Monday, October 24, 2016

RABT Farm Ultimate 2-Phase - October 23, 2016

Snappy and I wrapped up her first show season with an Ultimate 2-Phase at Rest and Be Thankful Farm in Lyman, ME.  After unseasonably warm temps the week prior and bragging about the great show weather I have had all year, it was FREEZING this past Sunday!  Haha I am such a wimp about the cold and with 20+ mph steady wind and a temperature of 42 degrees and no sun, the "real feel" was closer to 35 degrees.  I may have been born in Maine and lived here in New England all my life, but holy cow I am not a cold weather girl.  Doesn't help I have Reynaud's in my hands and feet, so once I am cold and my digits are white, I am DONE.  I had a good time riding and it was a fun way to end the season, but it was way too cold for me to actually enjoy it.  The best part was cranking the heat in the truck when we left to drive home LOL!

Snappy was super good despite being in a newish place (we did school XC here last month, so not totally new) and for the crazy fall winds and temps.  She was slightly up at the trailer while I tacked up and quite looky on the walk out to the back hay field where they had set up the dressage ring.  The trees and leaves were scary but she held it together for a respectable test.  Not our best test at 34.7 but with the cold and the fact she never really felt warmed up enough for a good swinging gait, I am happy.  We had just about fifty minutes between our dressage test and jumping round, which was fine with me.  I hurried back to the trailer in order to change her tack and change clothing.  I put her in eventing gear because an "ultimate" 2-phase's jumping round is a hybrid of XC and stadium.  I actually have never done an ultimate 2-phase, but it was fun!  There were five regular stadium jumps and four XC jumps out in the field, and Snappy jumped everything well so we went clear.  The course was basically a large figure-8 and super straightforward, which was great.  Again, like at Hilltop, she was much more comfortable in the trot, so we trotted the entire course.  Goal for next year is to canter our courses!  

I did not even snap a photo of her at the trailer or wearing her ribbon, because honestly I untacked, repacked, and left as quickly as I could.  My face was bright red from windburn and I spent an hour on the couch when I got home (after the hottest shower ever) under warm blankets.  Brrrrr I am NOT ready for sn*w and real winter temps!  
Yeah mare!  Pretty ribbon for her growing collection!  We won our tiny division of three riders.
Yes, I braided her the night beforehand and took pics.  Hahaha! Look at that winter coat coming in!  She turns so dark in the winter!
It may not look it, but her mane is a disaster from braiding all year, with thin sections, thick sections, blah blah crappy crap.  So my plan was to roach her at some point so it would all grow back in even and thick by next spring (in order to pull it for shows).  Instead, I was so cold when I got home, I roached her braids RIGHT OFF!  Hahahahaha I was dying with laughter at my ridiculousness!  :-)
Overall, could not have asked for a better first year out with Snap Dancer!  She ended up being such a good mare and trying everything I asked of her with the biggest heart and willingness to try.  I cannot believe show season is over!  It feels like it was just April and I was freaking out at the thought of taking her to a show!  :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hilltop Horse Trial - October 16, 2016

On October 16, Snappy and I tried our very first full horse trial at Hilltop Equestrian Center in Somersworth, NH.  Beforehand, we had completed four two-phases and a XC jump school, so even though I was somewhat nervous to send out the entry, I knew we could do it.  I knew she was clearly capable of both a dressage test and stadium jump course, and she was prepared enough to try XC.  I have just tried to take it so slow with her in order to give her positive experiences because it hasn't be easy for her to place her trust in me.  I miss eventing now that Dreamy is retired, so I wanted to be sure Snappy had a solid foundation of confidence to become my next event horse (even if we never make it past the baby levels). But by this point in the year, even though I hemmed and hawed and almost didn't send our entry, I also knew I really did not want to wait until May of 2017 before we tried a full horse trial!

It was a gorgeous fall day, one that makes us dread the oncoming winter even more so than usual.  I have had great weather luck this year for my horse shows, which has been nice!  My dressage test was at 10AM sharp, and I was the first of six riders in my division.  Then my cross country was at 12:05 and stadium at 1:50, so it was a perfectly respectable schedule.  My plan was to walk the XC course after my dressage and walk stadium after my XC.  I figured we would be able to leave by 2:30.  

Our dressage test went well, and I was proud of her for marching into a strange indoor for the first time with no issue.  They run two dressage rings and while I had hoped to be in the outdoor, I was super proud that Snappy handled the indoor with ease.  She even trotted by the large mirrors without issue though she did eyeball the white cavalettis used to condense the end of the ring by A haha.  Do I jump these now?  Do I trot by them?  So much confused!

