Sandridge Horses

Eddie Freddy Ralph

Presented by


- Meet Ralph

- Deja Vu
- Adventure in Movieland
- After the Fall...
- MIS-Adventure!

- Merry Christmas
- Redemption
- Ralph Blogs about Harmony
- Tandalee and Oakhurst
- Ottawa and Bromont
- Competition Prep
- Winter Progress

- Teeth and Ulcers
- Clinic & Colic
- Ottawa Horse Trials
- Dressage Clinic & Stevens Creek
- Robinson Horse Trials
- Harmony Horse Trials
- Tandalee Horse Trials
- Ringworm and Dressage
- Jessica Clinic
- Oakhurst XC Trials
- AERSO Dressage
- Health Check

Meet Ralph

I met Ralph at a polo farm when I was using their track to condition my event horse, Remy. He was quite big for a polo 'pony', had a kind eye, and looked very dejected, standing tied up with a muzzle on in his stall. The owner of the farm mentioned that he was for sale, and suggested I take him to try. I laughed it off, as the last thing I needed was another horse...

Two weeks later, after Remy had what appeared to be a sigificant tendon injury, I was back asking about the horse. We made an arrangement that I would take him for a month or so, school him a bit, and see if we could sell him. Long story short, I quickly fell for him, and although I realized he was going to be a looonnng project, I couldn't bear the thought of him going back to his main job as a 'polo-pony-ponier', so I cobbled together the cash to buy him.
Somethings to like, and some...not so much!
His feet were a disaster!
We could have called him,"Pencil-Neck", but Betty came up with 'Ralph Lauren' since he was bred for polo. He's a simple guy, though, so Ralph is all the name he needs.

In the beginning, we had serious problems with steering and he was constantly tripping when he would go off into 'la-la' land and fall on the forehand. He cribs, though less often, and he has some TMJ sensitivity we try to stay on top of with physio. Getting him to eat can be a challenge, although he is much better after having ulcers treated. He likes a haynet where he can watch what's going on around him, otherwise he will only pick at it during the day. He's very laid back at home and it can be difficult to get him to focus, but he seems to respond well to different work every day. He is very honest and brave and doesn't hold mistakes against me. It has been a long and interesting process to get him where he is and he's been the perfect amount of challenge for my stage of riding.


Deja Vu
Hi everyone, Ralph here again!

I was super excited when my person told me I could tell all about my weekend at the party, and I was very determined to be very good for my rider, Kathy. She is very nice to me and has made sure I get my exercise (and more importantly, lots of kisses and peppermints and apples) while my person gets better after that silly horse, Eddie, flinged her off onto the ground.
He's very nice most of the time, but I will have to tell him (AGAIN!) that we all have much more fun if we try a bit harder not to be a doofus. Eddie has had to go off to something called, 'Boot Camp'(whatever that is) and when I could hear that he didn't want to go into the trailer I had to bust out of my stall and run over and show him there was nothing to be scared about. I ended up going for a trailer ride with him to this camp, but I got to come home right away.

Anyways, enough of him; back to my outing this weekend...
I went to the event with Cleo, who is very cute and very well-behaved. She seems a bit shy and doesn't bat her eyelashes at me like Peekay does, but that's okay as there's lots of other horses to talk to when I'm away. When we got there I had to go out and practice my prancing-around-stuff, but it was hot and I really wanted to go for a bite of grass so I have to admit I didn't try as hard as I could. I was saving my best for the REAL thing anyway.

I think Kathy and my person were both very happy with my routine in the sandbox the next day, as I tried very hard to keep my head still when I went faster and slower - and let me tell you, it's not that simple when you have a long - and I must say myself - ELEGANT neck.

After a shower and a little rest, we went out again to do some running and jumping which is the best part. The lady who helps me and a lot of my friends learn how to do things properly was there and she always pumps my tires and makes me think I can do anything! I could feel Kathy wanted to have fun, too, so we went zippity-fast and I leaped over everything and at the end I felt like Rocky in the movie after he runs up all those stairs and is so happy. I really like the music in that movie, too.

After that I just relaxed and ate some yummy grass for a while and then I felt a bit tired and was happy to go have a good rest.

The next day we went in the big sandy place with the coloured jumps. I was looking forward to showing all the people how well I can do the jumps AND now my legs don't get so confused in the corners so it was going to be the best ever! I did the first four jumps as best as I could, but then we stopped! I think maybe Kathy learned her numbers at the same place my person did, because she jumped over the wrong one, just like what happened last year! I hope whoever rides me there next year goes to a different school because I REALLY think it would be fun to gallop around at the end, even if I do have to have one of those fluttering colourful ribbons on.

Oh well, my people still think I'm the best horse ever and I know we can go to another place on another weekend and try again. It's not like if we make a mistake I won't get fed or anything...

