Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eventing Derby at Rocking Horse

Rocking Horse Stables, in Altoona, Florida, has to be one of the best places for me to spend a day! In years past, I have been there in a supporting role, as horseshow mom, driver, photographer and groom, as daughter Jen competed Impulsive at numerous pony club and USEA recognized events, not to mention clinics, ratings and schoolings. I dreamed of the day that Tucker would be old enough for me to be able to ride him there, rather than me walking around the 100 plus acres on foot! The facility is perfect...endless acre after acre of soft rolling terrain, massive grandfather oaks, flocks of sandhill cranes, the occasional deer and the multitude of cross country jumps, each one a marvel in design.

Yesterday, Jen, boyfriend Travis, new puppy Duke and myself and Tucker, loaded up for a cross country adventure, called an eventing derby. The idea behind a derby is for each rider to go around a course twice. Scores are based on time, with the rider closest to the optimum time getting the most points for the round. The course is comprised of cross country jumps and a few stadium jumps thrown in the mix. Any refusals or rails down amount to time being added to your round. The points are added together to determine the placings. And unlike other events, there is prize money! Best thing? It is strictly cross stuffy dressage tests to perform, just pure bliss of galloping and jumping! Isn't this what eventing is all about?

Of course, with all good intentions thrown out the window, we were late in arriving. Difficulties with the hitch, low air in the tires and Tucker throwing a tantrum at having to trailer alone made for slow going. In the end, with Jen riding in the back of the trailer to riprimand Tucker for his heaving pawing and weight shifting, we arrived just in time for me to get my number! Jen and Travis tacked Tucker while I ran to the office. I grabbed a copy of the time to walk the course, and ran back to Tucker, mounting him and doing our warmup while making our way to the back of the property where the warm up jumps and start box were located. When I arrived, I was told to relax, they were very casual, and even though I was first to go in the beginner novice division, they were not adhering to the order of go and I could just let them know when I was ready. Whew! I studied the map, watched a few trips and then warmed up. After a few jumps, I knew we were ready to go and so into the start box we went. Tucker is so different in the box then Imp ever was...Imp could count backwards and at 3,2,1, she would rear and bolt out of the box at 1. Not so with Tucker. He waits for me to squeeze his sides and ambles out of the box! The first jump, a flower box, was going to come up pretty quick and we had to get our butts moving. We settled into a nice rythmn, but as we approached, Tucker seemed to be a bit caught off guard that we were supposed to jump, and at the last stride, started to stop, but then hopped over it. I momentarily thought we were having a rare stop, but once I realized we jumped it and were moving forward, off we galloped for fence 2. After the 3rd jump was a port-a-pot. For some reason, upon landing after the 3rd jump, Tucker spooked at it and bolted! I was able to pull him back into a collected canter, in time for a stadium jump. We continued around the course, spiraling out, then back in, across the water, which he wasted no time splashing into, out and over a coop, and spiraling back out, to finish on a stadium jump. After a brief rest, we went again for the 2nd trip. Our times were pretty good, we knocked a rail pretty good, but it apparently did not fall, just rattled the cups pretty good. It was a total blast! Our conditioning schedule has really paid off, as Tucker seemed pretty fit and up for the job! Wish I could say the same for me! I felt that I was huffing and puffing! Jen told me my form looked good, that we were forward, consistant and unlike some others, there was no flailing or flapping going on! My leg held up pretty good with the Kinesio taping that my boss applied..since applying it, I have had no pain in my leg from the blood clot when I ride. Who knew that taping could be so good?

Back at the trailer, we untacked, rinsed and cooled Tucker off. With it being winter season, the lower show barns are full with snowbirds. Riders and grooms were busy preparing horses, multitudes of dogs were lying around, enjoying the breezy mid-morning, and there was also a dressage show going on, so the dressage arenas had alot of activity. We decided to go ahead and head for home and loaded the beast in the trailer. He behaved this time...probably was too tired to protest, and we arrived home all in one piece! A little while later, I received a phone call from Alice, the manager of Rocking Horse, informing me of the good news...we had placed 3rd and had won $30!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Senior update

Amanda and Dolly at a pony club meeting. 2004

Jen and Imp, Rae and Bubbi after receiving the news that they qualified for the USPC Champs in Kentucky! 2004

In an earlier post, I wrote about the senior horse and how much they have to offer.
I would like to post an update and a tribute to two of those horses I wrote about.

Dolly passed away on December 30. She was approximately 30 years old. I always thought that she would live to be in her 40's. And she probably would have if it weren't for a kick to her knee in the summer of 2009. She was never lame despite the knee remaining swollen. But then last spring, she started to have intermittent lameness and a couple of times there was a discharge from the knee. Then this past fall, she developed laminitis out of the blue. There was really no reason for it..her diet was the same, her pasture was the same...nothing was different. We attributed it to pain from the knee. She got through the worst of the laminitis, but in December, her usual trim was extremely painful for her. She could not stand on either front leg long enough for Kevin to trim her. By this time, the soft swelling of the knee had become hard and calcified. She was having mild colics, which were quickly resolved with some Banamine. However, on December 30, a mild colic bout took a very fast downhill turn and we made the decision to euthanize her.
I didn't realize how many lives she had touched until I heard from many pony clubbers who had memories of her. While Dolly and I didn't agree on too much...she really just wanted to eat and not work at all, the truth was, she really accomplished alot after the age of 20...she learned, quite well, eventing, games and dressage. She attended all these rallies, plus show jumping. On the cross country course, she was often the lead horse, because although she really didn't want to be there, she did do as she was asked. I really don't remember her refusing anything that was in her comfort zone....just don't ask her to trail ride alone! Yes, she was stubborn and really gave Amanda fits at time (but all I had to do was yell at her from the barn in a deep voice "DOLLY" and she would stop being a brat and move on), but she really taught Amanda quite a few things while at it. Yeah, I probably could have put Amanda on a push button school master, but would she have learned as much? I doubt it.

Bubbi, the 33 year old TB/Percheron cross, passed away this past Monday, from a freak accident. How tragic. I cried when I read the news from Rae and Dawn, his owners. Bubbi also touched many lives, especially in pony club. The fact that he was still competing at his age is a testimony to the wonderful care that Rae and Dawn gave him. I will never forget how he and Rae were teammates of my daughter, Jen and her mare Impulsive, for the 2004 USPC Champs in Lexington, Ky. At the age of 26, he gamely made his way around the novice xc course. Imp and Bubbi had traveled the 17 hours to Lexington together, and spent the week prior to the competition working out together twice a day. On the official move in day, we had paid for paddock space to turn the horses out. Imp went in one paddock and Bubbi was several paddocks away. Imp, who quite easily gets attached to other horses, became so frantic, at being separated from Bubbi, we were afraid she would jump the fence, so we had to forego the full turnout time and put her in the stall. She was so mad, she took her teeth and raked them across the wall of the stall. I am sure those deep grooves are still on the wall, and I imagine some famous horse being stalled in that particular stall at the World Equestrian Games, and its rider wondering what could have caused such a mess! By the next morning, Imp was "over" Bubbi, we kept them separate the remaining week as much as possible, and thank goodness, Imp settled down to do her job!
Ironically, 2 days before he died, a copy of Young Rider arrived to the Thomas' residence. Jane Thomas, had competed Bubbi at last falls Dressage rally. He had been chosen as the Absorbine Senior Horse Star. Their beautiful photo is featured in the article! What a lovely tribute.

I am sure that Dolly and Bubbi have joined their friends...Princess, Pilgrim and Teddy, to name a few, and are enjoying the green lush grass to their hearts content. They deserve it.