Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The year ends

I'm failing as a blogger. 3 months weren't supposed to pass. Keebler is well and is down in Alabama at Debi Crowley's Cotton Meadows Farm (www.cottonmeadowsfarm.com). I'm sure he wonders why he is in dressage boot camp, but is enjoying lots of turn out and the warmer weather. Meanwhile, I've been riding Del. It is a lot of fun doing dressage on such an easy horse.

Shanyn Fiske bought the lovely mare Greta, so we're looking forward to seeing them out eventing in 2009.

In October, I took the final exam for the TD's license. Due to odd timing, my application won't be reviewed by the committee until April, so I'll be doing some other things in the interim. Look for (more regular) posts about the goings on.

In November, I spent a weekend down in Florida at the Ocala event. Lots of fun, and got to spend some time with Andre and Hilda as well as lessons on Isabelle and Helari, too very nice young mares down at Ashmore.

December was the end of teaching, a quick trip to Santa Fe and a slightly longer trip to California where we did cookie party 22! Then visited Ojai and had a wonderful dinner with new friends Tanya Bentley and her husband Alex at Upstairs2. We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in L.A.

There was also very sad news. John Pryor, one of our great trauma surgeons here at Penn was killed in Iraq on Christmas. It has been a long time since I've lost someone and then it was AIDS, the killer of my times. I'm just too young to have had friends in Vietnam and old enough that most of my friends are too old for the more recent wars, but trauma surgeons are needed in battle and are making remarkable strides to saving lives. John knew how needed his skills were and chose to serve with a forward team. http://www.drjohnpryor.com/index.html

Monday, September 22, 2008

Plantation's First CIC

I volunteered Friday and Saturday, scribing for the CIC**/CIC*** and then being a stopping point person on the cross country. The weather was perfect. There were a bunch of falls, but no one seriously hurt and all in all a great weekend. The weekend ran more like a USEF event than like FEI, but that was kind of nice. There were some issues that were fine given the weather we had (no ice at XC finish, limited water brought out for fence judges), but I'm sure they would have figured it out if it had been hotter. Phillip Dutton, Leslie Law, Susie Beale, Sally Cousins (and I'm sure others) all took a spill at some point. Which just goes to show *everyone* falls off.

Sunday, I took a lesson on Greta, a lovely mare recently come to Susie from the show ring. She was a lot of fun, as was being back on a horse in general. With Keebler still recovering, I haven't gotten in much riding, but should probably take advantage to ride some different horses. Also, hit the elliptical and enjoyed the good weekend for Philadelphia sports (other than the Cowboys win over Green Bay last night)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Progress slow - so are the reports

Keebler is still at New Bolton. He is better, but not well. His feet are still sore and we are waiting for the radiographic results to see whether there are any laminitis related foot changes. We are also waiting for the IFA results to know how likely Potomac Horse Fever is. Luckily, he is feeling better and eating well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

In which Keebler is a sick pony

Got a call from Susie Wednesday evening that Keebler had a fever. Didn't think much of it, as despite horrifying blood counts in early January, he recovered quickly from a similar fever. Tom came out, took blood, put him on banamine, tucaprim, and gentycin. No improvement, so this morning he went off to New Bolton. He is still eating and all, but fever remains and he is weaker and generally "punky" The New Bolton folks are doing an abdominal ultrasound to confirm suggestion of GI involvement, but they don't seem to have any clearer notion of what is going on that does Tom (our fabulous vet). Hopefully, he will rally whether or not they figure out what is going on. We all know he is a tough little bugger - yeah for those Appy characteristics.

And this after his great performance at the dressage schooling show. It was one of those shows where you pick the test, so we did Eventing Training Test A once and Test B twice. He got 42 on the first two tests and 40 on the third with a judge who does both dressage and the recognized events as well. His best dressage scores ever! So, maybe having to be a dressage pony made him feel ill....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Totally remiss

Yes, I have been totally remiss. Keebler incurred his first training level jumping fault. He zig-zagged enough to lead the fence judge to call it re-presentation at Fair Hill. Still, the weather was perfect and he was relatively good in dressage, getting a 44, his best score at training level thus far. This past weekend, I spent two days volunteering and 4 days apprenticing at Wayne DuPage horse trials. Got to stay with Katie Lindsay and meet Gobi the blogging dachshund in person (or would that be dogson) http://www.aecatlamplight.org/Blog/blog.htm. Lovely weather through the entire week in Chicagoland. Cyndi was announcing and Nancy scoring, so felt like old home week. Very nice friends of the organizers, Noreen and Paul fed the whole gang of officials two evenings, bbq at their home and dinner at Foxfire (very nice restaurant should you find yourself in the Western suburbs of Chicago). Back home for the week, due to Florida flight being cancelled for hurricane Fay (have rescheduled for the Ocala CCI, so you will get an actual Florida chronicle again in November). Dressage show coming up this weekend. Weather remains great.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fun, Fun Fun!!!

