Saturday, April 17, 2010

Schooling at Rainbow

April/17/10 was the first Cross-Country schooling of the season for us, we had planned to go a few weeks ago but got rained out. The weather report was rain in the morning and then clear in the afternoon. For most of the morning it had just been spitting rain but nothing to stop us from doing stuff around the farm. So at 1:00 we loaded up Huxley, Brico, and Pippin to go schooling, figuring the weather would be fine. We decided that Ches would ride Brico first while I rode Huxley and then Ches would ride Pippin after the other two got finished schooling.

Huxley hadn't been jumped in 3-4 weeks because of an off and on swollen, hot leg, and hasn't seen a cross-country fence since last summer. He started off a little fresh but settled into jumping nicely and was overall very good for the first cross-country outing of the year.

Brico had never jumped cross-country before and doesn't have much jump training to start with. He was however very well behaved and handled things well, he was a little looky at the fences but after about halfway through the ride seemed to figure things out and start to enjoy himself. The hardest thing for him was jumping down the banks, as he doesn't even like stepping out of the horse trailer, but by the end he was okay with the small drop banks. Huxley of all horses gave Brico a few leads over some of the "scary" small fences, such as down the banks, over the ditch, and a couple of painted 2'6 house type fences.

Towards the end of Huxley and Brico's schooling rounds it started to rain a little and then rather hard. By the time we finished with them it was POURING rain, Ches changed her tack over to Pippin and started to warm up a little bit. Within two minutes we were all soaking wet with some very unhappy horses. There is absolutely no shelter at Rainbow to hide under on course, not even a tree! Poor Pippin had to go and school in the pouring rain and even hail at times. Ches brought him with the plan of warming him up and jumping the course like she would at a show, paying special attention to school him over the ditches, trakehners, and berlin walls.

When all was said and done everyone was soaked--our tackroom in the trailer looked like a lake and had clothes, pads, and boots dripping water every where. However all the horses were really good in spite of the weather.
Huxley over the tiger trap \/
Huxley down one of the banks \/
What Huxley thinks of ditches \/
and what Brico thinks of ditches \/
Brico over the small tiger trap \/
Poor Pippin after he was done looking like a drowned rat \/

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pippin Update

As promised, I'm trying to stay on top of the Pippin show prep updates. Last week was a very busy week for me with work and school, but of course I still squeezed in a little time for horsey affairs. Can't wait to get in more riding time!

Like I detailed in my last post, Pip and I are signed up to compete Training level at the NWEC Mother's Day Classic less than one month from today. What primarily makes Training level stand out from Novice or Beginner Novice is that the jumping gets more technical. The cross-country course is longer (2000 - 2600 meters with 20-24 jumping efforts), ridden at a faster rate of speed, is a bit higher (3'3"), and the types of jumps get more complicated. For example, we will be expected to jump in and/or out of the water jump. There will be a coffin complex (fence, then a ditch, then another fence, all in a row). We also will see trakehners, drops, and ski jumps.

As for stadium jumping, we will face ten to twelve jumps (3'3" high up to 4'1" wide), one or two combinations on course, and possibly a triple bar (which can be up to 4'11" wide!). This is basically the show jumping level I have been competing Pip at all winter, so I know he can do it. However, with show jumping you never know when you might miss a distance and have an unlucky rail down--that's the name of the game.

The weekend of April 3rd we had hoped to get out for some cross-country schooling. Unfortunately, the Washington weather was not cooperative, so instead we hauled over to a local indoor arena to do some grid work. Kelsy (Pip and I's unofficial trainer and riding instructor) set up a grid that would challenge Pip to engage his hindquarters and put in some extra effort (vertical, one stride, oxer, one stride, vertical). With grid work, we always start low and gradually build up the height of the jumps until the horse is jumping at the edge of their comfort range. By the end of the session we had a 3'6" or 3"9 grid set up. Pip actually had several refusals at the final (large!) fence. He's a perfectionist and isn't used to struggling, so when he is faced with a real challenge, sometimes he falls apart. It took us a little while, but he got it figured out and was nice and tired by the end of the ride!

When we prepare for jump shows--events in particular--we always school at least a few inches higher than what we'll be jumping in the competition. This is a fairly standard practice for anyone in the sport, but it should be said that if you or your horse aren't comfortable jumping a little higher than what you will be facing at the show, you are riding at the wrong level. You never know when a course designer will throw in a maxed-out fence on course, and keep in mind that jumps always seem to grow impossibly high when you are hit with some horse show nerves the day of the competition!

