Spring horse show season has begun!

Many horse professionals from New England travel to the Aiken South Carolina or to Wellington/Ocala Florida for the winter to continue training and showing and return in time for the show season up here! My former barn in Massachusetts, Orchard Hill Equestrian Center, started their schooling show series in April AND the very next weekend was the UNH Spring Trials, a recognized show important to many Area 1 eventers. The schooling show at my old barn was a 2 phase, meaning just dressage and stadium jumping. Right now the cross country field is too soft/muddy. The event at UNH was all three phases meaning dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country.

I volunteered as dressage scribe for the schooling show, which is always a fun job. It can be crazy furiously scribbling down every word the dressage judge says onto the score sheets, but I always learn a lot. I am always too busy during dressage to take any dressage pics. Once dressage was done though, I got to be a spectator for the stadium jumping.

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This particular rider lost her stirrup very early in the round, you can see in this pic her foot is out of the stirrup!!! Superstar!

From where I now live in NH, UNH isn’t that far at all! Mizpah and I headed over to watch some friends from Orchard Hill compete. We weren’t there early enough to watch a lot of dressage, but we did get to see some stadium jumping and cross country. Walking the cross country course is always a lot of fun with Mizpah. We totally have her do all the jumps and play in the water complex haha. The course was definitely muddy and wet in some areas, but UNH did a great job of spreading gravelly sand to the approach and landing areas for jumps that needed it. The UNH students in the equine science and agricultural programs volunteer to make this show run as smoothly as possible.

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Pretty much the only good pic I got of my friend stadium jumping
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Mizpah in the XCountry start box!!
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Beautiful scenery for cross country

A great place to watch some cross country is here at the water complex. In that one area you get to see a few jumps and of course the spaaaalash into the water!

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Jump before the water complex
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Jump over the log down into the water!
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Coop after the water! Lots of pats and exclamations of excitement after this jump!

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The earliest I will be riding again will be this coming winter, so for my own sanity, I will be trying to attend a lot of horsey fun events to get my fix until then. It was so nice seeing my barn friends and supporting the schooling show at Orchard Hill as well as the riders at UNH. Mizpah was an absolute star. Most horse people also looooove dogs, so it was a great day to get her out on the leash greeting kids, adults, other dogs, and select horses who I know are ok around dogs. At horse shows its particularly important for Mizpah to NOT jump on people because no one wants muddy paw prints on their riding pants before entering the ring!!

Anyone planning on getting out to some horsey events this spring and summer? Maybe a polo tournament, a race, or a local show?? Kentucky Derby is coming up, wish I was going!!!

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UNH Spring Eventing Trials!

This past Saturday I packed up the pup and we headed to the UNH spring eventing trials to support one of my good friends. She moved up a level this year to training from novice which is very exciting, and this was her and her horse, Clover’s, first outing of the year. It was a beautiful day, sun shining with a breeze, and we got there in time for my favorite part of supporting a friend at an eventing trial- walking the cross country course!! Cross country is the 3rd phase of an eventing trial where horse and rider take off into fields, woods, and water features. They are timed and assessed time penalties depending on how far off they were from the optimal time. You can also get penalties in cross country if your horse refuses a jump- 20 for the first refusal, 40 for the second, and then if you get a 3rd refusal on a jump, its elimination. If the rider falls at a jump, its elimination….in the levels below training, if you fall and land on your feet you can hop back on but its 65 penalties!

Cross country features are really cool. Logs, drops, banks, ditches, water jumps, roll tops, oxers with tree/shrub brushes, coops…some that are a direct straight shot to get to, some that you have to turn into, all really interesting & challenging. Some are really fun too, like jumping a giant duck or something like that. The horses cover some serious ground typically, and they are usually ridden at a gallop, maybe a bit slower for the lower levels, like you might see people decelerate coming up to a jump to prepare. Riders need to condition themselves and their horses by schooling cross country at different places, so when its time to do it at an event, all that hard work can pay off! My friend did an amazing job, she came in 4th!! She did a great job in dressage, double clear (no time or jump faults) in stadium jumping,  and no penalties in xcountry. Mizpah had an awesome time walking with us and socializing with dogs, horses, and people. She loves Clover, walks right next to her like she is Clover’s escort. Her affinity for horses is actually part of her breeding. Dalmatians were bred to travel with horse drawn vehicles, hence their rep as fire house and Budweiser dogs. Mizpah naturally coaches when she is with horses. Here are some pics from the day, enjoy!!