Went schooling yesterday afternoon. Quite a group, ranging from Amanda on her pony (one elementary level event under their belt/girth) to Tatiana (getting ready to move up to intermediate). I took Keebler, Lesley rode Rosie, Betsy and Maripeg were there on Dave and Trevor preparing for Stuart and Hannah was there with her mare Jewels. It was a perfect day (well maybe on the hot side of perfect) and we got to jump a bunch of fun stuff in good company. Keebler continued his, "yes, I am an eventer" attitude, though we finally found a fence he didn't like - a table made of shiny new wood, with the sun shining on it. I just assumed he would jump, which he did on the 2nd presentation - oops! Gotta remember to ride, even the really good boy. All horses were quite good and Susie and T both kept busy coming up with exercises appropriate to the various members of the group. Little better than XC schooling.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maui Jim Rocks

I hopped on a plane after teaching on Friday and headed to Chicagoland. Made reasonable time on the Chicagoland highways - big surprise - and reached Lamplight around 5:00 in the evening. Due to major storms the prior day, training show jumping had already gone (so much for that part of the apprenticing experience). I was luck enough to spend the evening setting the show jump courses with Ana Schravesande. There were two, one for the preliminary and one for the CIC*, CIC**, CIC***, Int and Advanced. Had to find enough safety cups, ended the evening still missing the number 12 (leading to the Sesame Street adventure, finding the number 12 on Saturday morning). Headed to the hotel (many thanks to Lynn Cronin for sharing). Had some confusion as neither my GPS nor Sprint directory information realized that a Days Inn existed in St. Charles, but got there and crashed after hearing from Lynn about Katie Lindsay's mouse (an inside joke occassioned by concerns about the cheese wedge jump at Red Hills). Also got to see the smurf jump (related inside joke). Saturday (after finding and posting the number 12 on the appropriate jump), I did a short apprenticing stint with Roger Haller in the preliminary show jumping arena. It was a fairly soft course, and almost everyone did well, including Kaiti Saunders doing her first prelim on her new(ish) horse Truman. He looked to be having a grand time and the pair looked great together. Headed over to XC after SJ and spent the afternoon as crossing guard for the galloping lane. Got to see the tough bending line early on the course and the Maui Jim water from my post, so excellent volunteering opportunity and fabulous weather. I saved Dorothy Crowell's life (or at least alerted her to oncoming fast galloping horse where she was about to be). The two CIC*** horses that looked fantastic to me on the part of the course I could see were Sara Dierks' Somerset and Allison Springer's Arthur who finished 1 and 2. Leslie Law and Eric Dierks got to share the Dumbs**t award (given by Katie L) for jumping the final fence of the intermediate rather than of the CIC* while on CIC* horses (good to know even a gold medalist can make this mistake and while in first place). Sunday, no apprenticing to be had, so I gofered for the judges and got to observe Karen Winn and Jo Young judging the SJ for the upper levels which was fun and educational. Approximately 4 stopwatches died over the course of the day, but they were the only casualties. Erica Peterson from Michigan (Lynn's trainer) finished 4th in the CIC**. Leslie Law won it (perhaps compensating for the prior day's goof). There were a couple rider falls, but without injury. Lisa Riedel and her young horse, Springer had several rails, but completed the Intermediate. Out on training and preliminary XC, things seemed to go well. Kaiti had a clean round with only time as the last ride of the day. Headed back to the airport and avoided the I-90 traffic jam, making it back to ORD easily and getting home about an hour later than planned due to flight delays. Dreamt of stadium jumping courses.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two weeks of unrecognized eventing

Last weekend of July, had the honor and fun of TDing the unrecognized event at Waredaca www.waredaca.com. The weather generally cooperated and there was both very good and kinda scary riding to be seen. No smoothie lady, but yes ice cream!!! Excellent job by volunteer coordinators, volunteer hospitality and awards committee. Prizes for all, including some really nice ones. Also, money raised for Windchase.

This past weekend, in addition to celebrating Henry's birthday (he is a 4th of July boy), Keebler and I did our first post big-ouch event, the Open Novice at Fair Hill. We finished on our (crappy) dressage score - wait, why does that sound so familiar. I warmed him up wearing a running martingale and he was very good. As soon as I took it off and we went in the ring, things deteriorated. Judge wrote, "very capable pair, but too fast today" Also, "he needs to respond to half halts" The whole dressage thing is just a work in progress. I count myself lucky that he really likes to jump, so no struggles there.

Betsy and Preston were third. Sarah and Hannah had a little xc trouble, but generally successful outings. We all had a long day, loading at 6:45 for my 9:26 dressage time and then xc times around 4:30 for Sarah and Hannah. Hannah was scheduled for 5:30, but I volunteered for 2 hours so she could move up. I heard there was a brief period of self-stewarding down in the dressage arenas as Courtney and I switched over at noon, but everyone was great about being there, checking in and getting down to their arenas on time.

Volunteering and apprenticing at Maui Jim next week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

two days - two states - two events

I spent Saturday at Encore (on the way between my dad's and the DTW airport). Great to see everyone there. Becka was doing her first event back and looked great. Jeff Kibbie's Loki is looking very grown up. Lucky (the CANTER horse) isn't looking quite so grown up, but does look talented, handsome and totally fat and happy. Lots of Cobbleston folks there, we scheduled the end of summer Margarita Party - always good to get that important stuff done. I heard there were storms after I left, but great weather while I was there. Gwen (the 21 year old chestnut wonder mare) had her retirement ceremony. Her theme song is "Brick House" There was a COTH thread about theme songs for your horse. I'll take suggestions for one for Keebler.

Sunday, I was at Bucks County Horse Park where the gang from COM was eventing. Tatiana Herrero Berstein and Maria Herrero are in town for the summer with Copernicus and Tatiana rode. She saw me and said, "I thought you were at Encore" Well, the day before I was, now I'm not, aren't planes a grand invention? I did a bit of volunteering and a bit of spectating. Another very nice day. Hannah did a lovely job with her new horse Jewels, Susie rode Dash and Perkins. Lesley and Tia finished 3rd. Lexi had a fantastic dressage test on Gizmo for which she was really under-rewarded in the score department. We're giving her an honorary 36 for that test. Betsy rode Preston. The ground was hard, so everyone either took it easy or skipped xc, more excellent horsemanship in action. Looking forward to seeing the scores.

