Adventures Of Diesel

Sunday Funday | Lesson Update

Although the summer heat here in Georgia has been verging on almost unbearable, I have been out at the barn almost every day riding and feeding for my trainer while she has been gone on vacation. One of those rides was a big milestone for us as a team – our first real hack outside of the arena!

A few months ago, this would not have been a possibility for us as he and I were nervous wrecks. However, thanks to my awesome trainer, our confidence in each other has grown to the point where I finally felt that I could trust him enough to go outside the arena and hack around in the pasture. Not only did we walk and trot in the pasture, but we did it all while on the buckle! He was such a good boy and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his “field day”! It was definitely all smiles from me!

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Since my trainer came back from her beach trip on Friday, I signed up to have a lesson today to try and keep our weekly lesson streak intact. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride with a friend, which was so much fun! I find myself riding alone a lot of the time due to my schedule, so when I get the chance to ride with someone, it always makes the lesson 100x better!

The main focus of our lesson today was continuing to work on riding off of my outside aids to achieve precise turns and overall straightness. I developed such a bad habit of grabbing onto my inside rein to turn like a pony kid, but let me tell you, that does not work on Dies. His response is to just drift through the turn with his outside shoulder stuck out to Texas. Meaning, we actually never turn. We just keep on drifting.

However, I am glad to say that I am getting much better about using my outside aids thanks to all of the “square” circles, cone exercises, and off-the-rail work that we have been doing lately. Our straightness has improved exponentially, and we are actually able to turn! Crazy how that works, right? 😂

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The “square” circle cone exercise!

We also accomplished something huge today: cantering our first full pole course! Up until now, we have just trotted in and cantered out lines. I haven’t been quite ready to canter in yet, but today I finally put on my big girl pants and went for it!

I have to say, I was pretty proud of how well I rode and how well he behaved. I am starting to get a lot stronger and secure in the saddle, and I can really tell a difference in my riding. I have a long way to go, but I am definitely proud of the progress we have made so far!

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The sweetest baby horse there is! He tries his heart out!

As for the course itself, he took a wonky “baby horse” step to the first “jump” of the inside line and we got a little tight to the last of the outside line, but besides that, our pace was consistent, our turns were square and balanced, and I managed to not get in his way. I’d call that a win for us!

Overall, I was very pleased with our first full course. He just keeps on getting better and better each ride. I can’t wait until we start incorporating some jumps! We will get there!

As for what’s next, Dies has another HJ Fox show this coming weekend! I can’t wait!

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Adventures Of Diesel

Our First Horse Show | Serenity Creek Schooling Show

Buckle your seatbelt guys, this post may get a little sappy.

Diesel and I completed a huge milestone this past weekend – our first horse show together! My trainer and I loaded up some horses early Saturday morning and trailered into a cute little farm in Monroe, GA named Serenity Creek Equestrian Center to attend one of their schooling shows. I have to say – it was one of the best-run schooling shows I have been to in a while. The staff was so nice and welcoming, the arena was well groomed, and the ribbons were super nice for such a small show!

Since it was Diesel’s first time having a non-pro ride at a show, my first show riding in three years, and our first time showing together, we decided to take it easy and set ourselves up for success by entering the adult beginner division and green horse division. I also decided to keep my goals for this show small: don’t fall off and give my horse the best ride I can possibly give him. That’s it.

Our classes actually went extremely well! We had some great moments where everything seemed to fall into place and all of the things we have been working on in lessons seemed to click for me. In those moments, the connection was there, he was relaxed and focused, and I was actually riding both sides of my horse instead of resorting to my inside rein like an idiot. Not only were there some really quality moments, but Dies also behaved like a complete gentleman! He was on his best behavior despite some of the other horses’ shenanigans ringside and some very scary speakers by the judge’s booth. I honestly just can’t put into words how proud of him I am!

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! First and foremost, I have got to get back in shape and lose all of the extra “fluffiness” I have gained while in college. I am actually embarrassed by how chunky I have gotten. 😞 Not cool, Ashlyn. Secondly, I need to work on maintaining my connection with him throughout the entire ride to keep him focused on me rather than letting his attention wander. And lastly, I need to continue working on achieving quieter, softer transitions by timing my half halts better and supporting him with my leg and seat. However, it is all a work in progress and for our first show together, I was very pleased with how he behaved and how I rode! I felt as though I was an active rider rather than a passenger, which was a huge win for me! I couldn’t have asked for a better first time out!

