Snow hit early here and just hasn’t let up. While I knew we were moving to a place where it snows a lot, I wasn’t expecting to move just in time for the 5th most snowy November in Vermont history. Without an indoor arena, the snow basically put a halt to us doing anything other than shoveling money into the horses on one end and shoveling manure on the other.
The horses seem to have adjusted to their new lives. Eugene loves the snow. He’s always grown a huge winter coat so it’s liking he’s been prepping for this move his whole life. If the weather’s bad and we have to bring them in overnight, he just stands at his window and stares out of it. We’d leave him out, but Levi and Shasta would lose their damned minds if they were separated and they like coming in. Neither of them ever grew a great winter coat and they’re not as happy living out, even with blankets.
Nilla has always grown the most ridiculous winter coat. She’s probably even overly prepared for Vermont, but she hates the snow. She spends all of her time in her run-in shed even if I put a sheet or blanket on her.
Sadly, Levi has been developing snow balls in his shoes despite snow pads so I didn’t want to take him out. That horse trips on himself regularly, the addition of snow is just overkill. He’s got his own ways of coping with the snow.
That’s pretty much it that’s going on around here: snow, horses in the snow, staying inside to avoid the snow, trying to pick up manure in the snow, slipping on the snow turned to ice, snow, snow, snow. I do have a few DIY projects I’ve completed that I hope to post about soon if I can get some time to write them up.
If anyone has handy tips for managing horses in the snow, hit me up in the comments.
Philosophers might ask: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I think the horse blogger might instead ask, “If you didn’t blog about it, did it really happen?”
It turns out, maybe not so much. My husband and I went to a schooling HT at Hitching Post on October 14th. The next day, I drove my husband to the airport so he could return to California for a week of working at the office. Then I proceeded to try to cope with keeping 4 horses, 2 dogs, and a brand new adopted puppy alive for one week by myself. Vermont decided that’d be a great time to snow.
2 of the horses decided to throw shoes, my farrier bailed on me and referred me to a different farrier, my one dog decided she needed to eat a plastic teething toy and go to the emergency vet, I had to have oral surgery to remove a broken tooth, I got off the waitlist for a barn cat and had to pick it up right now and the puppy required still requires constant vigilance. The whole week was exhausting and I never got enough time to blog about the show. Now, because I didn’t write anything down, I honestly don’t remember all the details. So, while the show really did happen, the details I have about it are sparse.
I can normally spark some memories by looking through pictures and going over the dressage tests, but we can’t find the dressage tests and because of timing, the only pictures are of my dressage test.
Despite the dearth of pictures, the show did happen and it was a good day. I’m going to try to remember what I can.
The day started off by being incredibly foggy. This was better than the pouring rain they had the day before for their rated event, but it made for a chilly and damp morning. We hauled the boys over in their blankets and I tried to tack up around Levi’s blanket. I was too cold to wear a show jacket and did my test in my black wool pullover. It was so foggy, we had to ask where the warm up was because we couldn’t see it from the parking area.
The warm up area was a little bit weird because it was a circular track. You could make a circle/go across the diagonal/change directions/etc by going onto the grass in the middle, but it was a little awkward. Since I was doing the Elementary division (above grasshopper, but below BN) and the grasshopper people were also in the warm up, it was filled with lots of kids on ponies with trainers constantly yelling at them – with very little success – not to get in everyone else’s way. Levi was being sticky about picking up the correct lead so we spent more time on canter transitions that I would have liked (he gets tired fast and I didn’t want a repeat of the Huntington test where he ran out of steam), but we did get the leads cleared up.
Finally it was time to go down to the arena. Unfortunately, I was first in my division and there was quite a bit of confusion about that. Although my number was last for my division, I was scheduled to go first. Once I cleared that up with the judge and she found my number was listed first on the schedule, she rang me in. Then, as I was trotting around, she stopped me again to ask what test I was doing. Um, BN A? Grasshoppers were doing the Intro test and BN was doing BN B and the Elementary divison was doing BN A. Apparently they couldn’t find that written down anywhere and it also seemed like they couldn’t find any BN A tests. So I started thinking, maybe I’m wrong and I am supposed to be doing another test. After some additional shuffling, they finally found the BN A tests and said I could go in from there. Well, the long pause had kind of gotten Levi out of dressage mode, but we marched off.
