Saturday, June 30, 2012

CT Morgan Horse Show

Two weeks before the Connecticut Morgan Horse Show I decided to enter Secret in a couple of dressage classes. As long as it wasn’t too late to enter. My thoughts were that it would be good for Secret; she hadn’t been to an event – besides the trail ride at Steep Rock – in two years. I also wanted to support the club.

I got the okay from the show manager and secretary and faxed my entries in. Ready or not, here we come. The only glitch in this plan; was I hadn’t done any actual ring work or dressage with Secret in two years. I’ve been trail riding her around the farm, trying to improve her confidence. There were a couple of other glitches in the plan: I don’t actually have a dressage saddle anymore, I was borrowing a friend’s and she needed it back, and I had no idea if my show clothes still fit. I wasn’t too worried about either of these things though, since I entered her in the introductory level tests, I figured I could get away with riding in my all-purpose saddle. And, since I had lost the chemo weight since the last time I had shown, the show clothes should fit – and at least I had put them away clean! I had good intentions of trying them on before the show, but never did until the morning of my first classes.

My friend Megan trucked Secret up to the show for me on Friday morning. I was stabled near some other friends, so I settled Secret in and then took her for a walk with Jackie and her horse Joy, who was also entered in dressage. I talked to Dee Loveless about warming us up for our tests, and then left for work. I went back Friday night, and rode Secret over near the dressage area. You can’t go in the ring prior to a test, but you can ride all around it. In the past, the judge’s box has been incredibly frightening for her, but I was very glad that after our morning walk, I was able to ride her right past the judge’s box.

Saturday morning, we were riding two tests, Introductory A and B. These are both walk trot tests, and very simple. Given our lack of dressage work, and challenges at the canter, I thought this was a great place to start. The bugs at the dressage area were terrible. I had put fly spray on Secret but not enough. She is so sensitive to bugs. One of the other rider’s grooms sprayed her again, but she was still mad about the bugs and flipped her head quite a bit during the test. I got permission from the judge to put her fly bonnet on her ears and went back to the barn for that. The second test was quite a bit better. She scored a 60 on both tests; placing 5th and 4th. I was very happy with her. I knew she could do better in test A though, and the dressage steward said she had an open test time, so I added that one into Sunday’s schedule.

On Sunday, we rode Test A first (with our fly bonnet) and it was much better than the first day. She scored a 62 and won the test. Dee hadn’t worked with Secret and me since the horse show we were at two years ago, and asked who this new horse was, she was doing well. When I told her it was the same horse from two years ago, she was surprised and mentioned how much calmer and more focused Secret was now. I told her about the trail riding and going back to see the scary things again and again until they were no longer scary.

Before her second test – B – we decided to school canter since Dee would not be able to warm us up for Intro Test C, when we had to canter. Canter on a circle is not Secret’s strong point. And although I have been working on her canter (and getting beautiful canters in the cornfields), a 20 meter circle is not a cornfield. When I went to ride Test B, Secret was irritated and flipped her head quite a bit during the test. She still scored a 61 and placed second, but I felt bad for pushing the canter issue with her.

Dee had to go help her husband with his carriage horse, so I was on my own to prepare for test C. I knew Secret was getting tired (I usually would not have entered her into three tests), and I knew she was also tired/frustrated from all of the work on the bit. When I trail ride her, I generally keep her on a long rein; unless she gives me reason otherwise. I let her walk around on a long rein until it was time for Test C – or stand still, whichever she preferred. When it was my turn to “warm up” for the test, I let her trot on a loose rein around the dressage ring until the judge rang the bell. She dropped her nose nearly to the dirt and trotted in a nice, relaxed frame.

We went in and rode the test. The walk and trot work was much better – she was happy that I didn’t push the contact/on the bit issue as much as I had in test B. I think we got right lead canter for a few strides, but when Secret broke, I didn’t push the issue, and finished the circle at a trot. She did get left lead canter (always easier for her anyway). We finished the test, and I walked her out of the ring, where I promptly dismounted and hand walked her back to the barn. What a good girl to go do all of that without any horse show practice or dressage work leading up to it.

