Wednesday 18 August 2021

WW: All Breed Horse Show Photos

 Ack, I still need to get caught up on real posts but the annual dressage show I organize is coming up this weekend and it has been extra busy because it is being featured in an hour long documentary(!) being made for local tv programming. I will do more write ups later but for now enjoy the show photos from the dressage day at the All Breed Horse Show courtesy of The Buckin' Photographer (photos all purchased). 

I'm happy to have photo documentation of Naia's first dressage show! Also I am totally saying these count as my maternity photos (professional photos taken when I was officially pregnant ;-) ) 

Thursday 5 August 2021

All Breed Horse Show 2021 - The Atmosphere

Last last weekend (July 22-24) was a big one for both Naia and I so I am going to break it into multiple blog posts. 

Today I want to talk about all the new things that Naia had to deal with at this show. In hindsight, I could have set her up better for some of them but others were a surprise for me too. 

In a place without many shows, it can be tough to choose the right exposure opportunities for young horses. On one hand, I like to stick with local shows because a) closer to home if need to bail, b) not much point paying $$$ for gas and hotel to get rubbish scores when just giving a young horse exposure, and c) more friendly haul for the horse. However some shows have a lot more challenging set up or atmosphere than others for young horses. This particular show was attractive to me because of how close and affordable it was, but it was a lot for Naia to deal with. I don't think I overfaced her, and it was a somewhat calculated risk after how well she did at this jumper show (which also had a lot of people and atmosphere), but I want to acknowledge everything new that Naia faced as I think it puts important perspective on how she ultimately did. These range from the standard things that she will encounter in many future outings to some bizarre challenges unique to this weekend. 

Aside, for anyone not based in the prairies who is wondering about the shape of the arena or my references to the track, this show was held at our local rodeo grounds, and the layout is primarily designed for chuckwagon races, with infrastructure to support other rodeo events and large numbers of spectators. 

B - Barn where Naia was stabled
W - Warmup Ring
C - Competition Ring

1. Stabling
This was the first time that I have had a stall for Naia away from home and her first time overnight at a show. Overall I think it helped us more than hurt us. Naia seemed much more comfortable in her stall than she would have been tied to the trailer. I also did set her up for success by having a familiar and experienced horse stabled across the aisle within sight of her, only having her stay over one night, giving her a continuous supply of hay, and making sure that she left her buddy more than she left him. However, Naia generally lives out 24/7 in a paddock that is roughly 60'x160' so a 10'x10' stall is a significant downgrade in her space to wander. 

2. Bath
The show grounds was the first time that I gave Naia a full bath including shampoo and conditioner. I know that might sound weird but the wash stall set up at the show grounds is a much safer and welcoming one that the one at our home barn. I have gotten her used to standing in the wash stall at home and have hosed her down a couple times but the concrete at home can be pretty slippery and there is no where to tie so I intentionally waited until we were at the show for a full bath. 

A good shampoo means I finally got the
white hairs in Naia's two-toned tail white

3. Judge's Trailer
We did a practice day at the barn where we had a "judge" sit at a table at C, and Naia did see a judging booth at the hunter show, but at this show the judge was seated in a big elevated trailer with a canopy. It was a nice set up for the judge but was a little scary looking. When I did my laps around the outside of the arena I tried to get Naia to see that it was just people up there (she loves people) but nobody would say anything out loud for me. I totally get that the judge is generally busy finishing the test before, but there were 3 extra people sitting on the trailer as we walked by and so I was a bit disappointed that none would reply when I was talking to them and Naia while going by. When I was a scribe and saw a horse spooking at the judging booth I always made a point to talk calmly to them so they could see we were only people. 

4. Steward
I was grateful for the steward at this show. She actually checked us out both before and after our tests. She was very chatty and moved in a straightforward manner so Naia had zero issue with her sides being touched or mouth opened. The steward may have also saved me because she pointed out that my cinch was super loose before my test. I had tightened it to my normal hole but I think the stress had Naia more tucked up than normal, resulting in a loose cinch. 

5. Flapping sponsor signs
The arena had several vinyl signs zip tied to the arena fences to promote various sponsors. On Thursday night I did take special care to give Naia time to come up and sniff them and figure out that they weren't a threat. 

The five items above are all ones that were great to give Naia exposure to because she will likely experience them all again. But now we start getting into the more show/venue specific things...