Enter at A, crooked
This wasn’t a great test. It wasn’t terrible, but it was just generally blah and not what either of us is capable of. I had some weird geometry issues, which is not something I usually suffer with and I kind of suspect the ring wasn’t entirely straight. But most of it was my own fault. Some of our circles weren’t terribly circular and I know I came onto centerline for the final halt and found the judge’s booth off to the side and was like, oh sh*t but I couldn’t fix it then.
After stopping to talk to the judge, I never really got Levi back in the connection. I always hesitate to get after him during a test since his reaction to correction can be rather extreme, but I really should have just half halted him and pushed him forward instead of carrying on like above.
Our canter transitions were spectacular. I didn’t even need the picture to remember this part. I distinctly remember muttering to him after the first, “that was unnecessary?”
Doesn’t listen when I ask nicely, objects to being spurred.
Because we had no connection, free walk – which is normally a good movement for Levi – was lacking. He basically just meandered across the diagonal with no stretch to the bit.
We carried on, never establishing any connection, and doing an excellent impression of a llama.
But we carried on and got it done. Like, I said in the beginning, it wasn’t the worst test ever, just not a good one. We ended up tied for 3rd with a 38.3 going into XC.
We had a long break after my dressage and took the opportunity to walk XC. The sun was slowly creeping it’s way out of the clouds and it was looking like the afternoon might be sunny. The Elementary course was interesting.
Unfortunately for picture’s sake, my husband’s dressage time was exactly the same time as my XC. My husband also failed to pack the helmet cams despite my asking him if he had so I have no media of XC or stadium. When we found out his dressage ring was running late, he came up with me to the XC warm up thinking he could maybe see me do the first jump or so before he had to go. But XC was also running late. Or rather, it wasn’t running at all. The grasshopper division just did stadium with some logs, so Elementary was the first division to go and no one seemed prepared for that.
There was no ring steward or any other volunteers anywhere nearby. Other riders and trainers trickled in to the ring, all confused and asking what was going on. Finally, we saw a volunteer heading out to the start box across the field, but no one showed up to the ring. Confusion continued. I was supposed to go at 11:15 and around 11:35, I finally just rode Levi across the driveway and field over to the start box to ask. They didn’t know when XC would be starting either. Cool.
Although my nerves are doing slightly better at the lower levels, I still get anxious leading up to XC. I generally try to get on late and do as little warm up as possible. Having an extra 30 minutes of saddle time before XC was not helping my nerves. Plus, my type A personality doesn’t really like disorganization. I know it can be hard to get volunteers and things can run behind, but having 1 person who knew what was going on come over to the warm up with an update or even to say “we don’t know yet, but we are working on it” would have been nice.
The startbox volunteer told me to walk around in the area while she radioed around to seen when we’d be starting. I walked Levi around as he grew increasingly upset that other horses were far away and doing things. This helped my nerves of course. Finally it was time to go. The course wasn’t timed so she asked if I wanted a count down or if I just wanted to go and I said I could just go.
We trotted out of the startbox across the first field. The first Elem jump was in the second field, which was actually nice. Since Levi has leaving the start box issues, having a bit of time to get him going without worrying about a jump was nice. The first jump was a very inviting little log on top of a hill. Levi popped right over that.
The second jump was across the field a ways. The footing was decent for how much it had been raining, but it was still a bit slippery so we stuck to a trot going down the hill to the second jump, which was slightly bigger, but not too bad.
The third jump was a straight line from the second and it was a decent sized log with a slightly shorter half if you really wanted to. We cantered off of #2and over #3, which Levi thought it would be super fun to get as close to as possible.
We made a U-turn after #3 to jump #4, which was a jump on the BN course in the other direction. It was a slightly easy BN jump, but still considerably bigger than the 1st jump. Levi was in the groove now though and we got over this one.
We had to mark a hard right and climb a steep hill after #4 to get to #5. Levi thought it would be more fun to just keep running straight back to the barn so we had a bit of a wrestle to get up that hill, but the jump was easy and we got over it just fine.
#6 was a water jump. However, it was set up a bit oddly in that the flags were on the opposite side of the water (everyone else went the other direction) and there was a big patch of dry ground between the water and the flags. As we got near the water, Levi tried to take off in the opposite direction. We were still at least 50 feet away from the water at this point, so I just turned him back towards the water, gave him a smack, and made him trot through the dry ground between the flags and the water. We never fully stopped or circled, but I could see that the jump judge was a child and worried about them calling it a refusal.