Adventure in Movieland
As Ralph & I approached the road home at the end of a leisurely hack through the woods, suddenly his head went up and his ears were at full attention. Hanging in the trees ahead of us were GHOSTS! Half-a-dozen 12-foot tall gauzy, blowy, creepy ghosts draped in the foliage alongside the road - just daring us to pass.
Ralph looked around, took a deep breath, and calmly walked forward. Little did he know what came next...

Further up the road, spread out willy-nilly, were somewhere in the range of 25 or 30 people of all ages, in full makeup and costumes (which frightened ME). We had literally wandered onto the set of the movie, 'Pet Cemetery', currently being filmed in Saint-Lazare! There were trucks, wires, traffic cones, cameras and other equipment on both sides of the road, and all these creepy people moving about in between. Again Ralph stopped, took a gander at all the activity and changes to his peaceful neighborhood - and tentatively walked forward.

I am incredibly proud of Ralph. I'm pretty sure none of my previous mounts would have calmly assessed the situation and bravely ventured forth, but I will do my best to give Eddie the confidence and trust to follow in his hoofprints!

After the Fall...
Three weeks after our rather spectacular fall at Oakhurst, Ralph and I are making progress - Ralph a whole lot quicker than me!
A week after falling, I got back on Ralph and felt absolutely fine on the flat, but the idea of jumping has been a little less enticing. Coach Claudia schooled him a few times, and while Ralph jumped great and seemed none the worse for wear, I didn't have any desire to get on and do it myself. I am at the point in my life where the Olympics is perhaps no longer a realistic goal(!) and I actually feel I have achieved as much as I am going to in Eventing. I had a bad fall in my 30s and it took a long time and a lot of work to regain a level of confidence I feel is required to jump and compete safely - nevermind the level required to ENJOY what I was doing. I don't know that I am prepared to go through all that again at this stage of my life. After all, there's always dressage...

On the other hand, there are factors that encourage me not to give up without a fight. Primarily, I love Eventing and the training it requires and secondly, I don't want to just wimp out! I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful partner in Ralph and after all the effort it has taken to get us to this point, it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

Claudia rode Ralph at his first Event of 2018 in Ottawa, and while I totally enjoyed acting as groom (especially as Ralph and Claudia won their divison with fantastic performances in all three phases!), there was a certain something missing - the satisfaction that comes from getting out of my comfort zone, testing myself and my horse's training and successfully completing a competition. I am certainly not ready to compete again just yet. I wasn't overly worried about cross-country and felt I could likely manage that, but I was extremely anxious just WATCHING the stadium jumping (always my most nerve-wracking phase).

I do feel ready to dust a little rust off the jumping skills, so I will have a lesson and see how I feel. Part of me hopes I've been over-analyzing things to death and I'll be just fine, and the other part wonders if I'll start hyper-ventilating over a cross-rail! The only way to start is by starting, though - we'll begin with something easy, take 'the time it takes', and see where we end up. Ultimately, the main thing is to be connected to my horses and to enjoy them - what exactly that will look like a month, 6 months, or a year from now is yet to be determined!.

I was nursing a low-grade headache, 7 stitches on my eybrow and a pretty total body ache after Ralph & I hit the dirt as a result of attempting a 5-stride jumping line in 4-and-a-smidge. Unfortunately, the back rail got tangled up in Ralph's front legs, causing us to do a synchronized body slam.
We were competing in the Upper Canada Derby - a sort of combination stadium jumping and cross-country competiton - at Oakhurst Farm near Ottawa. As I sat in the sand watching the blood drip into a puddle ('Where was THAT coming from?', I wondered), I made sure all my body parts still worked and then was mostly annoyed that I made that same mistake AGAIN. In the first round, Ralph really jumped well, but put in only four strides where he should have done five. In the second round, I was determined to fix the mistake, but apparently I didn't quite get the message through to my partner!

Ralph is a fairly big (for me), long horse who is challenging for me to reel in once he has lengthened out. I had been working hard on keeping his hind legs active without letting him get long, and he was jumping as well as he ever has, but he was also becoming a little bit cocky and figured he knew what he was doing - until he didn't.

We had a pretty good winter and spring considering I had a lot of non-horsey obligations taking up a lot of my time. Over the winter we found that feeding Ralph soley out of a hay net seemed to prevent his colic symptoms; we put bar shoes on him this spring to try to improve his underrun heels, and having my new OTTB Eddie as his pasture buddy seemed to suit him well.

We had just finished a super clinic with Jessica Phoenix where his dressage and jumping were better than they've ever been. I was also feeling as confident as I ever do at this time of year, so I really felt we were ready for our first outing. Our first round was everything I hoped it would be - other than leaving out a stride in one line, the whole round was excellent and we actually placed 2nd in a big class.