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Dogs heading to walk xcountry!

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Pretty cool water feature!! The jump leading up to this is a ditch!
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Mizpah walking with Clover ❤
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Jack Pack!
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Mizpah watching for the next horse!
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Clover going through the water!

UNH has a very popular equine science program. The cross country course is right on campus, like some buildings actually have a view out their window of a jump! The dressage arenas and the jumping arena were all very close too which is nice for horses. They are actually fundraising to improve their cross country course for 2017, so it will be fun to go back next year and see the changes. Hope you all had a lovely weekend!!

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Volunteering for my barn’s spring two-phase!

This past weekend was the spring two-phase at the barn that I ride at. A two-phase is dressage and stadium jumping, the third phase that will be added in for future shows is cross country. I usually volunteer to scribe for the dressage judge which is really fun, but definitely hard work. You write furiously, trying to make sure that you get every comment and score as the dressage judge watches the dressage test. Our judge for this show was Lainey Johnson, and she is awesome. I love scribing for her because I learn so much, and she is just a lovely lady to hang out with too. The shows at my barn are schooling shows, so they are affordable, and just great opportunities to get some showing experience at a very low key, informal event. Once dressage finished up, I helped score the stadium jumping rounds. The spring show is the first show for many horses and riders coming out of winter hibernation, so its a great step to prepping for the rest of the summer shows. We only had 3 errors in dressage, and only one person came off in stadium. There were quite a few refusals in stadium, but in a schooling show the rider can finish even if they get eliminated and you can pay for an extra round and try the course again too. Its supposed to be a positive learning experience 🙂 Here are some pics from the day!

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View of the dressage arena from the dressage shack
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Bigger view of the dressage arena
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Stadium jumping
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Nice view from our jumping arena huh?
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I loved this palomino horse, oh man, looked just like the Barbie horse figurine I had so many years ago. 

Even if you are just getting into horseback riding and you aren’t ready or can’t afford to show, volunteering at shows can be a really fun way to learn and get involved. You get to know people from your barn and that camaraderie can really be a positive part of your time spent at the barn. Saturday was just a beautiful day too, can’t complain about getting to spend a lot of it outside watching children and adults chasing their dreams on horseback 🙂 Have I inspired anyone to get out there and start riding or just volunteer their time at a barn? I hope so, riding and spending time at the barn has saved me from many a bad day.

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Sunny morning at the barn

This weekend was beautiful in Massachusetts. We are in a weird warm spell here…snow is pretty much melted and we have been in the 40s/50s. Last year at this time I believe we had 3 feet of snow on the ground!!!

Saturday AM, I had such a nice ride with my buddy Sterling. Sterling is a quarter horse and has been used in lessons since I was at the barn. He had an owner who was in college and came maybe a couple times a year to see him, and finally last year he was pretty much gifted to the barn. He has some costly medical issues, melanomas & PSSM. He has had a couple surgeries to help with melanomas and he is on some supplements/meds for the PSSM. He is a huge asset to the school because he is totally capable of just slowly walking around in circles with a beginner, or packing around a small jumper course with a more advanced rider. He has typical quarter horse issues for dressage because he is lower in front than behind, but my dressage lessons with him are so rewarding. You can see such a huge difference from a horse who is expecting to just carry someone around for an hour to a forward horse using his muscles and stretching his topline. Dressage type exercises are great for all horses, sort of like power yoga.

Here are a few pics from my lovely morning at the barn!

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Sterling 🙂 , his show name is Shades of Gray
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View out the window of the indoor to the dressage arena
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View of the original portion of the farmhouse where owners live. The home has been added onto and renovated, its absolutely gorgeous.
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Oh just a quaint little gazebo on your way to the paddocks
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View of paddocks and off to the left where that trail goes is the cross country course
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Alfonse, or Alf for short, arguably the cutest little pony. He was so cute snoozing in the sun, couldn’t help but take his pic!