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Although placings weren’t even in the forefront of my mind for this show, we ended up doing extremely well for our first show together! In the adult beginner division, we ended up placing second in every class out of six earning us a reserve champion ribbon. That alone had me glowing with pride, but when we went into the green horse division and pulled out a first, second, and third, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Two reserve champions at our first show together? No way! I was beyond thrilled!

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All smiles with my perfect pony! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)

Even though it was just a few flat classes at a small show, I came out of the arena feeling as though we had just won the $1M Grand Prix! I was that proud of my sweet boy and all that he has accomplished in the last few months! Actual tears may have been shed, and that is not an exaggeration!

Not only was he fantastic for me, but he was also perfect for my trainer in the schooling hunter division. He was such a good boy and behaved wonderfully despite the stifling summer heat. He and my trainer also ended up champion of the division with a first, second, and fourth with my trainer’s sale pony close behind in reserve. Overall, it was a fantastic show for us! I hope there will be many more shows in our future!

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The best boy! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)
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PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center
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My trainer’s sale pony killing it! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)

As I’m sitting here writing this post, I am just overflowing with pride and love for Dies and gratitude for everything that my amazing trainer and parents have done for me and him throughout this journey of ours so far! My trainer has put so much hard work into both of us, and I honestly can’t thank her enough for that. And my parents, gosh, they have sacrificed so much to make owning this horse a possibility for me. I am beyond thankful!

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Adventures Of Diesel, The Life of Diablo

A Visit From The Chiropractor

I’m late to the game writing this post as I’ve been on vacation for the past week. While I’ve been away soaking up the sun in Florida, the boys have been enjoying a life of leisure with a well-deserved week off from work as my trainer has been in Tryon with a few of her other students. However, before I left for my trip, the boys got a visit from our awesome local chiropractor, Dr. Amy Mushrush, because you know, it’s just money! 🙄

I’m not new to the whole chiropractor thing. In fact, Diablo has been adjusted multiple times in the past when he was in full work, and I have even had myself done as well. I know many people are skeptical about chiropractors and the benefits of utilizing chiropractic care in horses, but let me tell you, I am a firm believer that it is a necessary part of maintaining performance horses in addition to joint supplements. Yes, it can be pricey, but I personally feel it is worth the money as I can see and feel a real difference. While I feel that it is necessary, I definitely don’t think it is necessary every month. I think the frequency should be based on the individual horse as some need it more than others.

To give you a little more insight into the process, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about both Diesel and Diablo’s adjustments separately and break them down for you all that may be interested in incorporating chiropractic care into your routine. I will make sure to include what problems we have been encountering, how the chiropractor adjusted them, and the results.

Diablo

Diablo was the first to be adjusted as he is an old pro when it comes to being adjusted. However, I have to admit that I am a bad horse mom and haven’t had him adjusted in a little over a year as he is no longer in hard work. I know, I know, I’m just terrible! 😉

If you’ve never personally met Diablo, you wouldn’t know that he can generally be very tight throughout his back and is usually out of align in his pelvis. This is probably a result of both his older age and his long history with lameness issues. It is obvious to see when you trot him off as he develops an asymmetrical swing in the hind end at the trot accompanied by an asymmetrical stance and a crooked tail set when he is out of align. When under saddle, you can tell he is out of align as he tends to become stiff and reluctant to bend around the leg. I equate it to riding a stiff 2X4.

 

Unfortunately, he can be sort of hard to adjust as his mystery allergic reaction that runs the length of his back makes him sensitive to touch in that area during peak allergy season. Even though he is on medication for it, it can get a little ouchy if he has been rolling frequently. However, the chiropractor did a wonderful job working around it to keep him willing and comfortable throughout the entire adjustment. As you can see from his report that I have attached below, she spent the majority of his adjustment focusing on realigning his pelvis and was successful in achieving a symmetrical hind end swing and stance by the end. The result: a relaxed pony that is no longer stiff and unwilling to bend.