Next weekend, TDing at the Waredaca unrecognized.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back in the saddle

So, I've now been back riding a full week. I've done two dressage lessons and a jumping lesson on Keebler and ridden every day. On Sunday, I rode Keebler and Del. All the body bits are holding up to it and nothing hurts. Keebler obviously benefitted from his time in boot camp. His trot is quite good and the canter improving. I've been using draw reins, to reinforce his good behavior and they seem to be working. His jumping lesson was great. His timing was a lot better than mine. We did the vertical from a trot exercise to a reasonable height and finished up with a one stride exercise. Keebler still has most of his hair, with the help of a serious fly sheet and a stall in the lower barn, which is less open to the bugs. We're planning the remainder of our season - his contribution is, "is there food there?", but my plans include novice at the unrecognized at Fair Hill July 5th, training at the Plantation unrecognized July 26th, then training at the Fair Hill recognized in August. In between, more volunteering, apprenticing and hopefully, the Cairn O'Mount tack sale, though I did sell some stuff to one of the newer COM riders who just got a new horse. Buck's County Horse Park this weekend (volunteering). More to follow

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back in the saddle

Well, I'm actually riding again. Later today, I will be riding Keebler for the first time since April 24th. On Friday, I borrowed a school horse and puttered around. It was very cute. One of the kids on her pony kept asking me if I had my confidence back yet. That felt good, so after volunteering at Plantation over the weekend (more on that later), I had a lesson on Del (a quiet young TB), doing some flat work and some jumping. That felt good also. Skipped riding yesterday (at 98 degrees, I couldn't face putting on breeches and a helmet) and lunged Keebler, who was very good. Lesson planned for today. Update to follow.

Plantation was fun. On Saturday, I scribed for Muffin Pantaze and saw several nice tests as well as some that were less so (preliminary level). The words of the day were "straightness" and "suppleness" good to see the basics being stressed in the judging. Then, I got another round in control with Dick, which was interesting as always. Sunday, I judged dressage - Novice, BN, and Elementary. I think the elementary test was hard. They had to halt at the beginning and they were actually supposed to make transitions *at* letters, not just between them. Both days had a big COM representation and some tack problems. Saturday, Rob had a stirrup band break and Sunday, Susie had a rein break - on D.G., up by the foundation, pretty exciting I'm sure. There were also good ribbons. Lesley and Tia won on Saturday, T and Teddy had a 5th at prelim, with a good dressage test. On Sunday, Amanda (Susie's daughter) did her first event, and finished 3rd on Issy. Sara Estabrook won that division on Dave. Betsy and Preston were 3rd in their division and Betsy is totally in love with Preston. Despite the heat, it was a lovely weekend. I'm really glad to be riding again. More updates to follow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Waredaca weekend

It was great being at an event without a brace on my arm and feeling fully mobile. Not having known in advance that I would be fully mobile, I spent the day Saturday scribing for stadium. This was much more fun than you might imagine with the chatter between judge, announcer and two pony club dads as timers - only once did they miss a time due to chatting, and the judge got that one. The BN rider who just stopped in the middle of the course directly in front of her next fence (not a refusal, she was lost) and then peered around for quite some time trying to find next fence (right in front of her). She did finish without jump penalties, but oh so many time faults. Why did so many intermediate horses stop at the first fence? It was a stone wall with black rails, didn't look scary to me, but who knows? Training horses mostly stopped at the liverpool, no option this time, so think blue tarp practice at home. Many horses at all levels left out a stride to the last fence and knocked the top wavy plank out of its flat cups. Volunteer coordinators took excellent care of us (junk food was way too available). Saturday night, yummy mexican food with Jeff Kibbie. Then Sunday, the morning in scoring with Steve Symansky who is ridiculously energetic. More fun and chatter behind the scenes. Riding, running and swimming all planned for this week.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rehab is the name of the game

And not the Betty Ford sort. My dad was discharged to home today, but will have a fair bit of rehab in front of him to get back to full function. My road is the much easier one. I got the brace off my hand today and now can get back to full exercise and activity to get myself back in shape. The wrist is surprising stiff and a bit sore, but as I have heard from everyone about both the wrist and the back injury, "let the pain be your guide." Is that like Phillip Dutton saying, "let the fence be the bit" or am I mixing my metaphors. The back will go out on its first test-elliptical this evening, seemed a better starting point that actually running, as much as I want to. First ride will be Sunday, on a horse that will *not* take advantage of any perceived weakness, which I'm sure I'll have plenty of.

Last weekend was TD apprenticing at Full Gallop with Cindy DePorter. Cindy is great, a great TD, mentor, horsewoman and, of course, pot-bellied pig owner! We had a lot of fun including a nice dinner at Casa Bella with Todd Richardson, course builder extraordinaire and now course designer for the BN, Novice and Training courses at Full Gallop. Kudos to Todd and to Tremaine, who designed the preliminary course, for their well-designed, nicely flowing and inviting courses. I walked all four courses (measuring as I went) and liked them all. Chimene Evans, who owns Tempo, rode her horse Kurious in his first preliminary and finished 3rd. They looked great where I saw them on XC. There were more troubles on the Novice and BN than on the preliminary and training, including a surprising number of missed fence TEs at Novice and a couple of SJ eliminations. I learned a lot and am looking forward to the rest of my busy apprenticing and unrecognized TDing schedule this summer and fall. I will also be doing some volunteering, and plan to compete once I finish the rehab part of the program (like the recovery part, I'm sure red wine will play an important role, though I've heard rumours of Margaritas at Waredaca this weekend).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

big sigh

Dad (know colloquially as Be) pulled through the surgery (and the dangerously low bp aftermath). I'm feeling almost normal (at least at a walk). Missing the event world, but will be apprenticing at Full Gallop in Aiken this coming weekend. Lots of events this weekend. Keebler is back to his summer hair removal antics. Need some better hair product for him. Rogaine for horses anyone?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

the best laid plans....