6. Long Walk from Warmup to Show Ring
Okay, I will admit that I don't actually know what the norm is in various places for distance between warmup ring and show ring, but this felt long based on my limited experience. In reality it was 0.5km. In the past at this show, the entrance to the competition arena was on the side of the track closest to the barns and warmup ring. However this year they rearranged access so it was on the opposite side instead. That meant that there was a 1/2km walk from the warmup arena, past the back of metal stands, beside portapotties, down a narrow path behind the rough stock handling areas, through a field of gopher holes, down to a narrow gate in the track, and then back along the track to the arena. It probably wouldn't be a big deal to any seasoned show horse but it certainly felt like a challenging walk on a green 5 year old, especially when most of it was out of sight of other horses and there was no mounting block at the hitching ring so leading her wasn't even an option. 

Green - old path from warmup to competition ring
Red - path we had to take this year

7. Footing Extremes
I'm generally not one to fuss about footing too much (mostly because that would just make me crazy), but the footing at the show was definitely one of extremes. The competition ring was nicely harrowed and was fine and a good depth for dressage (though it is track dirt rather than any fancy dressage footing). The warmup arena has a very deep layer of sand so it was one extreme of soft and deep footing. On the other extreme, due to the long walk between the warmup and show ring, I had to do some of my schooling on the track beside the hitching ring. They had flattened and sealed the track to protect it so that was very hard ground that was not unlike riding on pavement, though had the added challenge of being sloped to the inside. The pathway between the two was mostly gravel and while Naia only took a couple off steps, I'm sure it would be quite ouchy to horses with more sensitive feet. 

8. Spectator stands
On one side of the arena was the grandstands, a looming expanse of concrete that extended far up, including a roof that cast long shadows across the arena. The entrance to the grandstands is actually sunk down a bit so the horses see about a 4 foot drop directly outside the arena fence on one whole side. The grandstand was essentially empty during my rides on Friday but every sound on the grounds echoed off the empty steel and concrete surfaces. On the other side of the arena were some of those metal stands, the ones that make loud noises whenever anyone moves on them. Of course for the weekend this is where all the spectators were actually sitting. 

I'm only sitting about 1/3 the way up the grandstand here

Metal stands can be seen across the arena

9. Bucking Chutes
We had to walk past both sides of the bucking chutes, both the front side while competing, and the back side while walking from the warmup ring. The chutes were empty so they are essentially just fences and gates, but ones that the horses only get narrow views into so they are inherently a little spooky. 

10. Construction
The horse show has the unfortunate honour of being held every year one week before the stampede starts. That means that every year there are crews onsite preparing for the larger upcoming event by moving large items around, doing repairs with loud power tools, having random equipment like forklifts in random places and the like. This year COVID means a more scaled down stampede so it wasn't as bad as previous years but was still present. I was grateful that they at least weren't doing grandstand roof repairs this year like in past years though! (Imagine riding a test when a person suddenly appears on a roof directly beside the arena, 100ft in the air, and starts using a nail gun in the middle of your ride! Sadly I don't have to imagine it because I have lived it lol). 

11. Chainsaws
There is a very talented local chainsaw artist. I have admired many of her pieces of work around the area but I did have to shake my head a bit when I saw that she was working on a tree directly beside the show barn during the show weekend. I mean couldn't they have hired her to come a different day? The sound of the chainsaw echoed loudly through the grandstand and could be heard clearly in the competition ring. She also restarted after a break right behind us as I was loading Naia into the trailer on the way home. 

Chainsaw work in progress right beside barn. 

12. Drones
Admittedly I didn't actually see any drones until I was done my rides for the day but seeing one fly directly over the arena definitely had me go "are you freaking kidding me!?" 

I have a lot of respect for the seasoned horses who can compete surrounded by chaos and not blink an eye. I would be thrilled if Naia eventually becomes one of those horses. However looking through the lens a five year old with limited off property trips, it was a lot to deal with, and also a lot of things that are really hard to prepare for at home. 

What's the craziest show environment you have experienced? 

Friday 30 July 2021

Survival and Staying in the Ring

You know what is not conducive to good blog recaps? Finishing up a 3 day show weekend and then immediately finding out that your in-laws are coming to stay the following weekend.... when you haven't had anyone inside your house since before the pandemic! My husband and I aren't slobs but let's be real, there was definitely some extra tidying to be done after not having guests in so so long. In particular my home office had been taken over by piles of paper and horse stuff (and I can't just hide the clutter behind closed doors because you have to go through the office to get to the backyard). My collection of clean saddle pads may have also taken up residence on the bed in one of our spare bedrooms, oops lol.