We won Test C, because we were the only ones entered in the class. But, what made me really happy; is that Secret scored a 60, despite not cantering to the right! I was so proud of her, and she was reserve champion for Intro Level. I want to take her back out to another dressage show this summer; she’s really stepping up and becoming the athlete I always knew she could be. Before the next show, I will do some dressage prep work with her, just to be a bit fairer!

Photo of Secret and me at CMHS taken by Megan Thompson - who also trailered us up and back, thanks Meg!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The benefit of being lame...

The benefit of being lame at a competitive trail ride, is that if you want to roll in the sandy vet hold area, your rider strips your tack and lets you....

Photo taken by Wanda Clowater of Clowater Art

Crooked River

I don’t even know where to begin with this blog. It’s probably not going to get the length or thought it deserves, but I will at least try. I entered John in the Crooked River 30-mile Competitive Trail Ride (CTR) on May 26th in North Waterford, Maine. Because of my new job, John went up to Maine Friday morning with Megan and her sons. They settled him in and vetted him in. I got there at close to 10pm Friday night. Without their help, I would not be able to attend at all.

We had ridden the North Waterford trail system twice in 2011, once for Pine Tree (he was lame after 17 miles) and once for the October Maine rides (he was reserve champion). We got up Saturday morning, and went to the rider’s meeting. They had me riding out with Megan and her boys. I haven’t competed with a group yet this year – Leverett being our only CTR of the year. But, I had ridden with Meg at Jersey Devil last year and John was fine, so decided to give it a try. I figured if John was having problems I could always go off by myself.

The trails in Maine are rocky. They recommend the horses wear pads. John was not wearing pads, and I had some guilt about not putting pads on him before we went. When we rode out of camp, we were going uphill on newly finished trail and it was all gravel. John was strong and in the front of the group, but jostling for position with Minnie and Cocoa.

It’s been so long since this ride, I don’t really remember too much from the early miles at this point. He never did anything terrible, behavior wise, and there weren’t any huge missteps. He was really strong and fighting with me to let him race the other horses. At some point, I’d had enough and rode ahead of Megan and the boys. Later on, they caught up, and I let them pass, and continued riding alone.
We passed the vet at the trot for a fly-by (basically this means they assess the horse as you trot by, and make notes on your score sheet) and got the go-ahead. We ran into the photographer, trotted by her and stopped at the river for water. She smiled and waved us on.

Sometime soon after this – something wasn’t right though. I guess it probably started around the time I went to pass the Rice’s. This is an odd coincidence because it was the Rice’s I was behind for a while and then passed at Pine Tree, the other ride John came up lame. When I finally let him pass their horses, he didn’t want to leave their group, and I had to push a bit to keep him going.

By the time we got to the “1 Mile to the Hold” sign, I was trying to make John walk. I had a sneaking suspicion something wasn’t right, but really hoped that I was wrong. He kept pulling the bit and trotting along, and I kept asking him to walk into the hold.

He pulsed down at the hold (15 miles into our ride) without an issue and we headed over to the vet to trot-out. He was dead lame on his left front. I say dead lame; the vet said it was a Grade 3 lameness – head bob lame – not going any farther today. I could see it trotting next to him. Dr. Kohut couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but he was definitely lame.

Long story short, we climbed back into that black ambulance horse trailer – that luckily stayed hooked to the truck this time – and got a ride back to ridecamp. I was definitely frustrated, and still am. He scored a 97 (out of 100) at Leverett and was grand champion limited distance horse for all of ECTRA in 2011, but two out of the three times we have ridden at North Waterford, he has come up lame.
My farrier says he probably aggravated his check ligament because of his upright conformation. I had another lyme test done, just to be sure since his last one was spring of 2011 (it was negative).

My theory is; that the check ligament is the problem. I also think that we aggravated the check ligament when we galloped the rail trail a few weeks before Crooked River (much like the rearing incident at the beginning of Pine Tree may have played into that lameness). Riding out in the group, with him being so strong on tough trails, probably made his situation worse.

I don’t know if my theory is wrong or right, but I am really nervous about going to another CTR. At the same time, I really want to get him back out there – because how can he score a 97 on one tough ride (Leverett) and be dead lame on the next one? I really hope that it was rider mismanagement and not a serious – need the vet- lameness issue. Since it was rider mismanagement/horse behavior issues that caused last year’s lameness, I am going to take my chances and enter him in one more CTR before I go all out with a lameness exam etcetera (since he is sound now).

