty disappointed, as we have been working so hard and making so many improvements.  We ended up on a 40.

The show jumping course was a good test for the beginning of the season.  However, Bug felt great.  There were a few moments that I would like to have ridden a bit better, keeping him softer and rounder to the fences, but all in all, it was a pretty great round.  We were double clear and moved on to XC ready to tackle the course.

My goal for XC was to ride on a loopy rein and to use my body and legs to change his stride as needed rather than taking a pull.  Bug really doesn't need me to pull, he just needs me to change his balance.  I am determined to figure it all out so that we can start making time by jumping out of stride rather than up in the air.  Our round felt brilliant!  I didn't push him for speed, just a bigger stride.  The ground was quite hard, and I didn't want him to have to go too fast.  We finished clear and 20 seconds over time.  I was quite thrilled with my boy.

We ended up 2nd in the division and brought home a pretty red ribbon. :)  Great way to start off the season!! (Thanks to my student, Amelia Lowe, for the awesome action shots!)

A big thanks to my working student, Alice VanBokkelen, for holding down the fort while I was gone.  It's so nice to leave things in good hands when I have to go away.

This Saturday, Hotty and Cole are making their combined test debuts as TTC, and Bug will be going to do the Advanced Test A twice.  Gotta get those fancy pants in order!

Kick on!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Welcome 2013!!

I can't believe how badly I have done keeping my blog updated.  Life seemed to get away from me the past few months.  However, 2013 is a new year, and I have high hopes for it!  I'm back and ready to keep people updated on what's going on here at Rocky Start.

Bug has been amazing.  I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason, and I am thinking that missing Fairhill in the fall was a good thing.  It allowed me to get him started in work earlier than normal, and I feel like he is fitter than he has ever been to start out the spring.  He looks and feels amazing.  This Sunday is our first recognized event of the year, and I am really stoked.  He will be running the Open Intermediate at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken.  Wish us luck!!

Last fall, I was starting to get the feeling that Renn was just not quite right.  For those that don't know Renn's story, his mother stepped on him when he was a baby, and he had to have his hind fetlock completely reconstructed.  VA Tech gave him a 20% chance of being sound.  The reconstruction made the fetlock bigger, and thus, it has changed the angles in his stifle and hip.  Up until he moved up to Prelim, he was doing pretty well.  He had to have regular chiro visits, but we could maintain his happiness.  However, after making the move up, I feel like he is just not happy.  He is sound, and you can't feel anything under tack, but he has become unhappy in real work.  I don't feel that he owes me anything, so I decided to give him a long vacation.  He will hack out some this spring, but his main job is to stand in the field looking gorgeous and to make babies.  Renn's babies are gorgeous and seem to get all of his wonderful qualities.  For that reason, he will stay here, even if he never returns to real work.  I do think that he may enjoy foxhunting, so that may be on his list of activities for next fall/winter.

I have acquired quite a few new horses, and two, in particular, have made the step up to being on my show string:

Forever West, aka Cole, is a 10 year old Hanoverian gelding by West Coast.  He is a big boy, so he's a very different ride from anything I've had before.  He was a dressage horse up until recently, and he is now learning the ropes of eventing.  He's a fancy boy with a very cute jump, so I'm excited about getting him out and about.  He will do his first combined test at TTC on Feb 2nd doing BN, and then he will head to Aiken with Bug on Feb 6th to run his first recognized HT at Full Gallop.

PrettyHippHopHotty, aka Hotty, is a 6 year old OTTB mare.  She is a chestnut wonder with a lot of talent.  She's a big girl with a lot of talent, and she is coming along quite nicely.  I really love her work ethic and willingness to tackle new things.  She will also make her debut at TTC on the 2nd.  She is in the Walk/Trot, 2' division. :)

Sonny Crockett, aka Sonny, is a 5 year old OTTB gelding.  I just acquired Sonny this past weekend, so I don't know much about him yet.  I do know that he is a FANCY PANTS and super cute.  I am really excited about getting this one going after his downtime from the track.

Voo Doo Vicky, aka Vicky, is a not quite 3 year old unraced filly.  I just acquired Vicky this past weekend as well, so I don't know much about her.  Again, she is super sweet and very fancy.  I am going to take my time with her, as her 3 yo birthday isn't really until April.

Beyond the new horses of my own, I also have two horses on consignment right now.

Clare de Lune, aka Lilly, is an 11 yo 15.2 grey (with bloody shoulder) TB mare.  She is a very fancy mover and scopey jumper.  I believe that she is best suited to the jumper ring, and she will be going to Aiken for a few weeks for the jumper people to try.

Mardi Gras Gold, aka Honey, is a 7 yo 16.1 bay OTTB mare.  Honey came to me quite green, but she is coming along quickly. She accepts a contact and goes around in walk and trot like a champ.  She is a very cute mover, and I think she will excel at any lower level discipline.  Once the footing is decent, she will start over fences.

I guess that is most of the updates for now.  I will work very hard to keep everyone abreast this year!

Kick on, 2013!