We ended up with a 29.69 which placed us in second in our division.  This was our best 2-phase dressage score this year, as our first 2-phase dressage score was a 39.38 (we have done the same test at each 2-phase)!  Each time out we improved our score by several points.  

Overall, there were not many comments on the test, but I was pleased to see I FINALLY did not overshoot centerline LOL!  I don't know why I was having so much trouble with that this year, but I do know I allow her to fall out through her left shoulder in right turns and the last centerline is a right turn, hence the reason we overshoot it.  I have worked SO hard getting her properly into the left rein and it showed for this test.  I was determined to fix that!  We earned a 7 on the first centerline and an 8 on our last one (with no comments about overshooting it!)  Whooo progress!  We also earned the highest score so far on our free walk, with a 7.5.  I know we can continue to improve it; though I will be glad when we ride a test that has a true diagonal, because Intro B has a weird short one from F - E and I think we simply don't have enough time with about five steps across the arena to really stretch.  It doesn't make sense to have a short diagonal at this level IMO.  We also had our best score under collectives for submission with a 7.5.  Overall, a solid test and I could not be happier.

After our dressage test!  My husband's phone camera is sucky.
It did not take long to untack and head out to walk the XC course.  Everything looked doable for Snappy and the only jump I wondered about was the tires (but she jumped it fine!).  I felt the course was a perfect mix of easy logs and slightly tougher questions, but everything was low and inviting. There were eight jumps in the first big field, then we headed out on a wooded trail for four jumps, and ended up in the back field for the final two.  

She definitely gave each jump a good look, but was forward and bold for me over the fences without sucking back in doubt.  The only thing she worried about were the jump judges (OMG people in the woods!), because as we would come around to jump, there was a person sitting there and she wasn't sure what to make of that.  I spoke to her the entire time (Good girl, they're just people, easy mare) and I am sure the jump judges thought was crazy haha.  But it really does help relax her when I use my voice.  In the last field, she locked onto the first fence you could see coming out of the woods, which wasn't our fence at all.  It confused her a bit, as we had to swing to the left over our division's fence.  I could feel her start to get a bit wiggly, as she wasn't sure which fences we were jumping and there were probably ten fences scattered about in a small area.  I just rode her straight and kept my eyes focused on our last two jumps, which were fairly lined up with one another.  She was fantastic and we went clear; the spooking at jump judges and wigglyness about which fence in a cluttered area are just greenie moments, nothing that makes me worried about her future as a little event horse! 

Snappy didn't want to canter between fences, even when I asked, and definitely felt safe in her comfort zone of trotting.  I did not push the issue, because I know the canter will come in time and right now it is just not her place of comfort (she is a trotter, after all!).  I remember trotting around this same exact cross country course with Dreamy years ago and wondering if we would ever be able to canter a course like a real event horse (we eventually did many times and had a blast!).  So, even though trotting and posting an entire XC course is fairly tiring compared to loping along in half seat, I am completely thrilled with our first ever XC outing in a competition format!  Of course, now I cannot wait for spring events LOL!!
We had just come off XC and I had loosened her girth!  Happy moment!
I opted for black/blue as our XC colors, which is always an appropriate color for riders haha!
After XC, it became sunny and hot, so I sponged her off and we all relaxed and ate lunch.  I wandered over to the stadium course twice, but other divisions were jumping, so I had to settle for just looking at the posted course and watching other riders go.  I really dislike not being able to walk a course beforehand, especially a course like this set with lots of turns in a ring, but I had no choice.  And while I love showing here, the stadium does tend to get behind, so I took my time and headed over to jump at 1:35, just fifteen minutes before our posted start time of 1:50.  She didn't need much of a warm up, so there was no use showing up too early.

It turns out I was still too early anyway and my division did not start until 2:30, so we did a lot of walking and found about the only shade on the farm.  I love the warm sunny weather in October, but that near hour of waiting was the one time I wished it was cooler and/or overcast!  I almost went back to the trailer, but I also did not want to end up late (my trailer and the stadium ring were not close so it would have been hard to keep track).  We were still sitting in second place, and I knew it was unlikely the placings would change (unless we screwed up haha), but I mean I figured there was no way we would move up to first.  Low level eventing is won in dressage and the first place horse had been doing these events at this level all year (and looked great!).  This was about a good experience for Snappy, NOT THE RIBBON COLOR, but I admit the thought did cross my mind that we were soooo close to winning haha.  ;-)

Finally it was time for our division.  The course rode fine, but there were two fences she took as a long spot instead of waiting for me until the base of the fence, but I cannot complain.  I would rather she opted for the long spot at this point rather than refuse the fence or suck back behind my leg.  We were just a little out of sync for those two fences out of nine. The jumps were brightly colored and decorated, but she was unconcerned, which was exactly what I hoped to see.

