Monday, May 29, 2017

Where have we been?

It's been nearly 9 months since my last blog post! Sheesh. I started a new job in November which has taken up a lot of my mental energy,  so my blog has fallen through the gaps. Let me try and catch up!

Anti-Climatic end of 2016...
Leo and I ended our competition season last year at the Radnor Horse Trials in October. We ran training level again so I could practice our rideability without stressing about fence height and complexity. Turns out whether it's training or prelim, I still get a good dose of performance nerves. Leo was a spook-devil in dressage, but managed to keep his head on in stadium, and had a very easy xc round.  Dan isn't a believer in calming supplements, so Leo goes all natural now. We manage him through his work schedule and training. At 14, it's clear he is always going to be a hot-headed horse. There's no sign of that changing.

We spent November and December just working on basic flatwork and doing A LOT of trail riding.

The goal for spring 2017 was to go down to Aiken and start the competition season early. Only that was not meant to be. Leo bumped his leg around New Years and got the smallest of scrapes. In 24 hrs his leg blew up from pastern to elbow. He went on oral antibiotics immediately. Then within 48 hrs the infection blew out through his pastern. He ended up spending nearly the whole month of January at New Bolton. The strain of cellulitis that he had was only susceptible to IV antibiotics and they needed to be administered around the clock, every 4 hours. His entire leg was poulticed and bandaged from foot to shoulder. It was quite a look. New Bolton was great though - they sent me pictures of his leg progress (I was never able to be there when they were actually changing the bandage), and let me come after hours as needed if work got in the way of visiting hours.

Leo at New Bolton

Site of the sbscess

When Leo was finally ready to come home, the wound from where the abscess blew out still wasn't healed; nor was all the swelling down in his leg. He had to stay on stall rest until the wound was healed and the swelling was back to normal. He was actually a really good patient and tolerated being stall-bound surprisingly well. He didn't require any sedation at all.

It was tempting to try and rush the process but I've seen wounds take forever to heal when horses are in work and I didn't want to deal with this for months on end. The constant bandaging and stall rest was annoying but I'm glad I followed doctor's orders. After another 4 weeks of stall rest, the leg was still slightly swollen but the wound looked pretty good so I started turning him out. The first day he got turned out he was very excited and I brought him in after 10 minutes of craziness. But the next day he was fine. After a week of turn out, we started walk hacking him and eventually introduced trotting again. By the end of March, he was cantering.

Now he gets turned out in 4 boots and only gets turned out by himself.

Finding my competition mojo again
Leo came back into work in March but then I caught bronchitis and had the hardest time breathing and riding. After multiple trips to the doctor, changes in medicine, learning how to use an inhaler, it was a full 6 weeks before I was better. Ugh.

After a problematic 2016 and then a crappy start to 2017, I wasn't much in the mood for competing.
Obviously, Bromont was not going to happen for us. Leo and I started jumping again in April, and luckily Dan and Kaitlin prodded me along. They were basically like: we think you should compete at one of two events; which do you want to do? I picked the later one: Flora Lea Horse Trials.

All spring, we've been working on Leo's canter and my discipline with getting him relaxed in the bridle before asking for the next thing. Dan has to continually explain that Leo's resistant in the bridle has a direct affect on his back and overall soundness. So before I ask for trot, he has to be soft in the bridle and coming through from behind. Same with trot to canter. It sounds so simple, but it's so hard for us. But we're learning and improving and, since coming back from the cellulitis, Leo is the most sound I have ever seen him. He physically looks incredible right now. Check out this sexy beast!

Leading up to Flora Lea, Dan started putting the jumps up from 2 ft to 3 ft (finally). Amazingly, the canter work actually held as the fences got "bigger". These have been our lesson themes:

  • Be disciplined with my track work. Stay straight after the fences. Get the right bend through the turns. Pay attention to where I am going between fences. 
  • Adjustability in the canter - I have to be able to collect (canter in place while reeving the RPMs) and then ride forward into the bridle without resistance.  
  • During a course, I practice collecting or adjust Leo's stride at strategic times (not 3 strides in front of the fence). And then I ride forward to the fence - not on a lengthening stride but on a proper 12 ft stride and I hold the canter with my leg
  • I use a ton more leg now than I did a year ago. Everything is LEG. LEG. MORE LEG. MORE LEG. Want to slow down? Leg. Want to move up? Leg. What to fix anything at all? Leg. 
I'm not going to lie, I still wasn't feeling up to competing before I went to Flora Lea. But we went and of course it was great.

Flora Lea May 2017
Leo and I competed in the training rider division. Our dressage test was manageable. We broke 40 which was good for us! We were 18th out of 20 after dressage, so clearly a 39 isn't a competitive score in dressage these days.

Of course I was nervous before the jumping phases. I don't know why. I know Leo can manage training level pretty easily. I think it's more of the mindy-don't-screw-up nerves. Leo was losing his mind before stadium and I could barely get him in the ring for my round. He ran into the fencing and I thought he was going to take down a tent, but somehow we got in the ring in the most ungraceful way possible. Then I think Leo started hopping up and down...I can't really remember because I was trying to figure out how to get him moving and plan my way to the start. Dan wanted me to approach the first fence on Leo's left lead which is his stronger side, but the course wasn't really set up for this approach. I finally got Leo going in the a direction - any direction worked for me - and we managed to find our way to the first fence. Once he was jumping he was fine! We actually had a professional round. One rail and time faults. I don't know if I took too long to get to the start or if I went too wide in the turns but it was a good round for Leo.

Cross country was super easy. Leo was totally on game. He went in the french link snaffle again and I could easily bring him back when I needed to. Yay! At the end of the day, we had moved up to 7th. Not to shabby.

Dan or Kaitlin is actually going to move Leo back up to Prelim at his next event. I want him to have a good confident round and if that means trading off rides with Dan & Kaitlin, I'm cool with that.

I joined a syndicate! 
In other news, I joined my first horse syndicate. Dan imported an Irish Sporthorse last year, MW Gangster's Game aka Frank aka Franklin. It looks like he has serious potential so Dan syndicated him. Both my mom and I bought a share. Frank just moved up to Intermediate and placed 4th! He goes to Bromont for the 1-star and he looks like a serious contender for a top 10 finish. Dan is aiming him towards the Fair Hill 2-star in October. This is really exciting stuff - imagine if Frank makes it to a 4-star some day! That would be amazing.

Dan does a great job with the syndicate too - he publishes training videos so we can all see what he is working on with Frank and learn about Frank's strengths and weaknesses. Plus Frank has an amazing personality - he loves to snuggle and be sociable. It's all quite fun!

MW Gangster's Game (Frank)


  1. so glad to hear from you - esp such a positive update! what a mess about that infection but i'm glad Leo's back on the up-and-up again and that you're settling back into a groove. that's also super exciting about the syndicate! i'm thrilled to hear Dan's finally got a serious upper level contender again. good stuff all around!

  2. i saw your entry list on flora lea and i was like ooo yay shes back out!!

    that sucks about the leg shitshow/injury but I'm glad he got it under control not too much the worse for wear. it sucks to find out they need full battle gear and individual turnout AFTER they do something like that...

  3. Welcome back! I did a double take when I saw your post pop up in my feed. Glad you and Leo are back in the game after a lot of nasty stuff happening. I'm looking forward to seeing your move up! :)