So anyways, full show recaps including media will still be coming but just a short post today to start things off.

You also get one pro show pic today since
I don't have any media from Thursday night

In my last post I was feeling pretty good about the shows, but let's remember that Naia is 5 and has only had 2 off-property trips before this (clinic with AM, and hunter show). On Thursday I hauled Naia to the show grounds. I first did some ground work and lunging with her, and then tacked her up to do a warm-up ride. She was up and looky but I figured that she would settle with more work. However soon after my butt hit the saddle I realized that I needed to downgrade all expectations to just survival. I told myself that even if I had to scratch my classes that just riding in a new place with all the atmosphere of the busy show grounds was great exposure for Naia. I needed to focus above all on giving her good rides and good experiences, even if that meant not getting through the tests we had trained for. For that warm up ride on Thursday Naia was more tense than I have felt her in a long time, and while she was listening to me to a degree, she just was not relaxing. We walked cloverleaf and figure 8 patterns in both directions but I could tell she wasn't ready for trot. Also any time I tried to halt and just park for a minute she started to spin, back up or throw her head up. So, we just walked, and walked, and walked some more, focusing on bend and where her feet were going. We started losing the light so I basically waited until she was settled enough to stand for me to dismount and then brought her back to the barn. 

One advantage of a local show with multiple disciplines is that lots of other horses from our barn were also showing on the weekend, though only 2 others hauled in Thursday night. Luckily it was one of her paddock neighbours that came and was stabled directly across the aisle from Naia. He is an older well-seasoned show horse and as I had hoped his calm presence really helped Naia in the barn so I wasn't too concerned about her overnight. 

I'll talk in more detail about Friday's classes in later recap but I started the day with survival and exposure for Naia as being my primary goal. We went in for our first test and fairly quickly got eliminated because Naia ducked out the open gate at A and all 4 feet left the ring. I've honestly never had a horse do that with me before so I was completely unprepared for it. The judge rang me out but very nicely allowed me to complete the test as she could see Naia was green and a bit freaked out, though as we were going through the rest of the test Naia ducked out at A again! At least the second time didn't matter as much since we were already eliminated. After the first test I now had 2 goals: to survive and stay in the ring! I'm happy to report that for the rest of my 4 dressage tests on the weekend, we achieved both of those goals! Small wins! 

There was video malfunction for start of first test so
this is actually the second time she left the arena!

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Show Ready

In the spirit of do-all-the-things-before-I-have-to-stop-riding, I am entered in two shows this coming weekend! 

On Friday I showing Intro dressage at my local All-Breed show. They are only offering Intro B and Intro C for English and since we can't do the canter in Intro C yet I am also entered in Western Dressage Intro C and Intro D (both only walk/jog). 

Looking like the QH that she 3/4 is

On Saturday it is halter and western performance classes at the All Breed show so I am whisking Naia off to Lethbridge to ride in the Ride-A-Test Day put on by the CC/ADA. This is technically more of a clinic than a show, but Doreen Horsey is judging. She is the only senior EC dressage judge in Alberta so getting feedback from her and supporting my local dressage club at the same time seems like a major win-win. 

Finally on Sunday I am back at the All Breed Show to compete in walk/trot English Pleasure and English Equitation. I originally had only planned on doing the dressage day of the All Breed Show but they were looking for more walk/trot entries, clarified that it was for either novice riders or novice horses, and waived the late fees for adding classes so we are now doing them. I already have a stall for the weekend so it was very minimal extra cost, and being in the ring with other horses is more good exposure for Naia.

The arena for the All Breed Show, 
it can be a bit spooky with the bucking shoots and grandstands


I rode yesterday and ran through 2 of the 3 dressage test patterns that I will be showing this weekend. I have been practicing individual movements for the last couple weeks but these were my first run throughs start to finish. To my somewhat surprise, they were actually pretty good! Sure, we could be quicker to trot out of the first halt, and keep straighter on our free walk diagonals, but those are pretty minor. I mean yes, they are intro tests so they are pretty basic, but I'm still pretty shocked at how ready I feel for these shows. There are so few dressage shows in my area that I generally find I am still trying to fix things down to the wire (not ideal, but if I waited to enter a show until everything was confirmed, I would never get to show). This is Naia's first show season and I was prepared for it to be exposure only and possibly some scratched classes or abysmal scores. She is only 5 and these shows are both at brand new venues for her so that may still happen, but I know we are well prepared and I feel more excited than nervous.