Yay mare!  
Overall, we ended on our dressage score and earned second place.  Snappy got to do her first "victory trot" haha which is a cute touch at this venue, as they hand out the ribbons in the ring right when the division ends instead of riders picking up ribbons at the scoring booth at the conclusion of the day.  I could not have been any happier for our first ever three phase event!  My plan next year is to only do full three phase horse trials instead of 2-phases and I think she is definitely ready.

SIDE NOTE: I added photos to our last horse show post that I was tagged in on Facebook! The photographer did not ask for any compensation, just that we donate towards the mustang rescue if we wanted to use the photos!  :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Thank you all for your ideas and comments about Snappy's frustrating hard keeping tendencies.  I appreciate hearing what has worked for others, because while we all know each horse reacts differently to feeds and supplements, sometimes you just need ideas! 

Late afternoon autumn sun
At this point, I have started to switch her over to Triple Crown Complete (from Senior) and she will stay on the Nutrena Empower Boost (rice bran pellets).  I also added in alfalfa pellets for fiber, though she is NOT crazy about them and always leaves about 1/2 pound behind.  I will continue aloe vera juice (ulcers) and her Smartpak (SmartGut Ultra and Buteless pellets) as always and will add in Cocosoya oil as well once it arrives.  I now have her stall and pasture hay in haynets, and I am already seeing her eat more though still not as much as I'd like to see.

We have had gorgeous autumn sunsets!

Any of you who feed Cocosoya have a good resource from which to order?  I paid exactly $24.95 for a gallon with free shipping from Smartpak.  I ordered it today 10/12 and it is supposed to arrive tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ever After Mustang Benefit Horse Show - October 9, 2016

Another great horse show for Miss Snappy!  This mare has earned some really solid show miles this year and I am so thankful for that.  Even though I decided to focus on dressage and eventing with her, I did attend an "open show" this past weekend.  I thought it would be fun and I've attended this show many times (it was the 10th year anniversary for them!).  This was actually the same show she went to back at the end of 2014 as her "first show experience", so it was fun to return and see how she behaved.  Rereading that old blog post made me realize that she has grown, as this time around she was happy to stand in the line-up at the end of the riding classes and she was totally calm in the in-hand class.  Again, she warmed up and behaved perfectly for everything I asked of her.  

Hanging out at the trailer
Snappy earned:
1st Adult Walk/Trot Pleasure out of 4 entries
1st Adult Walk/Trot Equitation out of 3 entries
1st Open Walk/Trot Over Fences out of 2 entries
3rd Open Walk/Trot Egg & Spoon out of 3 entries
4th Fitting & Showmanship out of 7 entries
Adult High Point Champion

We also won some really great swag with our three first place ribbons!  I had a bucket, gift bag, and tote bag FULL of neat items.

So much swag!  Baseball hat, tote bag, grooming mitt, tape measure, poultice, Leather New, Bannix, three Vetraps, Absorbine samples, tack cleaning sponges, $10 gift card to a local feed store, rain poncho, small bucket, calendar, and two random choker things. 
High Point Award sweatshirt!  It's pretty big, but how fun!  :-)
We did the same classes as two years ago, except they removed the Command Class and added Egg & Spoon instead.  And I added in the over fences class this year, as she wasn't ready to jump at a show in 2014.

I was SO EXCITED to try egg & spoon because I don't think I have done that since I was a kid LOL!  But sadly, the minute they said to remove our thumbs from the egg, I dropped the damn thing hahaha!  I should have just held it normally instead of trying to use my thumb in the first place.  Between wearing riding gloves and trying to remove my thumb and move my hand back from the egg, all while trying to steer my horse with my left hand, was a bad combo apparently hahaha!  It was over before it started.  Oh well!

I wasn't planning to do the in-hand, but I did it anyway just to see how she would act.  She was great!  We had to do a 270 degree pivot, which I have never trained her to do, so I know that bumped us down.  I just asked her to turn nicely away from me, but she didn't do a perfect pivot.
We are just to the left of center!
The three classes I really cared about (pleasure, equitation, and over fences) were the ones we won, so that was super cool!  She was perfect in our riding classes, and did not react when we ended up right behind a horse who refused to trot and started misbehaving.  I saw it begin happening as soon as we switched direction, and I figured the behavior of the horse would escalate when we were asked to trot (it did), so I was prepared and took a wide berth around the misbehaving horse.  She just kept trotting like the good mare she is. 

