First I will apologize for my abysmal blogging practices... I will go down as the worst blogger in history, no question.  

So for your trouble - here is a little gem for you!
This is a photo guide of Ryker's progress thus far! He has come a long way, both physically and mentally.  I'd say the most helpful things for him have by far been regular turnout, beet pulp, hay stretcher, a good hoof supplement (farriers formula double strength, ftw!), and lots of long and low work. We still have quite a ways to go, but not bad for less than a year off the track. 

In other news, Ryker went down to the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy this October. Huntington H.T. in August was not a success and was hands down the most expensive circle I've even done in a dressage ring.  

Here is the Huntington story: First off, Huntington is my boogy event, I have never completed it, and was excited to finally do so.  Ryker was ready, I was ready... we just had to get out feet done the week before. Strike 1: never get your horses feet done right before an event, its bad luck; Strike 2: don't get the vet out to do x-rays and work with the farrier (no matter how amazing your farrier is, thank you Jim Hurlburt!) in order to figure out why your horses pasterns are always a little puffy, before an event... it's just a bad plan.  The x-rays showed that Ryker's angles were a little off (as we suspected) and causing some friction in his coffin joint. Quick fix, add another degree and straighten him out laterally. In retrospect it should have been done AFTER the event, oops! But scheduling both the vet and farrier at the same time is like trying to cuddle with a tiger.  He went wonderfully for the first couple day, got a day off, and then worked in the field (where it was grassy and soft).  Cue dressage warm-up on hard uneven footing and shebang, you have an uneven horse. This was of course no ones fault but my own, I should have changed my plans after the change to his feet, or scheduled for everything to do done AFTER the Event. However we decided to see if the beautiful footing in the arena itself would help, to at least get a practice dressage test out of it -- Nope.  I asked to be excused as I crossed the first diagonal. No more Huntington for me! 

--Back to school we went-- 

 By the time we got to Alfred his feet were all settled in, but it was the end of my season (I thought).  I got into looking where Andrea Waldo of Triple Combination Farm  (my amazingly, wonderful coach) and one of the co-owners Mary Brust were going with their horses.  In addition to figuring out if the owner of Lancaster Stables (where I board in NY) Sue Robshaw, was going to any of those events as well. Low and behold, everyone was going to Loch Moy! Ryker got geared up and ready, and off we were to Maryland! 

Ryker's dressage was less then exemplary, to really no fault of his own.  His warm up was the best it has ever been, but right as we were getting ready to enter the ring, a rider fell off in warmup and their horse went careening around to the echos of "LOOSE HORSE!".  From there, he was keyed up, all I could do was try and settle him into a rhythm as we entered the ring. We then had to deal with people banging around in the demo trailer's that had been parked directly behind the judges box (WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT?!).  And to top it all off, just as we went to pick up our first canter at C, a woman wearing VERY audibly swish-y pants walked right behind the judges box.  I was glad for two things during that test as I tried my hardest to try and convince Ryker that he didn't need to take off, attempt to regain steering, and remember my test; Number 1: WE DID NOT JUMP OUT OF THE RING!, Number 2: WE DID NOT JUMP OUT OF THE RING!. At our final halt and salute at X, I was filled with relief for the very first time in dressage, I was done with my test! I am so proud of Ryker though, he tried so very hard to trust me and continue on! From there, everything was wonderful!  Loch Moy was a one day, with stadium immediately before XC. He was still pretty keyed up from his dressage as he warmed up, and charged most of the warm-up fences.  I was ready for a half-halt battle when we entered the ring, but he put on his big boy pants and pulled out his most flawless stadium round to date. No rails, no arguments, just calm concise, one jump to the next in a nice forward rhythm. We then headed to XC warm-up where I nearly got taken off with after our first warm-up XC fence, he's figured out the game for sure! (Huston, we have an event pony!)
 Our cross country round was nearly spotless.  He boldly broke out of the box towards fence one, he questioned fence two about 6 strides out, simply by backing himself off before I could half-halt him in preparation for the jump, and jumped it no big deal.  From there he only got more and more confident! He launched over the ditch, splashed through the water, and bombed around the rest of the course.  He really only had one fence that he "bobbled" at.  It was a little table off a slightly down hill approach, he simply got a little too close. His pace is a bit quick for Beginner Novice at this point, but I didn't want to mess with his rhythm too much, so I let him figure it out. He just speed-bumped the fence and continued on to rock the rest of the course.  Needless to say, I couldn't be prouder of him! Although we didn't ribbon, ahem your dressage score does matter, I couldn't care less, he is ready for Novice!

Photos from the event can be found here (enjoy!):
Note: All photos purchased and used with permission from Brant Gamma Photography. 