We'll lick our wounds and analyse our mistakes, then get back to work to try and improve. The best (and worst) thing about riding and training horses is there is alway something new to learn or improve upon, and every horse and every ride is unique. I would have preferred a gentler lesson in this instance, but am also fortunate it wasn't worse. A big thank you to Darby Delle Donne and Gracie Grandinetti for getting Ralph home for me, and my friends Mel and Geoff for getting me to the hospital (and for coming up with yummy BBQ hot dogs and fries for Paul after he came to rescue me and take me home!).


That's a Wrap!
In an effort to keep Ralph's feet in the best possible shape, I made the difficult decision to change farriers. This was not easy as I felt Martin was very competent - but I do believe that farriers are a bit like any artist, with certain preferences, strengths and biasis, and I felt that we weren't exactly on the same wave-length. We have been fortunate in that we have only had two regular farriers in 40 years of horse ownership - both of whom were excellent.
Ultimately, Claude Lortie agreed to come and have a look and much to my surprise, suggested we leave Ralph barefoot for a while to see if that would help. He felt that if Ralph's large frogs were able to contact the ground and work more effectively, it might help improve the way his heels grew. The end of the season is as good a time as any to experiment, so off they came. Ralph's feet were tender and he was a bit discombobulated in how he moved for about a month, but since then has felt great and his right hoof hasn't become either duck-like or chipped and broken. If he doesn't have too much trouble with slipping on the ice, we'll leave them off and see how it goes.

As I was very busy with family issues, Claudia rode Ralph a fair bit, including in a clinic with Lee Tubman. Ralph's issue with balance is still the biggest challenge, but he shows enough flashes of brilliance that we don't begrudge continuing to work on it. Kathy's daughter, Jenna, also has been taking some lessons on Ralph. She rides him well and is undoubtedly learning a lot - but he's a lot of horse for her to put together!

I think Ralph was thrilled to hear Claudia bought Freddy - he would stare at us when I was getting Freddy ready to ride as if to say, "Hey! You're MY person - what are you doing messing about with him for??". Once when I was riding Freddy, Ralph broke through his stall guard and went into Freddy's stall - giving me an innocent look when I came back in the stable and found him there waiting for his turn.

As Christmas approaches and 2017 draws to a close, Ralph and I would like to send everyone best wishes for a happy holiday and much health and happiness in the new year - we look forward to many more adventures!

Well, I see that Ralph managed to blab, er, blog about my embarrasing mental block at Harmony that resulted in our elimination in stadium. He was actually in 5th going into stadium and I was really happy with his performance, despite his silliness over the umbrellas on cross-country! Eventing's a funny sport though, and redemption can be right around the corner...

We had a a three-week break between Harmony and Ottawa Fall Horse Trials, but first we managed to get Jessica Phoenix into the neighborhood for two half-days of lessons. The first session for us was on the flat, working on small circles and transitioning into leg yield in trot and canter. All this to encourage straightness and balance, and it was hard work for both of us! Ralph was a klutz to begin with, expressing his, "oh, no - this is far too hard, I'm dying here!" at the beginning, and then the lightbulb seemed to go on and it was suddenly pretty easy for him. This is pretty common for Ralph; when we begin a new or testing exercise I often feel he hasn't a clue - no energy, coordination or balance - and then miraculously it's the easiest thing in the world and he has no problem. Now, I must admit the fact that I couldn't remember my right from left and was floundering a bit myself probably didn't help him much!
Ralph was super in his jumping session the next morning. He was feeling quite feisty and seemed to really enjoy the fairly difficult exercises we were doing - a mini-course which incorporated a series of bounces, offset placing poles to and from a vertical, short bending lines, and a combination. His footwork is SO much improved - I can easily recall wondering whether we would survive a simple pair of X's!

The schooling obviously paid off, as we went to Ottawa and won! Ralph had a beautiful dressage, putting him in the lead with several points to spare; then came the only hiccup of the weekend. Despite the showjumping being his second outing of the day, Ralph was very energized and full of himself when we started warming up for stadium - throwing in little bucks and jumping extravagantly. I was quite confident going into the ring until he spooked on course and threw in a buck that put me up on his neck and completely off-line for my next fence. I managed to get organized and jump the next fence, and we did manage a clear round - one of only two in the division!

On to cross-country. I was pretty determined not to blow it by getting any time faults, and we had a nice and confident round that felt like we were really booting it. Much to my disappointment, we had two time penalties - until Claudia pointed out that they were for going TOO FAST!!! (I was as excited about that as winning my division, I think). All in all, a wonderful ending to our season, and to top it of, I received an award for "Overall Excellence" - something completely unexpected!