(And again, she beat the career walk/trot horse. I think this is this horse/rider pair's seventh year in walk/trot.  I hate to constantly bring that up, but seriously?  Once this mare can canter in public, I will move her up.  And if she is never able to canter?  I certainly won't turn her into a forever walk-trotter at horse shows.  Just a pet peeve of mine!)

She was SOOOO good! 
Awkward photo of us leaving the ring with our first place gift bag!
The jumping class was a bit worrisome.  I never know what to expect at little schooling shows like this (and usually my instinct that things will be less than stellar are correct - I'll never forget the time show management at a different show set a two stride at 2.5 strides and no one cared when I told them it wasn't set was one of the most unsafe things I have ever seen, but I digress).  

There was no warm up fence, so I had to trust that Snappy would just go in and jump an entire course of eight fences with no prior heads up as to what I wanted.  Granted, the jumps were tiny, but I do like her to be thinking about what is going to happen before it does haha.  Also, the first three fences were set as a TRIPLE!  Holy moly!  I have never seen that LOL!  It was a one stride to a two stride triple combination, so not only did we not jump anything ahead of time, our first three fences were a combination.  LOL!  Again, they were tiny fences, but I just wanted her to have a good trip and I was worried I might be setting her up for failure on two counts.  I guess I shouldn't have worried at all, because she was willing to go over everything, even if she gave the first fence a OH WE ARE JUMPING NOW moment of hesitation.  

Overall, it was a fun day with nice weather, and I was out of there by 1pm!  Can't beat that!  :-)

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Hardkeeping Horse aka the most frustrating experience ever

Let me begin by saying that I have never owned a horse that was a hardkeeper.  My horses have always been vacuum cleaners, air ferns, roly poly things that barely needed any grain no matter their level of activity and would eat as much hay I could stuff into their faces.

When I first met Snappy in 2012, she was eating fourteen pounds of sweet feed a day and I was mortified.  But of course, I did not know her well at that point, she wasn't in my direct care, and while I would not have chosen a sweet feed, she was in heavy work (racing) and probably needed the high amount of calories.

A few months later when she suddenly became mine, I changed her feed to Triple Crown Complete.  When I treated her ulcers later that winter, I switched her to Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost, which is a rice bran pellet.  I have always been happy with Triple Crown and while I cannot remember exactly how much grain she ate, I know it was MUCH less than fourteen pounds a day!  I noticed quickly that she did not eat much hay, even when I had her teeth done.  

The first year she maintained her weight fairly well, though she was always on the thin side to me. The second year she was out of work as I was pregnant, so she had no trouble maintaining her weight though she never got "fat" like Dreamy did.  This year I still feel as though she was on the thin side, but she basically refused to eat hay outside (where she is for 12 hours of her day).  Granted, she had plenty of grazing, but now the grazing is not great and she is picking at the hay I leave for her each morning.  I do feed her hay in a haynet in her stall overnight, which is not ideal to me but it does seem to help her eat more.  

So this morning I hung her outside hay in a haynet on the side of the barn.  We shall see if she eats more during turnout.  She is still on Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost at the recommended level of feed, but I added in four pounds of beet pulp a day.  I fed out three 40 pound bags before I decided I did not think it was doing much for her.  And I am still not 100% sure I like the idea of feeding beet pulp anyway.   This weekend I added in alfalfa pellets in place of the beet pulp (along with her regular grain ration of TCS and Boost).  I think her weight is low not because she is not getting enough calories from her grain, but because she needs more fiber.  The first thing I have always been taught to get a horse to gain weight, you add hay before you add grain.  But man, this horse will barely eat more than three flakes (which is only 12 pounds give or take!!!) of hay a day!  She stresses me!  Of course, this was OK during the spring and summer because the grass was plentiful.  The fall grazing is not as good!  

Anyway, her teeth, her ulcers, everything is fine.  The vet is coming in a few weeks for fall teeth floating anyway, so I will check with him then as well.  She is just not a big eater and never has been.  She just never has looked more than a 4.5 on the scale, which isn't bad necessarily but it also isn't great to me.  Yes, she is fit but she doesn't have the bloom I want to see.  Side note, I do have access to a livestock scale (the perks of being married to a cattle guy) so I know that she weighed 845 before I started the beet pulp in August and she gained about 2o pounds.  But I do wish she would gain about another fifty or so.  I just want her to be a strong 5 or even a 6.  I want her to be a plumpy mare.

Uggggg, hardkeepers stress me out.  Any ideas?  Thoughts?  I know different things work for different horses, but tell me what has worked for your picky eater to gain weight!  :-)

ETA: I feed a high quality, second crop timothy/orchard grass mix, which is pretty much like horse crack, so the mare SHOULD be hoovering her hay LOL!!  ;-)