Ryker ROCKED Stuart!  Simple as that.  He was very tight in his shoulders leading up to the event, so we were worried about the effects of the length of the trailer drive out on his dressage.  No worries!  Thanks to the chiropractic work of Matt Rose of Balanced Rhythms and Cavalor Free-Bute he was able to perform very well at his first sanctioned event! We got a modest 43.8 in dressage, he was tense but very obedient!  He tried oh so very hard, but there is still much to improve on.  
The Cross Country course was gorgeous!  Many good BN questions, but not too crazy for a first sanctioned event! There were many people who's jaws dropped to the floor when they heard that I had chosen Stuart as his first sanctioned event, and at 8 months off the track no less. But he proved at the schooling events that he was more than ready, the only change from those events was the atmosphere.  I don't think he cared until stadium!  The only tricky part of the cross country course for him was #4+5, the "half coffin" (AT BEGINNER NOVICE?!), it was a small log followed, about 4-5 strides later, by a small ditch.  They were numbered separately, but it was still a very difficult question to ask.  We trotted into the log, jumped exuberantly over it, and then broke back down to the trot, he was very good but propped at the ditch.  It wasn't that he didn't want to go, merely that he just had to look at it for a second.  He then jumped right over it and continued, it was called a stop (boo!) but, the reality is that at this point it's the training that matters and from a training perspective he was golden.  From that point he got bolder and bolder over every jump, trotting through the water eyeing the 2* question and attacking everything in front of him.  I couldn't have been prouder! 
 The stadium again was another huge test for Ryker.  It was ungodly hot (it was put your jacket on at the very last second, over your polo you had planned to wear, hot!), but he rose to the occasion. He questioningly went into the ring, and jumped around not really seeing the jumps until about 3 strides away, there was a lot to look at.  He knocked one rail, which was simply a greeny balance mistake, but got more confident throughout the course.  Again, although we didn't ribbon, I couldn't have been prouder of the little fruitcake! 

Sorry I've been slacking in the blog department... from here out I'll try to get one posted each week!

The little red rocket, Ryker, has been awesome... as usual!   We've done a couple jump schools, some serious dressage work, and two XC schools (at different locations) since my last post.  This week starts what looks like a super fun competition season with the little race horse.  Sunday we will be making out debut at the Charlotte Pony Club's Champlain Valley Derbycross.  It will be a good judge of how Ryker acts when he's trailered in to an event (hoping for no excitement, but we're going tacked). From there we will compete at the GMHA starter trials at Beginner Novice (on the 1st) the following weekend Hitching Post Farm's schooling trials (at Novice), and then we head to Stuart H.T. on the 10-11th (at Beginner Novice)!  We're also entered at Millbrook H.T. in August, and we'll figure out what we need to focus on inbetween.   

So, how did we get to this exciting competition packed schedule?  
  As you know, Ryker is just plain awesome... which is a vast understatement. Words cannot describe how blessed I feel to be working with this horse, and to be able to say that I "own" him [who really owns who anyways? ;)].  I'll let the pictures do the talking for his athletic prowess, but lets just say, scope will never be the issue. While any OTTB can be turned into a wonderful horse with a consistent program, good eyes on the ground, and patients.  The true athletic ability, soundness, and an unflappable work ethic of the top OTTBs in the country is found few and far between. Either they have it like Courageous Comet, or they don't.  I don't want to be as bold as to say Ryker is the next Comet or that he's even destined for Rolex, but he has the attitude and natural ability to really BE something. 

Back to the original question -- so many events, so soon?! 
 Yup! He is ready, he is forward, responsive, and willing.  He is figuring out the game -- I fear that when he fully figures it out I will in fact be riding a lit bottle rocket, but hey, that's why we love OTTBs right!?

In the ring we've been working on our dressage, really trying to encourage him to bring his back up and bend, as well as maintaining a constant rhythm and contact --- the usual (in addition to getting the movements in the BN + and N tests down pat). Jumping wise, more foot work and a little bit of course work. 

Our first XC school was beyond anything I could have ever asked for.  He jumped around like a pro, coops, drops, banks, ditches, logs, water (we had a brief moment of confusion because the water was MOVING - thank you tadpoles! But he then went right in and didn't bat an eyelash), etc., etc., etc.  We were waiting for SOMETHING to give him trouble -- but no, just the tadpoles... (I beileve the question was asked "does he have a pulse?!") 

Our second XC school went just as well, we had a slight hesitation at the first log - not a "I'm not jumping THAT!" hesitation but a "Wait, what?.. hold on, I though we were jumping stadium jumps... no? ok!"  since we warmed up over stadium jumps. We pushed him a little, not in height really but in the footwork department.  We went up the double bank (whoohoo!), but down was just too much with a down hill slope making the first drop THAT much bigger.  We simply gave it a couple tries, tried a lead - and called that question a day, and went and jumped the slightly (not by a lot) smaller one a bunch of times (with no hesitation). From there we jumped around with the only "what the heck jump" being the big tires (see photos).  We also attempted a small half coffin, since ditches are EASY we thought we'd give it a try.  The jump on the other side was just a little too close for him to work out, so we glanced off it.  Tried some wings, jumped the wings, and again call that question a day.  We just stuck with the ditch and other jumps farther out, with no problems.  The prognosis, MORE FOOTWORK!  

All in all, he has been a rock star! -- he's also done gallop sets, with no crazy run away OTTB, he was super adjustable, and can go from 400mpm to walk in about 2-3 strides. As well as just hacking around, with and without a saddle (its been so HOT!), as well as some spooking at round bales (hah! the things OTTBs think are scary!). 

More to come, make sure to "LIKE" our Facebook page -- Info and photos go up much faster there, than here -- But I will do my best to keep you updated by the week! 

Enjoy the photos! 

Stadium work at home - Triple Combintation Farm, N. Ferrisburgh VT

First XC school - High Winds Farm, Monkton VT

Second XC school - Hitching Post Farm, So. Royalton VT