As usual, there are many, many people that contribute to the fun we get to have, but in particular I would like to thank Alison for covering for me while I indulge in my obsession, hubby Paul for putting up with all this time-consuming nonsense, Claudia for her terrific coaching and enthusiasm, Kathy for driving us all over hell's-half-acre in luxury, and Andy for taking such good care of Ralphie 365 days a year.

Ralph Blogs about Harmony
Hi everyone; Ralph here.
I wanted to let you know that I was a superstar this past weekend at Harmony Horse Trials, and if my person hadn't had a bad cramp in her brain in the last thing we had to do, I would have gotten past my worry about those fluttery ribbon things whipping around my head and ROCKED the victory gallop! As it was, I accompanied Tracey on the walk of shame back to barn, 'cause we're a team, after all.
I went up to the party with my beloved Peekay - she of the long eyelashes and the cute wiggle in her walk...She's very fickle though; one minute I am the love of her life, the next she is totally ignoring me - maybe it's because she's an older woman, but sometimes she makes me feel like I'm nine years old. Oh wait - I am nine years old.
In any case, I was feeling pretty confident, and even though I don't care for sloshing around in the mud, I put my head down and practiced very hard for my dressage. My head might have been a bit TOO far down, but I get too tired when I have to hold it up all the time. I was pretty good in the little white ring, and only lost my balance a bit when I was showing off a bit to the right - it's not my best side, you know. The very nice lady judge could see I was special and picked me 8th out of 20 other horses.

In the afternoon, we went out to the sandbox with the jumps in it where some of the horses seem a little over the top and are galloping willy-nilly all over the place. Not me - I make sure I conserve all my energy in case my person wants me to make some special effort for her. After a bit of cantering around and leaping over some jumps, we headed over to the big grassy place. The lady who is always smiling and laughing and bossing me and my person around was getting me all worked up - when the man said, "3...2...1...GO!", she was yelling and cheering so I figured I better get cracking! We jumped a couple of things, then I spotted some strange people with big black balloon-y things over their heads, so I took some quick, evasive action to keep us safe! I must say, we got a bit discombobulated, but I just jumped the next thing and kept on going. We went fast up a steep hill and then through a big pond, and then I was galloping down a hill - Wheeeeee!!!! - when I saw them AGAIN! I instantly tried to stop to avoid these scary things, but I was told very firmly to keep going and I did. We jumped some more and galloped some more and it was really, really fun! At the end when we were finished I met the people and it turned out they were trying to stay dry under the black things (they are called "umbrelllas" I was told) but I wasn't taking any chances at the time! After that I had to have a bath because I was sweaty and dirty, but I got a big apple and lots of pats and kisses and I knew I had done the best I could.
The next day I was feeling very pumped for some more jumping and practiced very hard so my person would be proud of me. We went in the sandy place with all the coloured jumps and I was being very careful and picking my feet WAY up when we suddenly had to stop! My person had steered me the wrong way and I had gone over number 6 instead of number 2! Even I can count to 2! Oh well, Tracey agreed that I was the best horse ever and promised she will study more carefully next time.
I will forgive her because she is so nice to me and once in a while I make a mistake, and she still gives me a mint and tells me I'm a good boy. The End.

Cross-country fun

Where are we going??

Tandalee and Oakhurst
Just arrived home from a successful outing at Oakhurst Horse Trials, despite a few hiccups along the way...

Our previous event was Tandalee Horse Trials in beautiful Lac Brome, Quebec. Unfortunately, it was difficult to appreciate the scenery through the torrential rain on Friday, and the resulting sea of mud on the weekend!
It was a very tough weekend for Ralph, beginning with his struggles in the dressage ring where he stumbled and bumbled his way though the test to sit in 15th place. Cross-country was also a challenge for him; while he jumped clear, we had 13 time penalties going carefully in the muck. On Sunday morning he was quite convinced I had lost my mind - "You expect me to jump in THIS??" - as the deep going had dried out enough to suck the horses down in each step, and exhibiting his athletic prowess in that, my friends, was not Ralph's forte! We did get around, but it wasn't pretty and we had 8 faults to finish the event 16th of 27 entries.

Pooped after all that mud!

The two weeks to prepare for Oakhurst in Ottawa were not all smooth sailing. A mild colic one day, and some stiffness in his neck and shoulder resulted in treatments by his osteopath and then with acupuncture. His right front foot was also looking funky, despite a fairly recent shoeing. His feet had been growing like mad this year and he definitely has two different feet, but this was significant enough to have me concerned.
In an all-too-rare example of very-much-appreciated collaboration between professionals, both Ray Matthews (who used to shoe him), and Martin Campbell (who does him now), put their collective experience together and transformed both the appearance of the foot and Ralph's way of going - and in the nick of time, as we were leaving the next day for Oakhurst!