As well as the training being in a good place, I was also able to line up vet appointment, saddle fitting, and hoof trim all leading up to the show so everything is in tip top shape. However, I do still need to wash my show shirt and do a lot of tack and boot cleaning (the disadvantage of showing both English and Western, twice the tack and boots to clean and pack!) so maybe we aren't fully ready after all! 

Monday 19 July 2021

Matchy Monday: Navy and Copper

 I was super excited to put this set together, it is one of our fanciest outfits, and I love copper.

Saddle pad: Equito Navy Rose Gold 2.0
Boots and Bells: Anky Copper
Gloves: Anky Copper and Navy
Stirrups: Rebel Equestrian

This is my only Equito pad but I love the fit under my saddle and they have some really nice colours so I may need to get more at some point. 

I also got this matchy browband from Dark Jewel Designs from my husband for our recent anniversary (3 years = leather anniversary) but it hasn't made it onto the horse yet

Photo credit: Dark Jewel Designs

No photos of any matchy human accessories. I have a ton of navy clothes in general but no copper and nothing particularly for this outfit. 

Friday 16 July 2021

Annual Vet Appointment

 Last week I had the vet out for Naia's annual visit. There was one other horse being looked at at my barn at the same time so we were able to split the mileage fee which was nice. Though the vet was early and finished with horse #1 in record time so I didn't even have a chance to groom the mud off of Naia before it was her turn. 

First up was a dental. This was Naia's third dental since I got her. In the first two my vet had noted a bit of a wave and some cavities (or whatever the technical term is for the horse equivalent) so she wanted to keep a close eye on things. The two issues are interconnected because the wave causes uneven pressure on the teeth which then can contribute to the cavities. In some horses this can progress to be a bigger issue, and in some cases it will self-correct as the horse grows. Luckily Naia seems to be in the latter group and this time around her teeth were in better shape. All Naia needed this time around was a really basic float so that is good! She also now officially has all her adult teeth. 

Next I got some baseline x-rays done of Naia's lower front legs. This hadn't originally been part of the plan for the day but horse #1 at the barn had xrays done and since the equipment was out anyways I asked my vet to add in a couple shots. I have zero concerns with Naia or how she is going but she is 5 years old and has essentially just ramped up into full work so I figured it was a good time to get baseline rads since she never had a pre-purchase vet check. With previous horses I have seen issues where something is seen on an xray when trying to diagnose a problem and it's sometimes tough to know whether that something is new or if it has been like that for years. This way my vet and I get to have these on file to compare to in the future if needed. The RF looked really nice but we noticed that the LF had a slightly broken back alignment of the bones so I will be showing these to my farrier at Naia's next trim so we can adjust accordingly. It doesn't require any drastic action but good information to have. I follow a farrier group on facebook that highly recommends annual xrays of a horse's feet to ensure that the horse's trims and/or shoes are achieving good palmer angles, boney alignment and sole depth. It's definitely an extra cost but especially when it comes to feet, prevention is a lot better than trying to correct an issue so I'm thinking I might do these baseline x-rays periodically. 

I cropped them and flipped one image to allow for easier side-by-side comparison

As part of the discussion about the xrays, we chatted a little bit about Naia's current age (will be 6 in August) and age when she started work (first ridden just before she turned 5). In this area there is quite a few reiners and cutters who prep for the big futurity money in the horse's 3 year old year. Compared to that, my vet loves the slow progression Naia has had and we are both hopeful that it will help her to stay sound and happy for a long career. That is one element that I really love about dressage, the work starts easy and there is no incentive to rush up the levels before the horse is physically mature enough for the harder movements. I hate to criticize any discipline but I really wish that competition organizers would restructure things so that the big pressure and prizes aren't focused on such young horses. 

DP View - note that stuff at bottom is because I didn't have time to clean her feet
first so there were still sand and pebbles in there

The final step was to get Naia's first Coggins test done. There is one show at the end of July that I am probably not going to, but that requires Coggins so I figured I should get it done just in case, not to mention that it is nice for peace of mind regardless. There have been some outbreaks in Alberta in the last couple years though luckily not in my area. I got those results today and they are thankfully negative. In the spirit of baseline information the vet is also running a baseline chemistry panel on the blood she took so that we have something to compare to if we need to draw blood in the future when Naia is not healthy (knock on wood that we will never need those baseline comparisons!). 