At this point, we were headed back towards the start again and Levi was like, omg, we should just gallop off in that direction. Except we needed to turn left off that path and jump something on a downhill. Once again, Levi and I had a bit of wrestling match about turning and then another one about trotting. He was literally fighting to canter as he tripped and nearly face planted on the wet grass. I wish I had the helmet cam for this part because I remember saying something to him about this is why you need to trot. #7 was another jump shared with BN, but I liked how inviting it was with the ramped logs.
The last jump looked brand new; the wood was all bright and unweathered. It was also a new and different sort of jump and Levi likes to look at those. He tried to put his head down and nose it at the last moment, but had too much momentum and we sort of crashed over it majestically, but we were done.
I headed straight to stadium after XC. Stadium was down by the dressage warm up. When I got there it was absolutely the worst timing. My husband had just been sent down from warm up to do his dressage test. Eugene sensed Levi somehow and proceeded to get distracted and scream his head off for his test. Levi was happy to sing back the song of his people as I tried to convince the ring steward that she did not need to chase the people walking the course out of the ring. I could totally wait (and go far away so my husband could get through his test in peace). Alas, she did not listen to me and made me go in. I had not walked the course, but I had looked at the map and seen some of the grasshoppers go earlier before I did XC.
We went into the ring and Levi, fully distracted with screaming for his brother from another mother, didn’t seem to realize we were jumping until he crashed into the first jump. I don’t know how – since I heard the noise it made – the jump stayed up. After that, Levi was a bit more aware of his legs, but still not very interested in listening to me and much more interested in finding Eugene, who he could not see, but could hear. We managed to careen around stadium clambering over jumps in the most graceless of fashions, but the jumps (2’3″) were low enough that Levi could be distracted and dumb and still go clear.
As we left Stadium, I found my husband returning from dressage and complaining about Eugene’s distraction during his dressage test. I commiserated with him. He did end up 6th out of 8 with a 39.1 in the Novice division. At this point I had to leave to go pick up the puppy we were adopting (the timing of the adoption transportation was just awful) and I left my husband with the horses to do his XC and stadium later (no media from this either). I told my husband as I was leaving that I thought the kid at #6 might call it a refusal and to protest for me. I stopped to get a drink on my way and checked online to see they had marked a refusal at #6. I called my husband, he assured me he’d go fix it and then I continued on my drive. When I looked again (over an hour later) I still had a 20 and he said he hadn’t protested until after his XC and stadium so it was outside of the time limit for protests. Thanks, hon. I would have finished in 3rd without that.
My husband managed to go clear on his Novice XC course, which was refreshing as this was their first return to Novice since getting eliminated/retiring from XC at Coconino. Since they had done a rated just the day before, the course was not a dumbed down for being a schooling show. I was particularly concerned about the ditch to giant, shared-with-training chevron combination.
They had two rails in stadium, but Stadium has always been Eugene’s weakest phase and going to it straight off of a long, hard XC course left him a bit tired, so two rails isn’t that bad. They ended in 6th place.
In addition to the equines and dogs, our farm is home to a lot of wildlife. Some of them I enjoy having… others not so much. Since the weather is keeping me from getting much riding in and the 50 millions things that need fixing around here are keeping me from blogging as much as I’d like, I though I’d do a quick little post about the various animals are barn hosts.
I don’t know if it’s the same rafter or different ones, but I see wild turkeys almost every day.
Rafter of turkeys on the fence
Frogs and Toads
As it’s started getting cold (damn you snow in October) I haven’t seen any of the frogs and toads in a while, but we were seeing them almost every night. The toads are huge (dessert plate size) and I have nearly fallen over trying to avoid stepping on them at the last second.
I only saw this one, but it was so cool. This is the eft stage for newts; a stage where they live on land in between being born in water and returning to the water.
Chipmunks (and Squirrels)
I have no pictures of the squirrels, but they are definitely a presence here. They seem really obsessed with eating crabapples and pears on my porch and leaving the crumbling remains for me. Chipmunks are super cute, but they’re troublemakers. We made the mistake of leaving our tack room open while riding one day and returned to find this little bastard leaping all over the place.