Regaining control of his feet
Off to the event Saturday afternoon, and again Ralph got to accompany Peekay in her very posh transport. He was stabled next to Chase, a grey, and there were two other greys in our area. Everytime Ralph turned around there was a grey coming or going - he was quite confused about which one was Peekay and who he should be obsessing over!
I don't know what got into Ralph when we headed out for Dressage, but the 'airs above the ground' he was performing during our warm-up were definitely not what I was expecting! We had a very, umm...'active' test (as in, "Who WAS that horse???!!") to place 13th after dressage. I had to get off and lead him back to the stable as he was still pulling and leaping sideways even after he was done.
After a 'time-out' in his stall to ponder his silly behaviour, I brought him out for stadium jumping and was relieved to find I had the real Ralph back. He made a good effort to jump clear and moved up to 7th.
I didn't warm up much for cross-country as the footing in the warm-up area was pretty chewed up and I didn't want to dishearten him (or me!), so off we went, and he jumped very well and only accumulated a couple of time penalties to wind up 8th out of 23 in the division. A satisfactory result after a pretty hectic week!

Ottawa and Bromont
It was a busy and successful start to the season, with a little health scare thrown into the mix to avoid things being too dull. Our first Event was at Wesley Clover Park in Ottawa. It's one of my favourite events as the facilities and courses are so good - but it always seems to rain and the forecast wasn't looking too promising, so I packed multiples of everything to be prepared and the rain held off. Dressage was good; Ralph felt a little dead to the leg, but he managed to win the dressage by a few points. Stadium Jumping felt terrific with a nice forward and positive round, but we had an unlucky rail. On to cross-country....we had shipped up with Peekay in her luxurious transport, so I was ready for Ralph's "where's my best friend NOW??" act, but he was actually pretty good until she departed for cross-country without him! I had a bit of a time staying on before my start, but at least he was awake! I had a pretty good round with only a few time penalties, but a few too many 'flyer' fences where my lyin' eyes saw a longer spot than they should have. Must wait...must wait...must wait! All in all, a good start and we finished 3rd of 14.

On the Tuesday following the event, Ralph came in from the field with blood trickling out of his left nostril. While this went on for hours, after a veterinary consult we weren't too concerned and kept an eye on him. Wednesday morning's stall got us concerned as it looked like Ralph had shared it with a cow - judging from the 'cow plop' manure in it. Then Andy and I both noticed Ralph stretching out to pee and not much happening. He didn't have a temperature, but I called Dr. Hallé and he came out to check him. Again, we were advised to keep an eye on him and wait. After lunch, the vet came back to do a rectal exam, and lo and behold, things started working properly and his bleeding nose stopped! I'm going to keep in mind how effective that, "the vet's coming to do a rectal on you" works - I may use it in future! We did discuss the fact that Ralph has started leaving his breakfast and being more fussy about eating, so we put him on Omeprazole for 10 days, then a reduced dose for a while to see if that won't help his tender tummy.

Skipping through the water in Ottawa

Next up was Little Bromont. If that site doesn't get you inspired, you might be in the wrong sport...It was Ralph's first time there, but he was calm and happy from the beginning. As long as I find the time to take him out for grass and a wander around, he seems quite content. His dressage was decent, putting him in 8th of 24 - and only about 5 penalties away from the leader. I had a little too much time to think between dressage and jumping and my nerves were running amok; I kept asking myself, "WHY am I putting myself through this??" Once I got on and started warming up I was much better, and Ralph put in a super stadium round - one of only a handful of clear rounds. Off to cross-country and, for Ralph, very challenging terrain. While we had time faults, Ralph jumped everything in front of him safely and confidently and was quite happy to gallop as fast as I liked - as long as it wasn't downhill, where he felt trotting to be more his speed! I am so lucky to have this kind and generous horse, and was satisfied to finish 8th in good company. Oh, and WHY do I put myself through this? The satisfaction of seeing the work and training I put into myself and Ralph result in performances like this:)

Looking very confident!

Competition Prep
Our first event of 2017 is just around the corner; we are confident we are well-prepared and ready to go...

A Coggins Test was done in April and Ralph had his vaccinations over the course of two weeks. He had his teeth floated (again!) as he seems to develop some rough edges if they are left longer than about 6 months. Our wonderful farrier, Ray Matthews, has retired, so Martin Campbell came and installed Ralph's summer tires. Memberships have been renewed, the truck and trailer are ready to roll, and the packing list has been updated.

