Perspective is not what I was looking for when I went into the start box at Jersey Fresh on Saturday. I was shooting for the clear round. I was determined to reach my goal and my final qualification to get me to Bromont 3-star, but perspective is what I found. I had another bitting “situation” that resulted in a run-out at the skinny toothbrush out of the water because Nike would throw his head when I tried to steer or hold him to a line, resulting in him not seeing or locking onto the fence. Luckily, Nike understands and enjoys his job so the rest of the combinations I could keep a loose contact and he drew to the skinnys and corners.
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Jersey Fresh 3* Cross-Country Preview
My First Rolex
Rolex actually is as overwhelming and exciting as everyone imagines it to be. I told myself over and over that it was just another 3-day, just like another horse trial, to try to convince myself that I would be able to get through it. I can’t even count how many times I told myself that I had done this all before, this is nothing new. Despite the continual struggle to control my mind and keep focused, the voice inside me was screaming, “This is ROLEX! This is your childhood dream come to life!! Don’t screw it up!”
Spring Blog Chapter 5
We eventers never expect things to work out the way we hope they might. It’s just not realistic in our sport because it is unpredictable and there are too many factors for everything to be perfect. That is one of the reasons why I love eventing. You always have to be thinking quickly and responding instinctively when your “plan A” doesn’t work out. Karen always says “sometimes you’re on ‘plan M’ by the time you make it through a difficult question”– but it’s making it to the other side with your adrenaline pumping and horse running for the next difficult challenge that drives us on.
That being said–Nike and I had a very ideal event last weekend at the Fork. Not everything was perfect, obviously, but we both really enjoyed the whole weekend. He was fantastic on the flat and I couldn’t be happier with his test. There are always things to improve on but he tried his heart out and gave it his best. I absolutely love a horse that gets competitive in the dressage arena. Nothing makes me more content and confident than trotting around the ring and knowing my horse is right where I need him and completely listening and understanding that this ride counts. Nike is turning into one of these horses 🙂
He was quite strong again on cross-country. I had backed him down to a plastic straight-bar Pelham with a cover on the chain because I was worried that the jointed would be too much. I was wrong. He was very strong! I was planning on not going for speed but he needed to gallop between the fences so he could listen for the combinations so I was quicker than expected. He was straight and understood all of the difficult questions and I was thrilled with him.
Show jumping was pretty twisty and looked big because of the small area they were using in the sand arena but it was a great course for us because we had to stay forward around turns and keep steady in down the lines. He jumped clear and ended up winning because a lot of people had rails down. We used the same bit as the day before and it was perfect. We’ll be bumping up the brakes for xc but I’m happy with the show jumping.
As for the next couple of weeks Nike will be having a really easy workout schedule. He’s completely off until Thursday and then he’ll be hacking out and walking/trotting on the pavement to build up his soft tissue through the weekend. He’s been working very hard lately and I don’t want him to peak too soon. Just like with any human athletes, you have to time everything right so your horse is peaking physically, mentally and emotionally for the event/3-day your shooting for. It’s a delicate balance and takes a while to figure out because it’s so specific to the horse/person. I read a lot of sports psychology books and try to relate them to my horse. Training is equally as important as recovery, so that’s what I’m focusing on for Nike in the next two weeks to try to keep him enjoying his work and want to get back to the daily grind. I also get to compete Ms. Mars’ Harbor Pilot that David has trained and competed in the CCI* at Ocala next weekend and have some young ones there as well so I’ll stay good and busy even if Nike’s having a bit of R&R!
Nike’s headed to Jersey Fresh CIC*** next Hope to see you there! -HSB
PS: Thanks for all of the facebook posts, texts and messages of encouragement and congratulations. Y’all are the best!
Spring Blog Chapter 4
Picture this: Nike and I are out in the jump field this morning, we jump 6-7 jumps, turning either direction on landing and gallop a few strides then halt quickly and rein-back. Hop off, change bridles/bits and get back on to do the exact same thing. Rewind and play again and that was our workout today. Horses, like people, are constantly changing. Last fall, Nike was light as a feather in the bridle in cross-country and show jumping, all I had to do was change my center of gravity and he would balance; add a bit of weight to the reins and he would change his length of stride and slow down. Since his recent success (he’s starting to let it go to his head), Nike is starting to question whether I am always right about how fast/slow we should be going. Hence, the switching and experimenting with bits. Part of this change in my horse is encouraged. He is confident and wants to do his job. He is brave and bold and not a lot backs him off. I am not a big fan of “bitting-up” my horses because it often means there is a lack in training. But given my size and strength, sometimes it is unavoidable. Its always a good idea to keep your trainer informed when you feel like your horse is getting too strong or maybe the opposite, losing confidence and backing off because of too much bit. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that Nike was strong last weekend at Southern Pines, and that once again I have work to do to regain communication with him. His first advanced went almost to plan: he was good on the flat, scored a 31.9 and his more difficult flying change was clean and quiet (which I was so excited about that I leaned down and patted him during the test lol) and he jumped around clean xc. We had 20 time penalties but I wasn’t trying to go fast and he was pretty strong so it took a while to get him back in front of the more technical fences.