My husband saw this guy when we was out hiking our property with our forester. Apparently he was a bit camera shy and would circle around the tree whenever my husband tried to get a picture so this is the best he got.
The previous owners left behind a bird feeder and I’ve gotten really into feeding the birds. I love all the different little ones:
I do not, however, like the *sshole blue jays. As pretty as they are, they’re bullies. They scare all the other birds away and they go through all the seed way too quickly. I’m working on some changes to discourage them.
We also have a big owl living near our house. I hear him(her?) frequently at night though I’ve only seen him the once and I didn’t have a camera on me. He was huge and very cool to see.
I’m sure we’re home to a lot more wildlife that we just haven’t seen yet. I know we’ve got coyotes since I hear them howling at night. I always enjoyed seeing all the wildlife at the barn we boarded at in CA and I’m exciting to see all the new ones here. I do miss the California Quail. I always called them velociraptor birds as they liked to run instead of fly off and would stride through the brush like the little dinosaurs they are. They were probably my favorite barn wildlife – although the twin fawns were a close second. What’s your favorite barn wildlife?
My husband started off the show by doing the 2’3″ – 2’6″ jump off class with Levi. Levi was already warmed up, so we didn’t go back to the warm up ring (the footing in there was really wet and deep). Thus, Levi didn’t realize the jumps had gotten bigger until about this moment:
But don’t worry, Levi is spectacularly talented at jumping:
Levi: “solved it”
His front hoof is literally touching his belly. My husband actually did a pretty credible job of staying balanced and out of Levi’s way. The jump even stayed up! Once Levi realized the jumps were bigger, they did much better:
Levi: “Why didn’t someone just tell me the jumps were bigger.”
Even though I told my husband to go slow and work on jumping skills and not trying to win, Levi was still in his whole speed racer mode and clobbered the next jump. I know that Levi needs work on forward and speed, but he still loves to get as close as possible to the base before jumping and he can’t always contort himself to clear when the jumps get bigger.
The last jump of the course was the one they had knocked down in reverse. My husband decided to jump it anyway. I messed up the zoom and cut half of it off, but let’s all admire Levis dramatic reaction to the jump not looking like it should:
Levi: “I gotta keep my eye on this”
Levi finally got put away and it was Eugene’s turn to do the 2’6″-2’9″ and 2’9″-3′ divisions. The course started off really well:
While the lower level courses were super easy, the higher level courses had bending lines and other questions.
The lines from 3 to 4 with #1 in the way was a little tricky and my husband went around #1 instead of turning before it which left them with no room to straighten out before jump #4.
A quick circle and they were back for Eugene to snooze over it.
I feel like this photo from after that round pretty accurately sums up their feelings on how well it went:
The next round was the jump off class. It was the same course for the first 8 and then 4 additional jumps as the jump off if you went clear. While the only other person in his division was going, we discussed doing the #3 to #4 bending line by turning before #1 so they could go straight to #4. Instead, they went in and did this:
They circled and represented and it was fine, but then they went around to #5 and Eugene seemed to have learned that refusing was an option and pulled another.
Another circle and re-present and they were over just fine:
They finished up the rest of the round without any issues, but obviously didn’t qualify for the jump off. The other girl in this class didn’t qualify for the jump off either and she didn’t do the first class (speed only) and thus my husband won champion because he was the only one to win a ribbon.
Next up was he 2’9″-3′ division, which was a division of one! The first round went well; they even got over their bogey jump on the first try. Despite all the issues at 2’6″, Eugene went in and rocked around the 2’9″ course without an issue.
There was no one else in the division so he just walked around for a few minutes to let Eugene breathe and then started their jump off class. Eugene decided to start it off with an unexpected long spot:
Although the 2’9″ course was different than the 2’6″ course, as with the other divisions, the second course was the same as the first, just with an added jump off. Despite having done that course just minutes earlier, my husband proceeded to go off course by jumping the wrong jump. Because it was a schooling show, they let him finish the round, but no jump off.
I couldn’t believe he got lost. It was the exact same course as the previous round! It didn’t matter though; they still go to practice the course and they even won champion for being the only one in the division. Overall, it was a good schooling experience for everyone.
We still don’t own jumps and we have an event coming up. Since the last time we jumped the ponies was on August 13th, it seemed like maybe not the best idea to show up at an event without at least getting over something first.