Despite the lousy weather, our training has progressed well, and we had a very good session with Lee Tubman the day before our 2017 competitive debut at the AERSO dressage show at Beaulieu. Ralph was very well-behaved for the most part, and performed a decent Second Level test and had a very good First Level effort.
Our second outing was to the Jessica Phoenix Clinic at Beaulieu. Ralph was very full of himself and acted quite the fool in the stable - whinnying and pawing at times, and even escaping under his stall guard one afternoon when he decided he should be out grazing with the others on the lawn! His extra energy was easily channelled in his dressage and jumping sessions though, and it was a pleasure to ride him. His cross-country work the second day was also very good and he felt rideable and confident.
At the event, our goal is to be in the top 25% after dressage and to go clear in the jumping and cross-country. I will not hurry him on cross-country as we haven't done any proper gallops or conditioning work, but I would like to avoid too many time penalties!

Winter Progress
Ralph wanted to make sure his fans got an update - even if we haven't been doing a lot of 'adventuring' over the winter...seems to me he's feeling SO much better after having his ulcers taken care of that he's actually getting a little pushy! We've spent the winter working on improving our flatwork, and although the extra energy Ralph brings to his work is wonderful, it has also made the ever-elusive half-halts even more challenging.
His jumping work has been progressing well, although again, I could do without the bucks-of-glee to celebrate his success! Spring has officially arrived, and we are looking at 6 weeks before the first competition...Yikes! Where did the time go??
Ralph says, "I thought you said it was spring? This doesn't look like spring...".


Teeth and Ulcers
With the show season over, it was time to try to figure out Ralph's lack of interest in eating. In the summer, although I wouldn't mind adding a little 'oomph' to his energy level, he keeps his condition pretty well as we are lucky enough to have good grazing and he LOVES his grass. In the winter it is more difficult, and it was time to try to get to the bottom of things...

We did a fecal count, and he didn't have worms. Had Dr. Heather Ross out to examine his teeth, and although he had a few rough edges (and that after only 6 months since he was last done), it didn't explain everything. After talking with Dr. Hallé, we decided to give him a course of omeprazole. Although his lifestyle (other than being a competition horse) and feeding regimen don't support a theory of ulcers, he does crib, and really, we had nothing to lose!
Within about 4 days Ralph was more interested in his food, and although not a glutton by any stretch - and he still cribs - he was eating like a normal horse. He seemed a bit more energetic as well, but I'm not sure if that was just a little cool-weather friskiness!

Colic and Clinic
Ralph had a busy week - a bit unorthodox in preparing for a clinic, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow...

Dr. Jennifer Jobin came out on Monday to see if some acupuncture would help Ralph's head. It has been gradually getting better and he has been more comfortable, but we still felt it was worth it to try. Tuesday he was off, Wednesday we went for a hack. Ralph was happy and forward until we arrived back at the farm, where as soon as we stopped, he started pawing and went down to his knees as soon as I got off! I hustled him into his stall and got his tack off and down he went! Colic. Dr. Halle arrived within half an hour and Ralph was given a sedative and pain medication and then tubed. We kept an eye on him, but there were no after-effects and he was looking for food.

On Thursday we had a flat session and Ralph felt very good, but I wasn't able to ride Friday and we had Lee Tubman coming for a dressage clinic on the weekend - not the ideal preparation!

Saturdays' effort was not awe-inspiring - surprise!, but it was better Sunday, and we have a laundry list of things to work on over the winter. Particularly with an Event horse who has jumping and fitness work to do each week, it is hard during the competition season to focus as much as necessary on improving the dressage.

Ottawa Horse Trials
Ottawa Horse Trials was our last Event of the season, and it turned out to be successful in a couple of ways. First, we finished 3rd on our dressage score plus only 1.6 time penalties. For those who have followed him this season, you know that in his last 3 Pre-training competitions Ralph had 17, then 7, and now only 1 time fault. Yay wild-man Ralph!

The more important success was how we handled the crazy insecure whinnying when he arrived at the show. Peekay hadn't even arrived and he was obsessively calling. Kathy and I went for a hack around and then did some flatwork - purposely schooling them in separate areas. At first - incessant neighing and the old "I-will-twist my-head-and-neck-so-I can-always-see-her" trick, but I was determined to stay calm and see how I could work through it. It turned out that patting him and praising EACH STEP that was calm and focused seemed to do the trick. At first, it was one 'good boy' every 20 steps, then 10, and finally we had quite a good session. This did work the next day, as well, and I had very little issue with focus for the rest of the event. Who knew?

Ralph had a session with his osteopath a few days later and we discovered his poll area was very sensitive. Thinking it may be as a result of his cribbing on a different part of the stall - he has cleverly learned how to removed a couple of the vertical bars between stalls, so instead of chewing on his feed tub or the rubber stall guard, it's a wide metal-covered wall. A call is in to get some acupuncture to see if that will help him...