What is it they say? No volunteering at Fair Hill this week as I'll be heading to the Zoo (that's Kalamazoo for those of you from less interestingly named places). My dad had an emergent triple bypass surgery yesterday. It was pretty scary for a while, but he seems more stable now. I'll be there tomorrow through Monday and then next week Sunday and Monday also. I continue to feel better, though still don't feel that I can push beyond walking. Walking feels pretty normal and other than brace on my hand, most external signs of injury probably gone. Great dinner at Sola in Bryn Mawr last night with Henry, his brother and his uncle, who came in from Florida to visit Elmer. Definitely add it to your preferred BYOB lists. It even gets the Henry stamp of approval. Keebler got to jump yesterday, so I'm sure he's feeling better about life. Thanks to all of your for your support and kind thoughts as the universe chooses this month to pile on.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

what a difference a week makes

There is probably light at the end of the tunnel. I walked home from work yesterday and it wasn't too bad. The bruising on the face is almost, but not quite gone. I'm probably going to need to make a dental appt. I'm used to spending quality time with docs doing research, not being a patient! The weather is really nice, so that is a bonus, not that I'm getting out much. Was up in Toronto at ISPOR and rested a lot, which probably helped. Didn't really leave the hotel, except for a couple of good "Henry" dinners. Susie says Keebler is behaving reasonably, which is good to hear. I'm looking forward to getting back to riding, probably around June 1, depending on if the wrist is fully healed and how the back feels. Only have major pain occassionally now, mostly very achy, stiff and don't feel I have access to full range of motion. I am going to try walking on the elliptical machine and/or a little stationary bike this weekend, good excuse to go to the gym and sit in the hot tub. Jersey Fresh is happening and I'm sad I'm not there volunteering as planned, but I would be totally worthless anyway. Plan to get back to volunteering next week at Fair Hill.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Recovery is slow and frustrating

It is now a week since the fall. To add insult to injury, I've gotten a cold, something that rarely happens to me. This adds to the overall tired and rundown feeling. I did walk to work this afternoon - after sleeping until noon. The mile took 32 minutes rather than the usual 14 or so, but so far it doesn't seem to have had any negative effects on the pain. My face is also feeling more normal, still a few bruised and swollen bits, but definitely on the mend. The wrist has never really hurt. I had a cast for 24 hours, then switched to a brace (which can be taken off to shower). I have full use of all my fingers, so other than the awkwardness, no big deal. The back/hip is still the major issue. Read and interesting story about a wakeboarder who broke multiple transverse processes here http://www.wakeworld.com/getarticle.asp?articleid=431. My physician friend Liza Green (who is a rehab doc) was also able to provide information, mostly based on her personal experience with a transverse process fracture, not her medical training. I've a feeling it is going to be a long spring. I probably need to figure out some interesting sedentary hobby, especially once the NBA playoffs end and there is only baseball. Of course, there is Arena Football and the WNBA, so maybe not so bad after all. If anyone cares to share tips about speeding bone healing, post here. So far, I'm on the arnica, ben gay patches, advil, tylenol, red wine plan.

Friday, April 25, 2008

well, ouch!

So, Keebler’s stitches are healing well and I started riding him again Monday. 2 weeks in the stall, but we gave him a shot of dopa and he seemed pretty calm. Walked Mon, walked and trotted Tuesday, added canter Wednesday and decided to have a lesson yesterday (Thursday). Got on in dressage saddle (had been riding in jump saddle), got halfway around the arena at a walk and got launched (very impressive bucking!). Hit the ground hard, but didn’t hit my head. Ice and rest while Henry braved rush hou traffic to come out to the barn and get me, then 4 hours of quality time in the Penn trauma bay. My friends in trauma surgery must be getting tired of my calls that start, “who’s on?” Final tally Is a mild nasal fracture, a loose tooth and associated lip and chin lacerations, a fractured, but not displaced wrist, a fractured L-3 transverse spinal process (ouch!!!), and a nice gouge in the knee, which was the source of astonishing pain when they injected the knee to be sure the wound didn’t go through into the joint capsule. I’m guessing at least 3 weeks until I’m back in the saddle, but feel pretty lucky given how nasty a fall it was. Excellent care in the trauma bay and follow-up appointments Monday with plastic surgeon for face and hand surgeon for wrist. The vertebra just gets advil

Monday, April 21, 2008

Volunteering at Fair Hill

I spent this past weekend volunteering at Fair Hill, one of my favorite events. Keebler is just back into walk work after his 10 days off for stitches in his front ankle. He is healing well and has been very sensible about having to stay in his stall and was surprisingly quiet when he came out and had a walk and a graze over the weekend. Friday, I was the dressage steward at the Foxcatcher area, where there are three rings running. It was a busy day, but everything stayed well on track. Kudos to riders, grooms, trainers and moms who were all polite, smiling, on time and on top of where they were supposed to be and when. It makes it nice for the volunteers! Saturday, I scribed for the advanced dressage. It was very interesting watching the tests at that level. Tips for those of you doing/thinking about that level (at least from this judge’s viewpoint); 1) keep your horse engaged and round as you push for the medium and extended trots; 2) the flying change is a forward movement and the horse must change behind first – there were many 4s given on this movement; 3) the extended walk does not involve a loose rein, a few riders seemed to do a hybrid with free walk, 4) work to get your horse to take clear steps in the rein back, 5) accuracy is sill important, but less often missed at this level. Meanwhile, cross country was going on. I heard that Boyd Martin missed a fence for a TE, comforting to know it happens to the best of us. Sunday, I scribed for stadium jumping and completed a stadium jumping apprenticeship with Marilyn Payne. It was very interesting. Boyd was very cute when he humbly asked permission to jump stadium (of course, there are legions who think Boyd is always very cute). It seemed that the Intermediate horses/riders looked better than the CIC**, perhaps the latter were more tired or fried from XC. We heard the report that the advanced XC went well, with no serious incidents. There were two falls, one unfortunately T, when Teddy tripped up the bank from the sunken road. The weather was glorious all weekend. Saturday and Sunday evenings ended with lovely seders, 1st night at Henry’s dad’s house and 2nd night at his brother’s and their neighbors place. Both were great food and fun. I’m looking forward to getting Keebler back in work. We are aiming at the May 3rd dressage schooling show and then June 7th at Plantation. Keep me posted on your riding plans.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Volunteering Fun at Plantation