Show jumping was pretty interesting. He was very wound up on Sunday and I was trying a leverage bit with a running martingale to keep him rounder in front of the fences. He got a bit behind the vertical and didn’t see an upright until the last stride and then put his head up and the running martingale put a lot of pressure on the bit and plowed we through it fence. Then he was pretty upset and hit the martingale at the next fence (the in of a double) and slid into that one too. Not a picture-perfect round to be sure. I rode a lot more forward after that and got out of his face and he jumped the rest of the round rub-free.
Were calling that round a “wardrobe-malfunction,” but I know that I need to ride more forward and get his eye on the fences. For now, we’ve dropped the running martingale for the show-jumping and the winner is a jointed Pelham with double reins so I can change how much curb he needs for how he’s feeling on the day. He’s a red-head so he changes his mind a lot!!
Hope to see you at the Fork at Nike’s first CIC*** -HSB
Spring Blog Chapter 3
This is Hannah Burnett coming to you poolside from David and Karen’s house–Lauren and I are having a little after work snack O’Connor style (cheese and crackers) and stealing some internet. Just don’t tell them cause they’re out golfing 😉
The past couple weeks have been a very good prep for the CIC** at Red Hills. We had a flat and jumping lesson Captain Phillips last weekend and he seemed happy with our progress on the flat. We worked on Nike’s flying changes, which are difficult for him, and Mark was a great help. He told me that I have to get enough collection with uphill balance before I can have good, clean changes. The first day was a bit dicey because Nike got a bit hot with so much pressure on the collected canter but the following day it seemed that he had been practicing all night in his field or something! His changes were much better and he wasn’t rattled by all of the intense collection. We also jumped a bit the second day–which went pretty well. Mark had me keeping his canter energized and uphill around turns where I tend get slow to try to see a distance and then fire at the fence instead of keeping a steady rhythm. All in all, a very good couple of days.
Max, Karen, David and I headed off to Red Hills with only 3 horses on Thursday after having help on the flat with David. Friday started out with a very “energized” ride around the trade fair and the dressage arenas, trying to settle Nike and get him used to all of the commotion so he could focus on his work. That ride was followed by 3 other rides that eventually settled him. Our test was at 11:50 so I was pretty busy getting all of his “energy” out!! Nike was a very good boy in his test and put him in the lead after the dressage. Its very nice when your horse pulls it together in front of a big crowd and Nike loves showing off for his dad–Dick Thompson :).
The cross country was more open and gallopy than usual for Red Hills, but it was still very turny and there was alot to do. Nike was very good and pretty fast, but the last minute or two I was making him listen a bit more and add a stride instead of going for the direct quick route. It’s more important to me to have my horse listening to me on the landing and looking at the angles/skinnies/corners rather than being quick and just getting it done–especially when he’s moving up to advanced at the next event. There’s a time to “just get it done” but I want to make sure he’s prepared for the move-up. We were around 30 seconds slow but that kept us in the lead since no one made time. I did have Michael Pollard breathing down my neck going into the show jumping–less than 4 points behind me.
We waited all day to show jump and I was really feeling the pressure. I wanted to jump clear–even if I hadn’t been in first. I needed to school my horse in an electric atmosphere and try to keep him listening and rideable under pressure. I also had my infamous crashing through the last fence at Fair Hill running through the back of my mind–something that wasn’t very helpful or positive. Nike was pretty wound up and we ended up having a vertical on the out of a 5 stride down because he inverted when I went to steady him. We finished in 2nd and I’m very happy with the result. The next two weeks I will work on all of my horses jumping smaller fences quitely, landing and turning or halting etc. I learned that my horses must be available to me on the take-off landing and everywhere in-between. It’s the simple training that I sometimes glance over and I had a nice wake-up-call to that last weekend.
Nike, 2 training horses and I are headed to Southern Pines II for Nike’s advanced debut. Until then I’ll be working on the basics!! I’ll check in with ya after that 🙂 -HSB
Spring Blog Chapter 2
Nike and I have had a very busy couple of weeks since our last post. He has continued to get fitter and we are both working on our flatwork, which is really getting fun (hard to believe I’m saying this…) and he’s really jumping great.