Dressage Clinic and Stevens Creek

Ralph has been pretty busy over the last few weeks; first a serious dressage clinic with the incomparable Lee Tubman, who insists that Ralph work really, really, really hard ALL THE TIME. The first couple of times Ralph was introduced to Lee's work ethic, he literally colicked after the second day - the stress of that much concentration was too much for him to manage! He is now much better, having an excellent first session and making a reasonable effort on day two as well.

We followed that up with an Event at Stevens Creek - our first appearance there - which was a lot of fun. We stayed with the hostess-with-the-mostest, Casey Gillis, the evening before, and were assisted on the day by the very capable Caitlin.

I've always found a one-day event asks a lot of a young horse, and I much prefer two-day events, but we managed a decent dressage after quite a long delay; then somehow arrived at the stadium jumping just in time to hear we were supposed to be next in the ring! Fortunately there were riders ready to go and we were able to get a short but effective warm-up in and had a very solid clear round. More delays before cross-country obviously had an effect - I almost got us eliminated by nearly jumping the wrong fence # 2; Ralph was very agile and honest when I took him off his line about three strides out and jump the correct fence at a VERY sharp angle! The rest of the course went well, although the car parked directly behind a fence I was headed to had to move pretty quickly when I got their attention and they realized they were in the way...Ralph didn't have a lot of 'get up and go' on the cross-country, and I didn't get after him as I really want him to get enthusiastic about galloping faster on his own. His former life as a polo-pony-ponier was not a lot of fun for him and when I first got him you could feel him shut down when we were cantering. Nonetheless, we had only 7 time faults and finished 6th:) In our canters around the hayfield at home he IS showing more enthusiasm, so I think he may have just switched off a bit at the event with the long delay. Onward and upward - this weekend is the Ottawa Horse Trials, probably our last run of the season.

Robinson Horse Trials
We headed down to Robinson Stables in Sutton for the August 20-21 Event and calmly settled into the stabling - until Miss Peekay arrived and all hell broke loose! Ralph was completely besotted (nevermind that he ignores her at home!) and unfortunately his silliness affected his performance in all three phases. In dressage his test felt quite nice except for the constant neck-craning to locate his beloved who was still in the warm-up area, leaving him in 11th (of 20) after dressage.

Leaving Peekay in the warmup before cross-country was even worse - he was running sideways (into the ditch), and threatening to rear (although that would have taken a LOT of effort!). He shot out of the start box, whinnying and trying to drift toward his beloved, but he did jump really well despite being very distracted between the fences for much of the course. He jumped clear but got quite a few time penalties, so stood 14th after cross.

Stadium was more of the same - trying to locate the lovely grey mare at very inopportune times - like heading past the in-gate toward the last line; his inattention caused him to stumble and get discombobulated approaching the second-last jump and he had to stop. We reorganized and he jumped it really well and we finished in 16th place. I will make sure we do our next outing or two without any familiar faces and try to re-establish his focus a bit!

Harmony Horse Trials
It was a week of ups and downs - and not just in the trot...;) On Monday, Ralph coughed several times while I rode, and had a creamy nasal discharge from one nostril. With Harmony Horse Trials coming up on the weekend and an upgrade to Pre-Training scheduled, there was no time to fool around and I called the vet. Tuesday morning Ralph was treated for a bacterial gutteral pouch infection, which involved sedation, and then having tubes stuck waaaaay up his nose and large syringes of medication injected into them to flush out the gutteral pouches. He was then turned out alone to allow torrents of goop to flow out of his head. No riding, and the weekend was also in doubt.

Wednesday we were to try some flatwork. Ralph was quite hysterical with the flies, to the point where I had to ride him in the arena to have any sort of concentration from him. He coughed and sputtered a few times, but the nasal discharge had cleared up. It was not a very encouraging session and I thought I would downgrade my entry - or cancel all together!

On Thursday things started to turn around - had a very positive and confident jumping school and we were back on the beam! At Harmony, the beginning of Ralph's dressage was not great as he was crooked, but the second half was quite satisfactory, putting him in 9th position (of 16) with 67.75%/48.4 pp. On the cross-country we seemed to find a lot of long spots and Ralph was making very big efforts, but galloped in with only 4 time penalties to move to 11th. As an aside, at this stage I do not wear a stopwatch - I go as fast as the horse is comfortable and once he is making the time and going clear I know it is usually time to move up a division.
I was thrilled with him in the stadium jumping on Sunday - he had plenty of energy and was jumping generously, but from much more reasonable distances. One of only a few clear rounds, he finished 9th with a very satisfied rider. Sometimes when things are going wrong, all you can do is just keep moving forward and things will work out:)