Friday night, I went out to the Red Raven in Acton with my fiance and his coworkers for some drinks. They have an awesome little loungy area when you first walk in and I couldn’t resist snapping this fireplace. The brickwork is so unique and fun.

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Saturday afternoon, I headed out on a NH brewery tour in the Londonderry/Derry area that finished in Nashua…so fun, I will fill you all in tomorrow! I can’t believe today is February!! How was your weekend?? Tell me all about it! Enjoy the day everyone!

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Volunteering at my barn’s last three phase of the year

The barn that I ride at has 3-4 schooling shows a year. There is usually one in April that is just a two-phase, dressage & stadium jumping. The cross country field is usually not ready in April. Then there might be one in June, then a three phase in August, and then in the past they have done a three phase or a cross country derby in October.

I don’t own a horse, and I don’t have a lease currently, so I am happy to volunteer at the shows. The clientele at our shows are usually middle school to college age, and then people in their forties/fifties who are financially secure, have kids that are older. Riders in the middle like myself are usually trying to save money for other things and can’t own or show a horse OR they are showing at a higher level. Volunteering is so much fun, and its an awesome way to learn more about how shows and judging works.

In the past I have scribed for the dressage judge (which is so cool), judged at xc jumps, timed for xc, and been the ring steward for stadium. I always learn a ton and have a lot of fun with everyone. Scribing for the dressage judge is hard work but you learn a lot about what they look for. Cross country is exhilarating and beautiful to watch. Watching horse and rider gallop through fields, and through water, (hopefully) effortlessly leaping over coops and walls is breathtaking. Stadium jumping is great too, sometimes I realize I am actually holding my breath while one of the girls who I have watched from pony camp to now jumping 2’6″ zoom around the course.

The dressage arena- a square/rectangle space marked with letters around the perimeter where riders do a series of movements called a dressage test
The dressage arena- a square/rectangle space marked with letters around the perimeter where riders do a series of movements called a dressage test
Autumn decor at C in the dressage arena
Autumn decor at C in the dressage arena
Stadium jumping
Stadium jumping 

I think I will probably make the cross country fields its own post, there are so many fun things to photograph out there, from the jumps to the water feature.

Volunteering at horse shows is an awesome way to get involved in the horse world. I used to volunteer for MSPCA’s Nevins Farm in Methuen MA. I mucked stalls, filled waters, and volunteered at events like Groton House Farm Trials and the Fidelity Jumper Classic (now held in NH) in Hamilton, MA. Definitely a cool way to be present and involved without necessarily having a horse. Plus you are donating your time to others to help, which always feels good!

I just recently started jumping again after doing just dressage for a year or so. I was at the point where I was out jumping in the xc field and doing in that 2′ area in the ring. Here is what I was jumping recently, this beautiful little cross rail haha! I will get back there eventually….

Oh hai cross rail!
Oh hai cross rail!

I love Monday holidays because it means only a four day work week! I am really looking forward to this weekend already, Oyster Fest on the Cape Saturday, Head of the Charles Sunday…..we just need this rain forecast for Sunday to change!

Hope you all had a lovely day!!

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The Ferrari of Ponies

Last night I was so blessed to be able to get a lesson with one of my best friends on her amazing intermediate event horse. I have been riding since January 2007, and I have had a few leases, but have mostly ridden school horses, or horses that belong to the barn for lessons. School horses have taught me sooooo much. They can be frustrating to work with because they will really make you work for everything, but I  think they are very rewarding too.

My friend’s horse is an OTTB, or off-track thoroughbred. He wasn’t meant for the racetrack but he is a brilliant event horse, especially the cross country phase. We did a dressage lesson in the indoor arena, and it was so fun. His level of training is so much higher than the school horses, so I really just got to ride instead of spending the whole time trying to work through issues brought on by too many bouncy little kids 🙂 Riding him is kinda like leaving the 1988 Honda Civic to ride in a ferrari. He’s perfect. Someday when she retires him from competing, I know he will be the best eventing/dressage school master.

She took a few pics, they are blurry but I actually kinda like how the blurriness softens the pictures. IMG_2016 IMG_2017

It was the kind of night when you drive home smiling the whole time, like nothing could bother you after that. That’s the good stuff. Happy Friday!

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