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Diesel

Unlike his brother, this was Diesel’s first time being adjusted. I haven’t really felt the need to have him adjusted before now, but now that his workload has become quite strenuous, I felt that it was time to start getting him adjusted to keep him in top shape.

Within the past month, my trainer and I noticed that his stifles had begun to give out at the trot and he was having difficulty picking up his left lead. After her pre-adjustment examination, the chiropractor determined that he was sore in his SI region and hocks, which was causing him to overcompensate with other regions of his body resulting in the reluctance to pick up the left lead and the minor stifle issue. After a few adjustments and a quick massage, he was good to go again. There will definitely be more adjustments, cold hosing of legs, and liniment baths after hard workouts in his future!

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I have to brag on him a little as he was a complete angel throughout his entire adjustment. Within a couple of seconds after her first adjustment, he was licking and chewing with a soft eye. He definitely enjoyed all the attention, pats, and treats like a true attention hog. In fact, he didn’t want to go back into his stall afterward!

After I left, my trainer rode Dies once before she left and reported that there was no more falling out behind and difficulty picking up the left lead. Thank goodness! Hopefully, the adjustment and his mini vacation will do wonders for him. 😊

A huge thank you to Dr. Amy Mushrush at Mushrush Performance for doing an excellent job with both of my boys! If you are looking for an awesome chiropractor in Georgia, she is absolutely the best!

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College Life

A Summer in the Saddle | A Little Bit of Everything Post

I can’t believe my first year as an animal science major and second year at UGA is already over! This past school year brought with it a lot of really cool experiences and taught me a lot both academically and personally. I got the opportunity to get down and dirty with some awesome animals at UGA’s teaching dairy, beef and sheep unit, and swine unit during my practicum class, attended a Temple Grandin seminar, started a new job at a small animal clinic, joined an absolutely amazing new barn family, and met some really great people along the way!

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Despite all of all of the great things that came with this past school year, it definitely wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I have to say, life definitely didn’t take it easy on me – especially this semester. A series of family health emergencies caused me to miss quite a few weeks of classes and left me struggling both emotionally and academically. My grades also took a hit as I struggled with my anxiety and depression throughout it all. However, with a lot of hard work, late nights, coffee, and, of course, some pony therapy, I was able to salvage my grades and make it onto the dean’s list with five As and one B!

Enough about school though – IT’S SUMMERTIME!  That means there will be a lot of pony-filled days in my future. To say I am excited would be a little bit of an understatement!

In preparation for me moving back home for the summer, we moved Diablo to Southern Sky Farm to live with his little brother, Dies. He settled right in like a champ and has been as happy as a lark. I’m so happy to have my two boys back together in one place again as now I can ride both of them more often!

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D trailering to his new summer home!
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D’s first ride at Southern Sky!
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D’s first ride at Southern Sky included a field ride!

As usual, my trainer has been doing an absolutely amazing job with Dies while I have been away. I got a chance to watch her jump him around a couple of days ago, and oh my gosh guys, he was amazing! He has gained so much confidence over fences that he was able to jump some larger jumps without even blinking an eye! That definitely wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago. There are definitely still a lot of things we need to work on, but for his first time jumping jumps this high, he was a rockstar!

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Diesel jumping 2’9ish!
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Diesel jumping 2’3ish!

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I have been able to flat him around twice since I have been back home, but sadly I didn’t get any video or pictures. However, I will be having my first lesson on him in two months tomorrow and I am hoping to get some pictures then!

I can’t wait to start lessoning regularly and get back to riding how I used to before college. As of right now, my goal is to do our first show together on June 9th! I hope that we can make that happen as I am really eager to get back to showing after a two-year hiatus! Fingers crossed!

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Adventures Of Diesel

HJ Fox Show | One Stride At A Time

The last few weeks have been crazy busy. With the semester coming to an end, a tidal wave of assignments and exams have made riding pretty much non-existent in my life for the past few weeks. It has also made finding time to post almost impossible!

Before I get into the details of the show, I have to share a picture and a video from when I got to come home and watch Dies school before the show last week! My awesome trainer has been working really hard on developing his adjustability and putting him over some bigger fences to raise his confidence. It was the first time I have seen him go over anything higher than 2 ft. Of course, my trainer is amazing and made him look like a seasoned pro. Enjoy the cuteness!

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Diesel jumping a “big boy” jump a couple of weeks ago!

 

HJ FOX SHOW | FRIDAY SCHOOLING

If I had to pick a theme for this show in one word, it would be “progress”. This weekend was full of so many triumphs and accomplishments for Diesel both in and out of the show ring.

Like any other horse, Diesel has his own quirks that, while endearing in a way, can be frustrating and discouraging to work through at times. Some of our worst enemies right now are his lack of confidence and tendency to become easily overwhelmed. Yes, they are pretty common quirks in younger horses, but boy, are they a doozy! They most often manifest at the beginning of the ride with him starting off very tense through his body and becoming hyper-alert to everything except his rider. In the saddle, it feels almost like you’re riding a fully stretched rubber band just waiting to snap under pressure.

However, he really surprised me this weekend with how well he coped with his insecurities in a busy show environment. There was a definite improvement from the last show. His transition from walking off the trailer to going into the covered arena to school on Friday was much smoother than it has been in the past. Last show, it took around 20 minutes of intense flat work to ease his mind, stop the unnecessary spooking, and get a more relaxed, supple pony. However, this time it only took him 10 minutes to get to that relaxed state of mind and get to work. I’d say that’s progress!

 

 

HJ FOX SHOW | BABY GREEN CHAMPION

Like last show, I was up bright and early at 5:30 in order to drive to the horse park, tack Dies up, and lunge him to get the early morning sillies out before meeting my trainer at the covered arena to warm up at 7:00 am sharp. This show I got to break out my new Back On Track Mesh Sheet that I got on sale from SmartPak, and let me tell you, I am a believer! After wearing the sheet all night, Dies came out of the stall nice and loose despite the weather taking a 40-degree dip overnight. Of course, I will have to do a full review with pictures, so stay tuned for that in a few days!

He was an absolute rock star on the flat and took home the first-place ribbon out of a large class comprising of 16 horses. He was visibly much more relaxed than he was at the last show, which translated into some really nice, flowy trot work. He is starting to settle much quicker than he used to, which definitely translates into a better performance on the flat. Both of his over fences rounds were really wonderful as well! He put in some great rounds that earned him a first-place ribbon for his first round and a third-place ribbon for his second round. Unlike the last show, he graced us with some flawless flying changes, which in of itself was a huge accomplishment for him! Go Dies!

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With a first on the flat and a first and a third over fences, he ended up taking home the champion ribbon for the whole division! I was such a proud horse mom!

 

Not only did he do extremely well in the baby green division, but he also knocked it out of the park in the schooling hunter division as well. He ended up placing second on the flat and second in his first over fences course out of 24 horses, which was absolutely amazing!

 

Dies also put in some really great trips on Sunday, but sadly, the new judge just didn’t seem to agree with me. He was an absolute angel both on the flat and over fences and put in some of the best trips he has had yet even though the ribbons didn’t quite reflect that. Oh well! That’s just how it is in hunterland sometimes! I couldn’t be any prouder of my pony and all that he has accomplished this past weekend!

The next show we have planned isn’t until July. However, that will give us plenty of time to improve and grow! I can’t wait to dive into summer!

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Adventures Of Diesel

Diesel Update | Lesson Recap

In the midst of jugging a tidal wave of assignments and studying for tests, Diesel and I have been making some really good, but slow, progress together. It is extremely frustrating to not see improvement as fast as I used to, but I have to face it, I just won’t improve as fast as when I was in high school riding five days a week. However, it is exciting to be back in the saddle with a goal to work towards.

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The First Real Lesson Back: Crossrail Edition

This past Monday I had my first lesson on Diesel since he has been in training and let me tell you, the difference in him is unreal. It is so much easier to focus on the more technical parts of our rides when your horse has some idea of how to do his job without relying on you to hold him every step of the way. At least, it is for me as an amateur. Pros, I give you some major props! Riding young, green horses is hard! It’s sappy, I know, but I got a little teary-eyed when I asked for the canter and he held himself up through the transition rather than falling all into my hand.

