Grand Times Eventing

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

I have always had a mental block about going over ditches.  My mom tells me that I am the one stopping at the ditch, not Aleta.  And she's right.  Since I plan to move up to beginner novice this year – this is a problem that needed to be solved!  When I ride up to ditches, I sort of stop riding, assuming Aleta is just going to go over it – which she does not.  She feels me stop riding and slows down and eventually we end up looking peacefully into the ditch.  We recently went to Kingfisher Park to XC school and my only goal was to practice getting over ditches – not Aleta getting over them, but me!  I really wanted to practice just riding a ditch like it was just another jump on course.  We warmed up and felt great, popped over a few jumps, then it was ditch time.  I told myself “Finley, just get over the ditch!”

We picked up a nice canter, cleared the first jump and turned to the ditch.  I pushed Aleta a bit forward - pretty much to make sure she knew I was ready this time - tapped each of us with the crop, kept my eyes locked forward, not down.  I wanted her to know I wasn’t going to stop so neither should she!  The, without any hesitation, Aleta was up and over the ditch without a thought.  I was so proud and excited afterwards that I yelled and cheered a little bit loudly but it was so great to conquer ditches!

We ended our day jumping our first keyhole which was so awesome.  The whole day was great and as with every ride with Aleta helped to show me how great things are when everything “clicks” into place.  As long as I show Aleta that I am there for her, she will always be there for me.

keyholeAleta and Finley - Kingfisher Park, Mooresville, NC

We’ve been working a lot on dressage lately too and recently rode with Ashley Parsons of Tryon, NC.  She was very helpful and explained things similar, but a little different, from Brett, which was good to hear.  I like it when I ride with trainers that say the same things to me but sometimes in a different way, it helps me to understand better what they are looking for in my riding.

With all of our prep, I feel like we are ready for our first beginner novice in a few weeks!

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

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Over the past few months, I have learned so much about me as a rider and horsewoman.  Aleta and I having been getting ready for the season – preparing physically and for me – mentally.  I always knew I got a little tight in warm up, the horses running everywhere, trying to focus and still remember what course I was about to do next, but I never  told  anyone before.  I would just continue doing what I was doing, feeling a little nervous, which Aleta could feel too.  I finally spoke up and talked about my warm up nerves, and I am so glad I did.  My trainer, Brett, and mom, immediately helped me get a plan together for show warm up rings.  I have always heard people say “warm up off property like you do at home” and “ride the horse you have that day, you never know how your horse will behave so you need to be ready for anything.”  I am trying to really focus on those pieces of advice now.  I warm up on the flat pretty consistently, but then the jumping would get me.  So now I know exactly what jumps Brett is going to have us jump, and how many times, then we will watch a few riders and head into the ring.  I am already looking forward to the next event to put my plan in action.

This summer, Brett is going to help some of us perfect some equine skills, including polo wrapping, braiding, mane pulling and more.  My unpaid braider (my mom!) said she’s quitting the braiding business this summer so I really need to get my braids tighter and faster!  I am excited to learn more this summer and get some new skills to make me a better rider, owner and horsewoman.  I want to be a working student when I grow up so I know there is so much I will need to know and I think this summer will be a good start.

Aleta and I haven’t only been working this spring, we also attended the first May War Horse Event Series and brought home the blue out of 20 maiden riders!  It really showed how all of our hard work paid off, I couldn’t stop smiling!  It was so much fun and it was one of our best events ever.  Even there though, we did figure out a little more about each other – always learning!  As you can see lots of learning and growing for Aleta and I, which I have found NEVER ends in the horse world!

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

First show of 2017 … a success and eye opening in a few ways!  Aleta and I recently competed in a CT at FENCE located in Tryon.  It was a lot of fun.  My friend, Morgan, moved her horse, Rose, and her brother’s horse, Max, to Kibler a few weeks ago so this is the first time we have shown together in a while.  We stayed at Renovation Farms, which was so pretty.  Trayce had a few horses going to the CT as well so it was fun to meet her.  Eric is still recovering from his accident a few weeks ago, but it was nice to see how their friends and family have come together to support and help them.  At the show, we had a full row of horses with us, including Jackson and Clarkson, Anna and Matt and Missy brought Glee.  Missy is my trainer’s wife.  They have a 1 year old daughter, Ellie, who came too!  She is so cute and it was fun having her there to play with between classes! 

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Rose and Aleta were immediate besties and do practically everything together so we learned a few things at this show, like don’t stall them next to each other!  They spent the whole time calling to each other and trying to look over the 10 foot walls at each other.  They behaved well otherwise.  We didn’t ride until the afternoon so I was able to cheer on my friends and watch their rides.  When it was our turn, we had dressage first, we ended up with a 25.6 which was great and also ended up being the lowest dressage score of the day!  That’s the second time we’ve had that honor and it was pretty exciting!  Aleta pays really close attention in dressage.

Warm up for our jump round was a bit crazy, there were horses flying around, it didn’t seem like everyone had control and riders weren’t paying attention.  Aleta was a little excited and gave a little buck, which was weird and a little scary.  We got our act together though and went in and had a clear jump round.  We ended up getting first in our division!  On Sunday we went XC schooling and it was awesome!  We jumped a few BN jumps and Aleta was just great.  Jumped my first ditch too! 

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It turns out Aleta’s unusual behavior in the warm up ring was a blessing in disguise.  We looked in her mouth because she was acting so funny and found a lump.  When we got back home, my mom got our vet, Dr. Marsha Severt, out first thing.  Dr. Marsha recommended taking her to State to have it removed.  My mom doesn’t waste time with our horses care, so she immediately asked Dr. Marsha to work some miracles and we got Aleta into State the NEXT day!  Mom and Brett drove her up, they did the surgery – which was a big success - and then I went the next day with my mom to pick her up!  Aleta needs a few weeks of recovery, but there’s no reason she and I won’t be hitting the events again soon.  It was a good reminder that there is always a reason for a horse to do something, whether it’s good or bad, you really need to watch your horse and be careful. 

It was really scary when they found the lump in Aleta’s mouth, taking her to State was even scarier, but seeing how great those vets are at their jobs really made me happy that we have such a great vet hospital and school in NC.  There were a lot of horses there in worse shape than Aleta and they were all being cared for in the best way possible.  While we hope to never have to go there again, it was a great experience and we got Aleta back safe and sound!  So I learned a lot in only a few days - Aleta has a best friend she can't live without, there are reasons for everything that happens and NC State vets rock!