Naia definitely ended up being a cheap drunk for the drugs she got at the beginning for her dental. She was very sleepy very quickly, and trying to lead her even a few steps afterwards to get positioned for x-rays or Coggins photos was pretty hilarious. I definitely should have taken pictures during her dental and drunkest stage but I didn't so here are a couple from post-vet. 

She was sleepy for a while so I gave her a good grooming while she woke up

Shiny girl back in her paddock afterwards

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Well I Guess That's One Way to Decide

Or how shopping helped me make a major life decision!

When I bought Naia, I did have resale as a possibility in my head. I wasn't buying a horse with the intention of flipping them or selling them, in fact I've never sold a horse before, I just wanted it to be an option. The biggest reason for this was that I was still heartbroken from the sudden loss of Kachina and I wasn't sure on signing up for another long term commitment. I needed to know that if my new horse and I didn't click or if I decided that I needed something different after a period of healing, that there was a reasonable chance that I could sell her onto another good home. I have now had Naia for a year and a half, and while she hasn't made it to heart horse/forever horse status (yet?), she is a good partner and I haven't felt any need to swap her for another horse.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that my boots looked a little different from normal in the photos from this show 

The other consideration for resale is that I have been trying to get pregnant. I've been trying to get pregnant and struggling with infertility for years so when I bought Naia I didn't know when or if pregnancy might happen, but it did encourage me to shop for horses cheap and young enough whereby I could either kick them out to pasture for a few months as needed, or sell them if that seemed like the right call, rather than sinking significant savings into a top prospect or schoolmaster that I might not be able to make the most of. For the record, I know people have their own comfort levels and risk tolerances so no judgement on differing opinions, but for myself I long ago I made the decision that if I ever got pregnant I would stop riding after the end of the first trimester (when baby is no longer protected by pelvis).  

They had limited stock available so I ended up going with brown, not my preference for riding boots but they work, and I can also see myself wearing these in normal life this winter

I got pregnant before Christmas and was pregnant over some of the winter, at that point Naia was in a pretty critical part of her training so I had made a plan that I was going to have trainer SJ start riding Naia and keep advancing her training when I hit my second trimester. Unfortunately two weeks before that point I had a miscarriage so those plans didn't end up happening. 

Not the most attractive boots ever, but lots of spare room in the calf, and I ordered a larger foot size too, to accommodate either swollen feet or thick wool socks

That brings us to now, where I am happy to announce that I am pregnant again! Since SJ is now gone, my previous plan is no longer viable, so I began to consider whether I should sell Naia. Naia is a 5 year old registered part Friesian with good conformation, a great mind, and who now has a pretty decent training foundation. In addition, the horse market in Alberta is super hot right now. I don't know if it is a response from slow sales last year or some other phenomenon but there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for horses which has driven up prices, made sales happen quicker, and made people more willing to travel to more rural locations to look at horses. I could probably easily sell Naia now for around 3x what I paid for her (still just talking 4 digits though). But just because I could likely sell her, should I? 

I had actually started a post discussing various pros and cons for selling Naia and was still considering it. Then one day I had a good ride but was frustrated by the fact that my boots and breeches were uncomfortably tight (I haven't gained weight yet but have had swelling in my feet and lower legs and some bloating). Without much thought I found myself going online to Fuller Fillies and ordering a pair of oversized breeches, stretchy calf socks, and oversized boots with a flex panel. I figured that they would be useful both during the rest of my first trimester, and when I started riding again after giving birth. I chose the rush shipping option, and when they arrived a few days later I realized that I had essentially bought maternity breeches and maternity riding boots (my first "maternity" purchases of any kind)! It was then I realized that my subconscious had already made my decision about Naia for me, clearly I wanted to keep her and keep riding as much as possible. I figured that was as good a way to make the decision as any so I've stopped debating it and Naia is staying put. 

Finally, the photos in this post might make more sense to you lol.
Plus the breeches were purple (violet)! I've never had purple breeches before. I purposely sized up though so they are currently too big for me.

After waiting so long and having one miscarriage I am a bit paranoid about this pregnancy, but if everything goes well I will hit the end of my first trimester in the first week of August. I have 2 horse shows and clinic planned for my final weeks of riding (do all the things while I still can!) and then Naia is going to get a bit of a vacation. I will still visit her periodically and I have some ground work and lunging plans for throughout my pregnancy but I plan to play it by ear for how much I feel capable of through pregnancy. Naia is at a pretty good point in her training right now where the concepts she does know are solid enough that I think she will be able to come back pretty easily after an extended break.