Other than a lame horse, and a frustrated rider, Crooked River was a lot of fun. Since I got back to camp so much sooner than everyone else, I had my horse cleaned up with leg wraps on, and was able to help other riders with their horses as they came in off the trail (and it was really hot that day – so they appreciated the help!)

Check out the photo that Wanda Clowater of Clowater Art took - we had just passed the fly-by vet inspection and were headed to the river for the water stop:

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Awhile back I blogged about salt, and how I felt guilty because my horses went without salt blocks in their stalls for a few weeks.

Then I finally got them Himalayan salt blocks, and everyone ignored their blocks. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this.

Fast forward a few more months and I bought them a Redmond Rock – supposedly the best equine salt out there, mined in Utah – for in their pasture. No one ever saw them touch it. I was glad they didn’t feel they needed salt, but at the same time, I would have liked it if someone had done something with the salt block.

It had been awhile since I looked at the salt holder. They actually ate the Redmond Rock. Not only that, when it was gone, one of them moved the salt holder over and dug a hole, trying to find more Redmond Rock. I was thrilled they actually liked it! I went back to the same store to buy them another Redmond Equine, but they were sold out. Hopefully another shipment comes in soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Steep Rock pictures

It should be noted, this was Secret's first "real" trail ride, and she was a star. It should also be noted that this place is so much fun to ride at, that I never stopped smiling!

Steep Rock Pictures

Pictures taken by Megan Thompson - thanks Meg!

Fun Ride at Steep Rock Preserve

I originally wrote this for the New England Morgan Horse Association newsletter. But since I am so far behind on blogging, I'll post it here. Stay tuned for pictures, and blogs on Crooked River 30-mile Competitive Trail Ride and the Connecticut Morgan Horse Show.

On Sunday, June 3rd, several members of the Connecticut Morgan Horse Association (CMHA) met at Steep Rock Preserve in Washington, Connecticut for a pleasure trail ride. Esther and Jim Fiddes of Bethel brought their horses LBF Hickory Smoke and Quietude Mackenzie. Megan Thompson of Mansfield Depot was riding Mic Mac Amulet and Stacey Stearns from Storrs brought CBMF Secret Crush. Ann Raynor of Kent also brought two of her Haflingers and a friend to join the trail riding fun.

CMHA is hosting a club ride at Steep Rock on Saturday, June 16th and this was a pre-ride to check trails and the area, as well as enjoy a beautiful trail riding day!

Steep Rock is extremely accommodating to equestrians. There is a field used exclusively for horse trailer parking, and there is a riding ring adjacent to the field. Once everyone was tacked up, we headed back down the driveway and across the bridge over the Shepaug River. We then headed onto a woods trail and followed this trail up a hill to the summit. The Steep Rock Association sums up the view from the summit best, “The most popular hike is to the Steep Rock summit, a moderately strenuous climb which offers breathtaking views of the river and the dramatic contour of the Clam Shell, directly below.”

We took the same trail back down from the summit, and continued on further into the preserve. Crossing the Shepaug River is fairly technical. Only one of the fords was open. The river is wide, and fairly shallow near the banks. In the middle we reached a deep spot, and with the rocks on the bottom and a strong current, the horses had to think a little and trust their riders. My horse, Secret, was unfamiliar with technical water crossings – this was her first water crossing besides small streams! I kept her behind the other three Morgans, all experienced trail horses and let her watch where they were crossing the river. When the strong current hit her in the deeper section of the river (up past her knees, however my boots did not get wet), she hurried through a little faster. Other than splashing Jim and LBF Hickory Smoke quite a bit, the river crossing was uneventful for Secret!

After we crossed the river, we rode on old carriage trails up through the woods. At one point, high up in the hills, we had a spectacular view of the river below. We did several loops around the preserve, for a total of 8 miles. We primarily walked, taking our time to enjoy our horses and the location, it took us two and a half hours to complete the ride. The weather was perfect, the horses all behaved wonderfully, and you really could not ask for a lovelier place to ride than Steep Rock. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Preserve, you will not be disappointed. For more information visit: