Monday, March 24, 2014

Moving Forward in 2014

So you may have noticed its been all quiet on the O'Shea Eventing front for the last several months-- since July of last year! Well, the reason for that is both very simple and very complicated. Simply put, I went back to school last August. I am pursuing my MBA in Supply Chain Management at the Wisconsin School of Business. Its been a lot of work, and for the first time in my life, I prioritized something ahead of riding.

I decided to make this move for a lot of reasons, but they can be boiled down to one fundamental truth: I want to have the financial stability to compete my horses as far as they are able to go, with the ultimate, lifelong goal being to compete at Rolex.

Zahra as a 5 year old, killing it at Training Level
There's a lot of information packed into that truth. Owning horses is expensive. It's not any more expensive than having kids, but they do require a lot of your resources, both time and money. The primary way talented riders try to make it work financially is to go the professional equestrian route: teaching lessons, training other people's horses, pursuing sponsorships. However, what I found was that until you "make it," this route leaves very little time for your own horse (if you can even afford to own your own horse, and you're not just hopping from one client horse to another). I believe in the horses I have. They are both phenomenally talented, with all the scope and potential an adult amateur could hope for! I want to be able to give them my undivided attention.

Additionally, most serious riding accidents occur when on these training horses. Some times its because they were sent to you because they were dangerous, or because they are just getting started under saddle and they just don't know any better. Other times its because there is pressure to get a horse sold, so you move it up the ranks too quickly, and inevitably the holes you left in your training catch up to you.

So, my decision was to prioritize my career in order to better the equine situation. I'm looking for a job where I can have an interesting, successful career and simultaneously, separately, hone my skills with Zahra and Puck. This summer, I will be going to San Jose for an internship with a prominent tech company. Zahra and Puck will stay in the Midwest so I can focus on learning, but they will be in training with a local dressage trainer whom I respect. I'm looking forward to coming home to two finely tuned dressage ponies! But it won't be a completely horseless summer! There is a prominent 3 day event trainer in the Bay area that I've already reached out to in order to get to know him and his program. If San Jose turns in to a full time gig, I would want him as my trainer! And no matter where I end up in May of 2015, there are two and only two criteria for accepting a full time job:
South Farm 2013
1.) Is the job a good job? Does it make sense for my goals and interests?
2.) Is the area a good eventing area? Are there stables, trainers, and shows in the area?

So, its going to continue to be slow here at OE, with only a couple of shows this fall, but there is some VERY exciting stuff coming in the mid-term future.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

June Wrap Up

It has been a very busy month! Lucinda Green clinic in the beginning of the month, Fox River Valley Horse Trials in the middle, and hosting the Kim Severson clinic at the end!

Lucinda is always an amazing clinician. She teaches something no one else teaches-- how to ride when it all goes wrong. And it so often does on cross country, that I think what she teaches ought to be required learning for anyone who wants to go out on a cross country course, at any level! Lucinda was very impressed with the changes in Baby Z during the last year! She did up our bit to a gag, which really helped us, but I'm pretty sure that using it even a couple times was enough to remind her she is in fact supposed to listen to me! By the Kim clinic, we were back in the Waterford with more obedience than ever before!

Fox River Valley was a bit of a weather rollercoaster. Hot and dry, then pouring cats and dogs, then hot... rinse and repeat! Z was a star, breaking into the 20s in dressage (my first time ever in the 20s!), double clean show jumping, but a bad jump into water cost us some time, and frazzled me enough that I went the wrong way for precious seconds! The footing was deep enough that we weren't going fast enough to make up for any mistakes, so we ended with 9.4 time penalties, dropping from 3rd to 7th. But at least Zahra doesn't know we didn't finish on our dressage score! She was such a star in the toughest conditions she has ever run in so far. Check the helmet cam to see how chewed up it all was by the time we went! Thanks to Adam for all the great pictures!

The Kim clinic had a very rocky start, with Kim's plane being cancelled Friday night, and delayed again Saturday morning. She finally made it in after 11, to O'Hare, and we got the first group started by 2:30 back in Madison. We rode all afternoon, some through rain,  getting everyone in, although the last group ended at dusk! I can't thank the awesome volunteers/co-organizing cohort who got things set up while I drove Kim from Chicago... and drove... and drove.... did I mention I took a wrong turn and we took I94 through Milwaukee? With all the construction and delays going up I-90, we only lost about 20 minutes, but still, a lot of miles covered that day! Everyone had great rides, and those that rode in March had all made obvious improvements in the past 3 months. It was great to see!

Sunday was finally a gorgeous day! The only gorgeous day we've had for Kim, I was afraid she was going to start hating Wisconsin! She started us off by making a galloping path for 350 meters per minute, 400mpm, 450mpm, 500 mpm, and 520mpm. This is the first time I'd ever timed myself to figure out my pacing, and it was hugely educational! Zahra covered the training speed without exertion, so I can stop fretting so much about time! This is definitely a tool we will come back to! Then we warmed up over a galloping oxer, did some serious gymnastics with the ditch, utilizing the very narrow triple brush on an off-set 4 stride line. After some work with the water, we were ready for our big trip to Ohio!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Otter Spring

So what's the opposite of humble pie? Victory cake? Whatever it is, I'm having seconds, because Zahra was awesome this weekend for our training level debut!

We had a less than stellar test that still earned us a highly respectable 36.4, putting us in 4th... I didn't feel that we put in that good of a performance, but Zahra's flashy movement made up for an otherwise lackluster test. We will be working hard on our figures between now and FRVPC, and who knows? Maybe I can crack into the elusive 70% Club! Part of me is still just happy to stay in the ring through the whole test, but as Z grows up, it's fun to start pushing her to be that extra little bit better each time!

Image courtesy Adam Frizzell Photography
Cross country was perfect!! An ideal course to move up on, there was nothing that had me particularly worried as I left the start box-- a great feeling!! I rode without a watch, letting Zahra set the tempo, since I just wanted a good experience for her, and didn't feel obligated to worry about time. We came in about 30 seconds slow, but with a very happy horse and rider! None of the jumps gave her a moments pause, and she was incredibly rideable throughout the course.

Image courtesy Adam Frizzell Photography
Show jumping day Zahra was a bit tired, not that I blame her after the Spring we've had! Our fitness program is behind where it should be for this time of year because of the late snows and persistent sloppy footing. We kept warm-up minimal to preserve her energy, but was very happy that she really lit up once we got in the ring! We got a bit flat to the first and sixth fences, having a rail at each. I don't think the height was any issue for her, just needs a little more fitness to really shine on Day 3!

Image courtesy Adam Frizzell Photography
So yeah, if we had finished on our dressage score, we would have won. But then again, as Jon Ketzler always says "If I hadn't been bucked off in dressage, had 3 run outs cross country, and 4 rails in show jumping.... I could have won!!" It's a 3 day sport, and right now we're good in all three, but watch out once we get great!!

And look! We got a pretty brown ribbon!!
Image courtesy Adam Frizzell Photography
For all the pictures, please visit Adam's smugmug page.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Puck!!

Puck is 3 years old today!! He's been super so far in his training. Walk, trot, canter, turn left, turn right, halt... all mastered!! For now, that's all he needs! Now if only spring would come and we could start hitting the trails!!

3 years ago today

For more photos, go here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rolex Recap

We had tons of fun going down and watching the big boys go! Would have loved a bigger field, but it is an off year. Lots of rookies this year, which was way cool! In the postmortem, PD said on his facebook he'd like to see a CIC*** added. I'm sure he would, then he could ride 6 horses!! But I can't help but feel a 3* somehow cheapens the victory of the 4*, while at the same time hurting the other 3*s that are immediately before and after Rolex.  I think it would be much cooler to highlight our young horses, like they do at Le Lion in Europe. Let's have a 6 year old championship class! It would give US Breeders something to aim for, give some prestige to our up and comers with all the spectators (not to mention a great crowd experience!), and I think it would add more interest for potential owners as well-- a chance to get in at the ground floor maybe? Oh well, those are just my thoughts. Now on to pictures from Adam!

The entire gallery can be found here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jim Wofford at the Midwest Horse Fair

Midwest Horse Fair. Not the first place you'd go looking for quality eventing instruction, but this year was certainly an exception! The great Jim Wofford was on hand, and I was fortunate enough to be one of his guinea pigs! We had one mounted demonstration, and one lecture each day, and Jim did an excellent job of balancing the needs of the riders looking for precious nuggets of knowledge, and the spectating western pleasure public, many of whom didn't know eventing was a sport, or even that "Oldenburg" was a breed!

On day one, we focused on position. "Sit right to jump right" was the theme, and luckily for us, we all had a pretty solid position, but Jim still took the time to explain the perfect placement of the foot, and why the leg is where it is, and what is a two-point, for the sake of the audience. The jumps were very straight forward, to the point where they almost weren't a part of the equation, but it gave the horses a chance to adjust to the tense atmosphere. In lecture later, he continued with the position theme, but now incorporated dressage and cross country position into the conversation as well. Major take away: you WILL ride without stirrups. I've been too chicken shit up til now to drop my stirrups with the green bean, but I guess she's trained enough??

Describing correct upper body angle
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios
Day two's ride was lengthening and shortening, and the gymnastics were a bit more interesting, one set at the 'correct' distance, one set two feet short, one set two feet long. Generally, the horses who excelled at the short distance struggled at the long distance, and vice verse.  One horse was able to bounce the shortened one stride, while another horse was able to chip in a third stride in the elongated three stride! Because Z had been bum-rushing the correct distance, Jim predicted she would struggle in the short, but she was more willing to listen to me on the new exercise and came in quietly, making it look easy. Then, he told me "not even to breathe too hard" in between the longer strides, just let her go a bit, and she made that look easy too! Really nice to have a horse who can adjust after the Sgiltinator's famous trick of always-adding-a-stride-even-at-4'-but-still-not-touching-a-rail!!
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios

The afternoon discussion focused on conditioning, and I decided after that talk it was time to update my conditioning regimen, since everyone seems to use shorter intervals than I do!! Jim's interval system ((3)4 minute trots + (3)3 minute canters) is the way I learned originally, but somewhere along the way I learned to do longer trot sets, 15 minutes for young horses, 20 minutes for up to training level, 30 minutes for prelim/intermediate, and 40 minutes for advanced (followed by short canter intervals). Maybe a holdover from the long format days?

The third day was a gymnastic to prepare the horse for jumping a course. It was a one stride, followed by a choice. Three stride bending line to the left, two stride bending line to the right, or four strides to an oxer straight in front. By switching up which way you turn, the idea is to teach the horse to wait for your instruction. Once that's been mastered, the three individual jumps + the one stride can then be used to create a little course.
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios

The last lecture was "Trends in the Sport." This talk was pretty depressing. It was primarily about two things: drugs and professionals. The drugs was mainly about the hunter ring, but I'm sure there are some guilty eventers as well, basically winning "by the needle" instead of through good horsemanship. The professionalism discussion had to do with the fact that (and yes, Jimmy was this blunt): "if you didn't decide when you were 18 to go be a professional rider, you're not going to go to the Olympics. If you're 35, college educated, working 9-5, with kids, its not going to happen."  Well, I'm 26, no kids, but would still really like to pass through the finish flags at Rolex some day.... so I guess I'll keep working!
The Gang

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Bay; or, winter to summer in one weekend!

Well, I am over the moon with Zahra after this weekend! Her ridability has come so far since her first show last July, and really grown leaps and bounds over the winter, despite being stuck in the indoor since November!

Photos (c) O'Shea Eventing
Dressage was just about all I could ask for. It was her personal best, absolutely. She was soft and relaxed in her trot work, her canter departs were a bit early, but soft, and if I'd only halted at the right letter, she'd have done 2 points better! There's still room to improve, absolutely. Once soft and relaxed are the norm, then we can push for brilliance, but one stride at a time!

Show Jumping was very good. I put her in a couple bad spots (most notably, the double, I gave her a terrible spot to jump in, forcing her to really reach for B), but she's so athletic, she saved it for an easy double clear. I know this is where I need my work!

Cross Country was so exhilarating!! Having not been out to school, I felt like it could have gone either way. Maybe she'd refuse to leave warm-up, maybe she'd run off with me? But neither was the case, although she did try to keep galloping up the hill past #4, so I did have to set her straight there! You'll see it in the HelmetCam! She was spot on to everything, and by the time we were at 10, I was completely giddy! She was as happy to be out as I was, and all I had to do was point her at the next set of flags, and she'd take care of the rest!

We're both feeling fully confident to make the move up to Training at Otter Creek in a few weeks, although I do hope the Wisconsin weather improves well before that!