One of the great things about eventing is that even if you are not competing, you can be a part of the action by volunteering. I scribed for dressage on Saturday and got to see some very nice rides and some interesting issues. Accuracy is good! So is a well behaved horse. And nothing can beat real adjustibility for improving the scores at the upper levels. Sunday, I hung out in XC control and got the best seat in the house to watch all of the cross country, accompanied by Dick Thompson's informed and oft hilarious commentary. Denis gave out gift certificates for amateur and junior riders who turned in safe and elegant cross-country rounds. Kudos to that idea! There was one fall in the water. Bet that was really cold. Another fall where horse headed off to graze on the hill waaaay far away, but rider did eventually remount and complete the course (I was wondering if she would still be within time allowed). Several TEs for missed fences or wrong fence jumped, mostly at the lower levels. I got to spend a little time with Cathy, who was riding Rita at intermediate and Coast at training. Lisa was there with Springer doing his first intermediate and Brett Huard had a very cute, and energetic green bean. Wendy Bebie and Hoover won the prelim again! Great fun to see a master amateur rider doing so well. Sarah Connell and her band of short people (although some of them are now taller than I) did the usual masterful job of keeping everything running smoothly. Boyd, Phillip and Sally reappeared again and again as is so often the case. The ambulance people were bored, most excellent. Photos available at http://www.akdragoophoto.com.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Red Hills - in which the season draws to a close and I reflect on lessons learned

Keebler arrived back at COM safely on Tuesday morning. I went out to see him and he looked very happy munching hay. He’ll be starting the dressage boot camp portion of our program this week. Meanwhile, I flew back down to Florida on Wednesday and rode Squire, then got everything packed up for Red Hills. We set out mid-day on Thursday and Hilda was recounting some of Squire’s previous experiences at Red Hills, most of them not very good. We did some flat work in the dressage warm-up Thursday evening (with daylight savings time, it is light until 7:30). Friday was dressage day. Our times were in the late afternoon, so there was time to walk the cross country course first. It looked somewhat easier than I remember the preliminary course being in 2002 and 2003, but I have a little more experience now also. There were some tough questions, but I figured we would be OK. I got on Squire and hacked over to warm up for dressage around 3:10 for my 3:47 test. We were in Arena D, over by the stadium jumping area. Hilda wasn’t there yet (her ride was at 3:15), but we have been doing a pretty standard warm-up, so I got started on it. We did the first twenty minutes, which went well, then as I was picking him up from a free walk, he spooked, then bucked, then bucked again with a little spin and I landed on the ground. Feet first, then rear end. As I stood up, Squire went galloping around the warm-up arena, at first in circles, so we thought we would be able to catch him. Werner Geven altertly headed over to stand by the opening at A, but after a few laps, Squire jumped out and pounded off an impressive gallop toward stabling. I took off after him at a run, asking Jenna Silliman to let the Steward know I would be back as soon as possible. I caught up with him at bit check, where someone had grabbed him. Cindy had seen him from her post and come down to help, so she gave me a leg up. I later heard that he quite impressively jumped over the roping on his way there. Once up, I trotted back over to the ring, immediately trotted around and after asking me if I had planned the escapade to use up extra energy, Wayne Quarles blew the duck call and in we went. Hilda arrived as I was making the initial turn after trotting up center line, so missed all the excitement. She hardly believed it when I told her. We put in quite a decent test, receiving a 42.5 and landing in 10th place. Lesson #1, there is no such thing as a bomb proof horse. Squire would be absolutely the last horse you would expect such behavior from. Being caught off guard may have been part of why I fell off. Rusty Lowe (safety coordinator) inquired as to my well-being and was happy to hear I was fine. We did go up and walk the cross country, this time with Hilda and she said we were to take the option at fence 5. This was an up bank, one stride across and down, then the straight route, 2 strides to a vertical pole (decorated like a cannon) or the option, 4 stride bending line to smaller, similar looking fence. It was going straight that Darren Chiacchia was injured on Saturday morning. Lesson #2, even the best riders can have a problem. It is important to take every fence seriously. Darren is in my thoughts and prayers and I’m sure in yours as well. Updates and information about donations are at www.eventrider.com. There was a fairly long hold on course, so XC was running about 45 minutes late when I headed up. They removed the C portion of fence 5 from the course entirely. We warmed up in the upper warm up, working on pace. Squire felt both a little edgy and a little sticky and I managed to fall off (again!) when he stuck a little before jumping a table and I just got jumped loose. Lesson #3, it is worth working at staying in shape. Some luck was certainly also involved, but two falls off a moving horse and not a single sore spot to speak of. This time, we caught him without incident. I once again assured Rusty that I was fine, hopped on and headed off. We made it around, but had 3 stops. The first was at the ditch and wall. I was thinking so hard about the turn following it that I think I failed to ride (see lesson 2). Then, when we did it the second time, I thought, I’ll go to the bending 5 stride house without the planned circle. Lesson #4, stick to your plan. We had a run out there, totally my fault. We galloped on, jumped the next 2 without incident and then headed into the woods to the small skinny to skinny 3 stride obstacle. We came into the woods and Squire got very tense. As we rounded the corner to the fence, he saw it, slammed on the brakes and reared (see Lesson 1). I took him around to the option and we finished the rest of the course with no trouble, including brilliant jumping through the water complex. Lesson #5, perhaps horses do remember bad things. Squire’s prior experiences involved having trouble and getting at trouble in the woods at Red Hills (of course, that was when the question was a CIC*** corner, but it was the coming around a turn in the woods). We dropped from 10th place to 14, but several horses had penalties and/or didn’t finish even at preliminary. I spent much of the afternoon spectating up at cross country. Jonathan Holling’s Direct Merger collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack. I’m sure it was a stressful day for Jonathan as he also took over coaching Darren’s students. He did finish 9th on Lion King. Missy Miller’s lovely Rowdy fell at the water jump and was fatally injured. It was a fairly tough day all around, but there were also some very nice runs. Caitlin Silliman and Twain jumped well over the first 19 fences in the CIC**, then had an incident at the ditch and wall, that ended with Twain looking very the pony standing sideways in the ditch. Neither Twain nor Caitlin were injured and I’m sure they will go on to do more great things. I walked down to stabling with Twain after the vets checked him out and he seemed quite relaxed and happy, though very interested in the kettle korn I was carrying. The evening party was rather subdued. Sunday morning, we got ready for stadium jumping. After Rocking Horse Spring, I was a bit concerned, but warm up appeared to go well and I headed into the (really beautiful) stadium with the goal of keeping my shoulders back no matter what. Our stadium round was wonderful. Squire was just a little sticky to start, but got going at fence 6 and was just wonderful (Lynn captured it on video and I did keep my shoulders back). Lesson #6, it is hard to get everything together the same weekend, but that is part of what makes eventing so rewarding. This week’s stadium with last week’s dressage and cross-country would be the goal. I’ll have to keep aspiring to it. I did check in with Rusty to point out that I had made it through a phase without falling off in warm-up. I’m going to miss weekends in Florida and hanging out with the Ashmore crew. At the same time, I’m looking forward to time at home and hanging out with the Cairn O’Mount crew. Blogs will probably be less frequent, but I’ll keep you updated on Keebler’s dressage progress. His next event is planned for Fair Hill in May. I’ll also let you know about my TD training adventures. I’ll be at Galway with Malcolm Hook, checking out control and have some other apprenticeships planned. Thanks to all of you who have been interested in my doings during the winter season and to Susie and Hilda for all of their great support of my ongoing eventing adventures.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rocking Horse Spring - in which the Sandhill Cranes bring luck and Hilda brings rain