This was a low-key jumper schooling show. Each division had a speed class followed by a jump off class and then a money class – which was a speed class again but with no ribbons or points towards championship, but you won $. I entered the 18″ and 2-2’3″ divisions and my husband did the 2’6″-2’9″ and 2’9″-3′ divisions with Eugene. He also did one class at 2’3″ to 2’6″ on Levi because he wanted to and the girl running the show asked him to give the only other entry in that division some competition.
The ponies were very busy while we were signing up
The 18″ division was super popular. There were 15+ entries in that division and then 4 in the next and then 2 and then 1, so by far the most popular division. The jumps were mostly cross rails and even the verticals weren’t 18″. I would have skipped it, but I didn’t know that warm up rounds were going to be available and I didn’t want to just start at 2′ having not jumped in like 6 weeks and Levi loves to stop at new jumps even when he’s in practice.
After I had gone over the 2 jumps in the warm up, they announced that warm up rounds in the arena were available for $2. Well, okay then. I did a warm up round.
Levi: “I have never seen a jump before in my life; I should slow to a crawl and stare at it first”
We did manage to get over every jump on the first try, but it was a good thing the jumps were small. Levi tried to stop and sniff every jump and then awkwardly hurled himself over it from what was almost touching the jump.
Levi: “my legs are so close to this, I must do dramatic maneuvers to make it over.”
Then it was time for our first round. The course was outside line to outside line and repeat to make 8 jumps.
Levi: “Don’t worry, I can make up for the jumps being too small”
I’m not a huge fan of racing horses around 18″ courses. I don’t really even think there should be speed rounds at such low heights. That being said, every single trainer I ride with wants me to get Levi going both more forward and faster. I figured this was a good opportunity to work on that skill.
Levi was getting pretty into this whole go fast and jump things thing. The next class was an actual course. It was untimed and if you went clear, the jump off was 5-8 again.
We were clear and I even let him go a bit faster in the jump off.
Levi: “I am so fast”
Of course, Levi’s fast is other horse’s normal. Which, you know, is kinda why everyone wants me to make him go faster. But he thought he was going fast.
The last round was the money class and it was literally just 1,2,3,4, fastest time wins. Levi was loving it.
Levi: “I am so fast. F.A.T.S…”
There was a guy riding his mom’s barrel horse doing the 2 speed classes including the money class and he just bat out of hell blasted around that course. Levi might have thought he was going fast, but he was no match for a barrel horse flying around skimming over tiny jumps. No $ for us.
Because of all the entries, they ended up splitting the 18″ division into juniors and seniors. We ended up getting 2nd out 6 for the 1st class (the barrel racer beat us) and 1st out of 6 for the jump off class. That meant we won the division and I got a pretty maroon halter.
Then it was time for the 2-2’3″ division, which shrunk dramatically from the 18″ and only had 4 entrants.
We entered the ring and Levi – who now assumed that he was a race pony whose only job was to run fast and clamber awkwardly over inconsequential poles – quickly realized the jumps were bigger.
Levi: “I should stare at this first”
We managed to go clear, but it was not fast enough to beat another barrel racer or the girl on the very well behaved lesson OTTB and we got third.
Levi: “These slightly bigger jumps are getting in the way of my racing around”
The second class was the jump off and Levi – now fully convinced his only job was to go as fast as possible and damn be to me for wanting him to listen – knocked a rail. After he knocked the rail we had a bit of a discussion about listening and how it is actually required.
Levi: “I’ll tilt my head at you”
We didn’t make the jump off and got no ribbon for that class. Finally it was time for the last class, the money round. I knew we weren’t going to beat out the barrel racer (seriously, her horse flew around that course while the rider ineffectually screamed “woah” the whole time) so I decided to take the longer lines and work on Levi’s behavior.
Levi: “OMG stop trying to make me listen to you; clearly I know what I’m doing”
When we finished, one of the coaches told her student her student: “did you see the lines she took? Don’t take those lines.” They went in, took all the inside lines, and looked lovely doing it. Meanwhile, we looked like this.
It was a great schooling show and we both had a lot of fun. I’m glad I got a chance to jump Levi before our upcoming event. It’s taken me way to long just to get this much of the post done so I’ll have to do my husband’s rounds in another post.