The majority of our lesson was spent on the flat, as usual, since that is the most important part of riding! This week, at the trot, we worked on tightening our turns using my outside aids to produce an immediate response rather than letting him bulge his shoulder out to the outside. He has big swooping turns down-pat, but those tighter turns can be a little harder to get when you’re a baby horse. I need to work on using my outside aids more effectively in order to set him up for success all the time. Additionally, I have got to stop hanging on my inside rein when tracking to the left. What a terrible habit! I know my trainer has to be about ready to just rip my arm off as many times as she has to remind me to soften it up. I got a little slack in my year-long break from lessoning, so this is as much of a learning process for me as it is for him. I definitely need a tune up myself!

We also worked on our transitions at the canter by cantering around the arena, asking for a full halt on the diagonal of the arena, and then asking for the opposite lead from the halt. He was a superstar at that exercise – I can really tell how much work my trainer has put into developing his transitions. We definitely still need to work on getting a more immediate halt as it is still hit or miss sometimes. That is mainly due to my fault as I hesitated and didn’t fully commit to the halt. I have to work on that!

Our lesson ended with me getting to pop him over a few crossrails. Believe it or not, it was the first time that I have ever jumped him in the entire time that I have owned him. When I bought him, he was just not far enough along in his training for it to have been a positive experience for him or me. It was definitely worth the wait!

The jumps definitely weren’t anything substantial, but it was a huge step for us as a team. He was such a good nugget for me and packed me around the little course of 12″ crossrails like a pro. I was smiling like a fool the entire time. My baby Dies is growing up! This time we just started out trotting them as I am still learning how to trust him again and am a little rusty over fences. Plus, I definitely don’t have the strength over fences that I had when I rode five days a week so his round jump would have launched me if I had tried to jump him any higher right yet haha! Small steps!

I have to admit, it is hard to not be really critical of myself. After all, I felt like I was riding like a potato the entire ride. You really don’t know how out of shape you are until you jump back into lessons – it really kicked my butt. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself. I feel as though I have taken ten steps back from where I was a year ago, and that is frustrating for me. However, I am trying to stay positive and think of all of the things I have accomplished since started back riding: I got back on my young horse after getting injured after several bad falls. I was able to confidently canter him my second time back on him. I finally got to jump my young horse for the first time in my first lesson back. Finally, I have more confidence on him than I have ever had. That has to be worth something, right? I think so! Progress is progress no matter how small!

If you are feeling down and out about your riding, I challenge you to list out all of the things you have accomplished so far that you are proud of. It really helps you to see that you are making progress even if it feels like you aren’t. It has definitely helped me so far.

Happy riding, everyone! Go out and dominate!

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Adventures Of Diesel

HJ Fox Show: Baby Green Champion

Now that I’ve recovered from a case of the horse show hangover, I think it’s time that I fill y’all in on Dies’s horse show experience this past weekend!

This past weekend Dies and five other horses from the farm trailered into the Conyers International Horse Park for the first show in HJ Fox’s show series. For Dies, this was his first weekend-long show of the year, his second one ever, and his first time at competing at the horse park. With three shows under his belt, Diesel came to this show ready to roll. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my nice camera, so please forgive me for the less than ideal picture quality. I’ve been kicking myself for it!

Our weekend started early Friday afternoon with a pre-show schooling session in the horse park’s covered arena. It was his first time in the covered arena, so naturally, he started off a little tense and on edge. Luckily, my trainer knows just what to do when he gets that way and was able to get his head back in the game with some good ole circles and keeping his feet moving and brain thinking. Once he was able to relax his mind, he really was able to stretch down and give us that floaty movement I love so much. After the flat work was done, she went right in to jumping with him and laid down some really solid courses. He had some great moments and really put in the effort at quite a few of the jumps. I was overall really pleased with how he ended!

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DAY 1 | BABY GREEN AND SCHOOLING HUNTER

Since the baby green division was the first division of the day, I was at the barn bright and early in order to have him tacked up and down at the arena to school by 7:00 am. Armed with my handy dandy ringside backpack outfitted with treats, a hard brush, a cooler, and plenty of other goodies, my job as the designated “treat lady” was a-go and I somehow managed to make it to the covered on time. Luckily, we were able to warm up in the covered and stay in the arena when the flat started at 7:45. He flatted decently well, a little on the tense side with a few whinnies, but not bad at all. It definitely wasn’t his best performance to date, but I felt it was solid. He did what she asked of him and managed to hold it together even when he got cut off twice. Despite his good behavior, his ok performance just wasn’t quite good enough to ribbon. However, I was pleased with how well he handled himself, so he got some snuggles and a few treats and was raring to go out and jump.