The weekend started as they do with the plane flight down from PA to FL. This trip was different in that sitting beside me on the flight was Karen O’Connor. She had been in PA for the sad occasion of Vita Thompson’s funeral, but I did get to hear about a lot of the super horses (including Biko) that Karen has ridden for the Thompsons since she began with them 24 years ago. Once I arrived in Orlando, I headed to Ashmore, where I did a group lesson with some of Hilda’s other students. I rode Keebler and we did both flat and jumping. He was quite good. I then did a similar private lesson on Squire, which was great. Once that was done, Hilda and I headed up to Rocking Horse with Squire. Due to acquiring a couple of last minute rides, Hilda had more horses than trailer spots, so Squire went up a day early along with the “girls” (Isabelle and Serendipity). We set up stalls, walked the training course and headed back. While I was walking, I saw Sandhill Cranes standing in the trailer parking area. They are very cool birds http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Sandhill_Crane.html. By the time tack was loaded and horses braided, it was almost 9:00, so no yoga or Urban Flats this week. Friday, we headed up early for dressage day. All went very well on Squire and for the first time in my eventing history, I broke 40 on a preliminary dressage test (39.6 with an error – cantered at C instead of M). We were in 3rd place, and let me tell you, that has never happened to me before! I warmed Keebler up for dressage in his jumping bridle, causing some consternation for the volunteers, but all went well and one horse before me, switched and headed in. He was more rideable for at least the first half of the test and we ended up with a 47.6, so I was pleased. Just as I reached stabling, the skies opened up. This coincided with Hilda entering the ring on Venny, the young horse she was riding at his first event. After RH III and the monsoon during Isabelle’s XC, we’ve decided the rain is Hilda’s fault. It continued on and off, very heavy at times through the day and into the evening. We headed out and had dinner at Luigi’s in Eustis, as grilling didn’t seem a great option. Andre arrived with the coach as we were getting back after dinner, set for our nice onsite digs. Saturday morning was clear, but really windy. I’m sure many of you heard about the winds. Nonetheless, everything went off well (all the stadium jumps blew down at one point, but they put them back up with the standards weighted with sawdust bags). Squire jumped stadium in the morning. He was a little sticky to the first couple and then did well until fence 8 where something (not the jump startled him) and we missed our (5 stride bending) line. Circled around and were fine, though we took the rail at 9, so finished with 8 jump and 7 time, dropping us into 7th place. Keebler went XC in the afternoon. He did not like the wind. While he was willing to jump everything he was pointed at, he was unwilling to gallop into the wind or with the wind blowing up his tail or across his body, meaning there was no galloping and several time faults, added to as I decided on the option at the water jump as the drop down was another question he had never seen schooling and it was BIG. It was really nice to hear from the fence judge the next morning when I was walking the Preliminary XC that our version of the option looked the best planned and tidiest of any the entire day. I apparently have some hex with the number 18, as I almost failed to jump fence 18 again. Luckily it was directly on the route to 19, so no actual failure. Got to spend some time in the late afternoon with the Colliers and the Collier ponies (Hilda rode Pandamonium BN – HC and Charlotte Collier rode Brilliant Blue Girl BNR). Saturday evening, stopped by the competitors party and got to chat with Jeff Kibbie and Steph Butts, then walked prelim XC again followed by grilling at the coach and star gazing. The stars were out and very bright, especially Orion. Sunday morning, it was cold – actually frost on the ground, and on the trailer ramp - as I discovered when I attempted to walk up it to retrieve the breakfast buckets. Keebler did SJ in the morning and jumped double clear, thus finishing his Florida season with 5 double clear SJ rounds and 5 jumping clear XC rounds (if you don’t count entirely missing the dratted fence 18 at RH I). Dressage boot camp, here we come. At around 2:30, Squire went xc and just totally rocked my world!! We went clean with a little time, mostly due to the conscious decision to make a circle between 4 and 5 (sharp bending line to skinny) and the mistake of thinking so hard about that I forgot to turn to 4 in the first place and had to make a circle to approach it. Still, jumped everything clean and this was not an easy preliminary course, though I’m sure Squire found it a piece of cake. We ended up in 5th place. Yeah, Squire! Keebler is now back in PA and I’ll head down for the final weekend and Red Hills with Squire.