Tandalee Horse Trials
After missing the last three 'outings' for various reasons, we got back in gear for the Tandalee Horse Trials. Arrived on Friday afternoon and was lucky to stay on board when Ralph got a little hysterical with the bugs bothering him when we were having a hack around.
For the Dressage on Saturday he must have thought his warm-up was enough work because as soon as he got in the ring he went to sleep. The first half of the test was a combination of him tripping and me kicking, but I did get through to him and the second half was beautiful.
I was concerned about his motivation level for cross-country, but he was all over it - making the time on a hilly course and attacking the jumps with gusto.
Sunday was Stadium Jumping time, and Ralph struggled a bit with the uneven ground, stumbling twice at very inopportune times and knocking down a rail. He sometimes forgets that he is not still on a manicured polo field and has to actually pay attention to where his feet are going...Nonetheless, he finished 5th of 17 and we look forward to our next Event - Harmony Horse Trials!

Ringworm and Dressage
As I arrived to braid Ralph at 6:00 a.m. on June 26 to get ready for the AERSO dressage show at Equestran, I noticed Ralphie had a nasty, swollen bug bite on his back. Yes, directly under the saddle. I poked and prodded a bit and it didn't seem to bother him, so off we went.
His first test went well, with a score of almost 66% - 3 percentage points higher than last time. When I got on to warm up for the second test, he was bucking on the way to the warm up and actually bucked during a lengthened trot across the diagonal. "Wow!", I thought, "he thinks he's on the way to cross-country!". WRONG. Monday morning his back was a mess and I called the vet. Not a bug bite - RINGWORM:( So, we ended up with a week of an unhappy horse and missed the Jessica Phoenix clinic at Oakhurst that I was really looking forward to. The good news is it is much better and now I have learned something new. Something I would have been quite happy to not have first-hand experience with!

Eventing at the Park
Ralph got on the trailer on Saturday thinking it was an oven; when he came back on Sunday, he thought it was Noah's Ark!
A VERY wet day in Ottawa for our first Event of the season. Ralph wanted out, out, OUT of his stall...until he got out into the rain, at which time he had serious second thoughts! We did a respectable dressage in the pouring rain in water halfway up to his knees, and then thought seriously about scratching.
The rain let up and the stadium jumping ring still had amazing footing, so on we went, with Ralph jumping a nice, steady (we'll just ignore that combination line for now) clear.
Decided to give the cross-country a go, so with light rain falling we headed out again. Ralph was great - a little cautious to start, but gained confidence despite the holding footing to finish clear with a few time faults and 5th overall. I drove home in pyjamas, having been soaked through 4 pair of pants and breeches, two shirts, two fleeces, and two 'waterproof' jackets. A big thank you to Kathy Hledin for coming up to help me - a little enthusiasm on a trying day was just what we needed!

Jessica Clinic
We just finished two days of training with Jessica Phoenix up at Beaulieu. Ralph was a very good boy, having one session each of dressage, stadium work and cross country. He was more relaxed travelling and in the stable, although "wandering around and gawking at things" is still a big part of his away-from-home activity! Lots of homework to do, but we're feeling pretty pumped for the season!
An early attempt at a BIG ditch!

Oakhurst XC Derby
Off to Oakhurst in Ottawa for the XC Derby - a combination of stadium jumping and XC. Ralph was very good, especially in the second course where he was doing a little less gawking around while cantering on cross-country.
I always feel there are many more 'phases' to competing when you are trying to do it on your own: there's the 'equipment prep' phase of cleaning, organizing and packing all the tack and stable equipment needed; the 'transport phase' of making sure truck and trailer are ready, and driving there and back ; the 'groom's role' (unless I am lucky enough to have help) of bandaging, grooming, washing, braiding, walking, etc.; the 'runnning around phase' which includes trips to the secretary, course walking, and the all-important FOOD element; and finally, the actual riding and competing part.
Today went very well except for the 'transport phase' in which I locked the keys (and key pieces of equipment) in the truck almost immediately upon arrival! Fortunately, a call to CAA resolved the issue within the hour and the other phases continued without incident. Point being, there's a whole lot that goes into each successful 5-minute performance!
A new season awaits!

Aerso Dressage
Ralphie was a good boy in his debut at First Level, scoring in the low 60s. He was stunned (and not impressed) to discover he had to go out and do a second test - his limited attention span was taxed to the max doing the first one! Jenny also had an excellent first show of the season - winning both her classes. Next week we're off to practice Ralph's cross-country skills at the Upper Canada Derby at Oakhurst.

Health Checks
Ralph had his Coggins Test, blood drawn, and his vaccinations for this year done today. It was exhausting....
Ralph sees Ray Matthews, his farrier, every 5 weeks, and Chris for some physiotherapy once a month. Ralph has some TMJ issues leftover from his polo days and I like to keep on top of any other little issues before they become big ones!