Unfortunately for us, the show decided to scratch warmups due to class size, so our first course wasn’t what we had hoped. My trainer ended up asking him for the add steps to keep him composed and start his day off right, so of course, he didn’t place in that class as that resulted in a few trot steps and the undesirable step. However, she did end up asking for and nailing the full horse strides for his second course, which ended up looking beautiful. He put in some good effort over the jumps and really handled himself well even with kids running around outside of the ring. He ended up receiving a fourth place ribbon for this course out of 18 horses, so I was over the moon with that!

We ended up also entering him into the schooling hunter to get a few more courses under our belt since we ended up not getting to do the warm-up. His good behavior followed him to this division as well and he ended up putting in some really solid rounds. Unfortunately, due to a large number of entries and varying experience levels, neither of his rounds placed. His courses just aren’t quite polished enough to be competitive with the veteran competitors yet, and that is perfectly ok! We ended up not getting to do flat due to conflicting ring schedules, which was perfectly fine with Dies. He got to finish the day with lots of treats, snuggles, hay, and plenty of hand walking field trips. Overall, it was a great day! He rode wonderfully for my trainer and behaved like a gentleman in-hand. Any day with good behavior is a good day!

DAY 2 | BABY GREEN CHAMPION

Like the day before, the day started with an early start time of 6:15 for me, which meant I was out the door at 5:30 this morning. That was not such an easy feat with the dreary weather. Unfortunately for us, it was going to be a very wet and nasty day. Once at the barn, I brushed out all of the shavings from his mane and tail, tacked him up, and threw his waterproof sheet over him and trekked it down to the covered in the pouring rain to make it there on time at 7:00 am. With the rain pounding on the covered arena’s roof, earplugs were a must since Dies has a tendency to get distracted really easily. The only minor bump in the road was that we could only find one earplug, so Dies ended up only being half “deaf”. 😂

Despite the nasty weather and one earplug, Dies came out ready to roll and dominate the flat. You could instantly see the difference in his movement from the day before as he was so much more relaxed and supple. He still wasn’t as relaxed as he can be, but it was a definite improvement from how he has been at shows so far. Since he was more relaxed, my trainer was really able to show off his heavenly floaty trot and get him back on his hocks for the canter. I believe that it was one of his best flat classes at a show so far, and the judge seemed to agree as he won the flat out of 14 horses. I was such a proud mom! As soon as he saw me at the gate, he came right over for his bounty of treats and pats. He knew he was a good boy!

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Like the flat, he came out in it to win it over fences. My trainer ended up asking for full horse strides in both of his courses since he won the flat and it definitely paid off. Both of his courses were really, really good. He put in some great efforts to the jumps and was so calm and collected throughout the course. I believe that his two hunter courses are some of the best courses he has ever done as he looked so relaxed and focused. My trainer even commented that at times he felt so round over the jumps that it felt like she was in a 3′ class haha! We were so, so pleased with how he jumped! Once he was finished with his courses, he gots lots of yummy Stud Muffins, pats, and snuggles. We decided that he would be done for the weekend since he was such a good nugget.

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After cooling him out and putting him away, I made the walk down to the arena in the pouring rain to find out his placings for both of his courses. I was absolutely over the moon to find out that he had won second place for both of his hunter rounds making him the baby green champion for the day! I actually teared up when I heard – no lie.

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This is such a huge milestone for him as it was his first time ever championing in a division! It really goes to show just how much he has improved over fences these last few months. It makes me so happy to see him succeed with my trainer in the irons as you can just see how much confidence she gives him – she always brings out the best in him. I hope that I will be able to give that to him too one day.

He is going to get some well-deserved time off for the next days in order to recoup after such a stellar weekend. After all, it is absolutely exhausting being a good boy! I am hoping that since it is spring break for me, I will be able to sneak in a few flat rides once he recoups! I’m ready to get down to business!

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