The nice thing about Pip is that he's trained, and by no means is he a green horse. He's seen a lot in his little lifetime and he's confident and secure in his own skin (maybe too much so!). I don't have to worry about him getting nervous at a show or acting up because he's overstimulated. Pip is just going to be Pip. Along the same vein, I realize that no work or training we do between now and the Mother's Day Event is going to significantly impact his (or my) performance there. Yes, there are small things we can improve--we can work on getting square halts 90% of the time instead of 75% of the time, we can jump more complicated courses,  practice riding a balanced collected canter when going down a hill--but basically I know that when we go to the show, we're going to be ourselves and fall into our usual patterns and behaviors; hopefully that's good enough to do well! My job between now and the show is to keep him fit, keep him jumping on the weekends, and polish up our dressage.

Here's a quick run-through of the past week...

Sunday I ran through our dressage test several times to memorize the pattern - Training Test A. There's nothing there Pip can't handle, but we've got to practice stretch down at the walk and trot, since these are not things I usually do in our rides. We also need to practice cantering across the diagonal without changing leads (the test calls for a simple change, not a flying change). Pip had Monday and Tuesday off due to my busy schedule and the bad weather. Wednesday Kelsy took him out for a fitness gallop (with Arron in tow as a pony horse). Kelsy also worked on Pip's stretch down circles for me. I don't think he was ridden on Thursday. Friday Pip and I got in some dressage practice; we cranked up the radio and jammed in the outdoor arena (good thing we don't have nearby neighbors). Saturday I took him out for some more fitness laps in slow canter and trot sets. Sunday, in our outdoor arena, I set up a four bounce grid for him to jump through. I also rode with my stirrups extra short in an effort to break in the pair of tall boots I never wear (they were kindly donated to me last summer by Jen). This Monday, I took Pip out for some more galloping and cantering in the morning before work. You can get a lot done in thirty minutes. And finally, just tonight we practiced dressage to music again.

That's the update for now!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pip to Compete!

On May 7-9, Pippin and I will be competing in the Mother's Day Classic Three Day Event at the Northwest Equestrian Center in Rainier, WA. Pip's coming off a very strong winter show season--he won his 3'3" Jumpernite classes in December and January, his Training Level class at the Aspen Farms Event Derby in February, and the 3'6" jumpers class at Sandmar Farm--and he's looking for a challenge this spring.

To our knowledge, not many Haflingers are represented at the Training level of USEA eventing. Though we can name a handful who compete at Training level; it is the exception, not the rule, to see Haflingers jumping above Novice level. In all fairness, Haflingers are not really designed for upper level eventing (Preliminary level and above). Despite being able-bodied jumpers, they are too heavy to meet the endurance and speed requirements at the higher levels--they are not hot blooded horses. Even though you won't be seeing a Haflinger (at least not a true Haflinger) competing at Rolex CCI****, there is no reason why a Haflinger can't be successful against the larger horses at Training level.

Membership is required to compete in USEA affiliated events. The Haflinger Horses Community Website very kindly sponsored Pippin's USEA lifetime membership. Also a big thank you goes out to Emily Gibson of Briarcroft Haflingers for her generous, continued support of Pippin and his goals. On that note, thanks to all of Pippin's friends and fans out there!

Pippin was bred at Southern City Haflingers by my good friends the Baker/Maddox Family. Their mare, Suki, is a Folenhof M&B Haflinger and a half sister to Precious, Mikey, and Arron. By the stallion Wynston M&B, Pippin was Suki's last foal of seven. I was thirteen years old when he was born, and was given the task of taming and halter-breaking Pip.

When Pip was a year and half old, the Baker/Maddox family gifted him to me as a college investment. Their thinking was that I could train Pip for several years, eventually sell him, and use the money to help offset my eventual educational expenses. Even though I'm in graduate school now and could easily get a substantial sum of money to offset university expenses by selling Pip, I just can't bring myself to sell as we say, one of the only "good horses" on our property! Cheryl Smith has graciously supported Pip over the years as his official co-owner; and Kelsy has spent as much time as me with him in his breaking and training.

Pip has always been a talented jumper. In fact, the first time Pip ever officially jumped was at a local horse show--on a whim Cheryl encouraged me to enter him in a small two foot hunter class, and thanks to his willing disposition, he won the class. We started competing Pip at Pony Club sponsored events his four year old year at the Beginner Novice level. As a five year old he moved up to Novice, and as a seven year old he made the jump up to Training level. In 2008 Pip placed second at a Training level event, and last year Pip won his Training level class at the Chehalis Valley Pony Club event at Caber Farms.

Pip, now nine years old, measures in at exactly 14 hands tall. He is by no means a "modern, sporthorse-type" Haflinger. In fact, his dam Suki stands only 13.1 hands tall. What Pip has going for him is trainability, correct confirmation, and above-average movement for a Haflinger. Plus he likes to show off! Though Pip is commonly the only pony-sized competitor in his classes, there is no doubt in my mind that he thinks he's the biggest and best horse out there. He, like all our horses at Nayborly, competes barefoot.

We'll keep you updated as the event approaches, and you can watch for short updates on our Nayborly Farms Facebook Page.