Monday, March 3, 2008

a weekend in which there is more driving than riding, but still good fun!

Headed down on Wednesday night late this week (the vagaries of airline ticket pricing determined much of my schedule). Thursday, I had to make a quick run to the VW dealer to get a new tire put on (too much road construction on the way from the airport, apparently), then headed to Ashmore to ride. We took Squire over to Class Act, Jennie Jarnstrom’s farm to do some jumping. We had a bit of an issue with a line that we hadn’t realized was set at 5 and ½ strides, but otherwise an excellent school, then headed back and did a dressage lesson on Keebler. In the side reins (ok, don’t tell anyone from pony club, but it seems to work really well and Marina Genn once had me do it, so I don’t think it is totally verboten), he was really good, but as soon as we took them off he got up to his usual tricks. Still the walk work is a lot better and the downward transitions, especially from trot to walk are quite good, even when he is fussing at the trot. Thursday evening, I did a bunch of packing up and then Friday morning did a quick flat school on Keebler and a lesson on Squire, which were both quite good. It was actually chilly (well, in Florida speak) just under 40 degrees when I got on at 7:30. After riding, I packed up some barn stuff and in my loaded up car, headed for Aiken. The drive was uneventful, other than some construction on I-95 that slowed things down a bit. Mapquest took me on an interesting (in a good way) route that included driving through Waynesboro, GA, the hunting dog capital of the United States. Who knew? I arrived in Aiken just before 7:00 and headed over to the Susie/Lesley & Company house. It is quite nice and in a quiet neighborhood close to Whiskey Road. Henry had already done a grocery run and a bunch of unpacking, so Lesley, Henry and I headed for dinner at Cuizine. It included a very nice bottle of wine (no surprise, Henry was with us) and a mixed review on the food. My salad was excellent as was Henry’s steak. The calamari, my risotto and Lesley’s tuna were more on the fine, but uninspired page. Saturday morning, I did yoga at http://www.radiantwellbeing.com/. I always like finding new gyms and yoga studios when traveling. We then headed to the house to begin party preparations. With Amanda’s excellent help (Amanda is Susie’s 8 year old daughter and she squeezed all 60 pieces of citrus for the margaritas), we were able to complete pre-party preparations by around 3:30, so repaired to the Wilcox for a nap. The Wilcox is really a lovely old inn, a nice treat for the weekend when Henry is in Aiken. I recommend that you all consider a weekend in Aiken next year. It is great fun. http://www.thewillcox.com/. The party appeared to be a success. The margaritas were a lovely shade of red, thanks to the blood oranges in them. Many bottles of red wine also were drunk and especially appreciated by Kevin Keane, Auggie Vettorino, Phillip Dutton and Jenna’s dad, Tom. The food was Henry’s usual spectacular litany of muscovy duck breast, portabella mushrooms with aged gruyere, lamb chops, grilled asparagus, wonderful cheese, etc. We headed back to the Willcox and then Sunday morning, got up (not as early as T, Susie and Lesley had to for T’s advanced cross country at Pine Top) and headed for Philadelphia. Meanwhile, T had a couple of glance-offs, but successfully completed her first advanced horse trial. Caitlin had an excellent intermediate run, and Choo also did well. We reached home without event Sunday evening. I’ll be stuck with a rental car the last two weekends down south, but it was great to be able to break up the drive home. Looking forward to both Squire and Keebler at Rocking Horse Spring next weekend.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rocking Horse III - in which Keebler finishes on his dressage score and sees dressage boot camp ahead

Another lovely weekend in Florida, although you do have to discount the approximately hour and a half that it was a monsoon. Luckily, I didn’t have to ride during the monsoon. Hilda did ride Isabelle while it was raining very hard and found a couple of slippery spots. Going back to chronological order, Thursday involved a dressage lesson on Keebler in which we worked to keep him patient. He’s funny in that he does better if working very hard and doing moderately complicated stuff. In some ways, the training level tests are too easy and give him time to decide he is bored, which then means he improvises. This is undesirable. Friday morning, we headed out at the crack of dawn, no wait, it was actually still dark. Hilda had an 8:30ish dressage ride time. Keebler’s ride time was at 3:15, with others from our group in between, so there was plenty of time for course walking, hanging out, etc. I also rode Keebler in his jumping tack out in the dressage warm-up area (which is really big at Rocking Horse) over the lunch break. He was quite well behaved. When the time came for the test, he warmed up quite well and off we went. We felt the test was better. He was more mentally available, but he got nailed for periodic lack of attentiveness, for never trotting between the canter and the walk, and other bits that led to a score of 50.5. Not great, but the training feels on the right path, even if the scores aren’t concurring yet. Friday evening, we all hung out at the “coach”, Andre’s new Winnebago motor coach. It is nicer than some apartments I have lived in. There was beer and barbeque and a good time was had by all. Saturday, after getting soaked watching Hilda ride in the monsoon, I went out and walked the course to check for any changes in footing. The only concern was the 3rd to last fence, the “kind of a corner”. It had an option, so no worries. By the time I rode around 1 p.m., it was dry and sunny, really a beautiful day and Keebler’s xc round matched. We did have a Keebler moment as he ran
5ab (bank)
Solid line = planned route

Dotted line= actual routepast fence 5 heading from fence 4 toward stabling. It was patently obvious that I hadn’t presented him to the fence, so no real worries. I got him turned in the right direction and the jump was no issue. Everything else was great. He did jump the 4 stride ramp to ramp bending line question in a straight 3, but it was tidy. As I approached fence 18 (the kinda corner), I noticed stone down in front of it, so we went straight without incident and finished clean. I had Kate and Zoe hold Keebler for me for a minute back at warm-up and checked in with Cindy (control) to make sure that it was patently obvious to the fence judges that I hadn’t presented to 5, but everything was recorded as jumped with no penalties. I put Keebler away, he had a very nice roll after his bath and walk, and then headed down to hang at control for a couple of hours. Very fun and educational. If you event and have never done this, you should consider it if you ever get a chance. Cross country wrapped up and we all headed to the competitors’ party. Really excellent food at this one. Kudos to the Rocking Horse organization. Another barbeque opportunity at the coach, but I’d eaten so much at the competitors’ party that I passed on the food and just enjoyed the company. Maxine Tabas, Zoe’s mom and Squire’s owner, was there and it was nice to see her to thank her in person for allowing me the ride on Squire. We also talked saddles, as Zoe tried my Devoucoux and really liked it, so is now in search of a used one for herself. We all know this is not an easy thing to find, so if anyone might be selling one, keep Zoe in mind. Sunday morning, Keebler’s stadium round was due at 11:00. The stadium course seemed easier than either Rocking Horse II or Ocala, but I walked him up to graze and watched several rounds just to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Apparently not, most horses seemed to be doing quite well. Kate was doing her first training with her young horse Bosco (he is for sale – very cute grey dutch/TB cross) and they had a bit of a muddle down the line, but recovered well, completing the first training for both Bosco and Kate, pretty cool. I headed up, cantered around, jumped a few fences, missed a few spots, fixed it to some degree and headed into the stadium for our round. I buried him going into the line, but he dug himself out and finished with another double clear stadium, finishing on his dressage score, which unfortunately sucked. After Rocking Horse Spring in 2 weeks (unless we have a jumping disaster there), no eventing for Keebler until May. He’s going to dressage boot camp (lots of flat work, lessons, and hopefully several dressage shows). T says she hopes to join me for the latter as she is also fighting WDSS (weak dressage score syndrome). I spent a couple more hours in control, watching preliminary. Did see one rider receive the 25 point Dangerous Riding penalty, and let me tell you, it was scary watching! Then headed back to Ashmore and home to Philly, where it was 50 degrees colder, but still nice to be. Riding at Ashmore and the Aiken party next week.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ocala II - in which I decide 4 out of 6 still makes for a great weekend

This weekend was Ocala II at the Florida Horse Park. Always having enjoyed the Kentucky and Virginia Horse Parks, I headed down looking forward to the weekend. Thursday was more dressage lessons on Keebler and Squire. They seemed to go fairly well, especially on Squire. I enjoyed heading back to places I’ve come to know in Winter Park on Thursday evening, yoga at Full Circle – www.fullcircleyoga.com; the FedEx Kinko’s to check my email and then the bar at Urban Flats for dinner and a little basketball viewing. Our Friday ride times were late in the day, so we headed down at noon Friday. While I was getting to ride, Hilda was talking to someone who had a previous Penn connection, then when she introduced her friend, it was Chris Machin (no introduction needed for the Michigan gang – for the rest of you, Chris and her daughter Maggie rode at Cathy’s barn in Michigan with me until they moved to Utah – where we stayed at their home for the USEA annual meeting when it was in Salt Lake City. Chris and Bernie (president of UF) are now based in Gainesville and Maggie is in her 3rd year of vet school). Very cool to see her and another excellent small world story. Warming up for dressage on Squire, the rider before me was Holly Johnson. She is down from Michigan with a few of her horses and we had several chances to chat through the weekend. Jeff Kibbie was also there competing and had a good weekend on his horse, Loki. Dressage on Squire went fairly well, though it appears that spurs may be called for to get full throughness. Dressage on Keebler was disaster city. He really had no interest whatsoever in playing (although he did get an 8 on his free walk – especially impressive as the score was a 52). The judge commented “interesting that horse stops fussing when you drop the reins. Check bit, bridle etc.” Hilda and I pretty much fell about laughing. When you drop the reins, he no longer has to work, so there is nothing to fuss about, pretty sure all the tack is in good order. The current plan is very little eventing and lots of dressage shows for Keebler this summer, along with extra lessons for both of us. Saturday, Keebler redeemed himself cross country, jumping clean over a fairly challenging course (though the water was easier than last event). There was a full coffin, a log on a lump (off a 90 degree turn immediately following the full coffin), and several big tables and a scary in to a down bank. He was great with only the starting problem getting in the way of a double clear. Time faults were incurred as he left the start box and immediately whipped around and headed back to the warmup. We made quite a large circle before I got him pointed at the first fence. Once he saw there were jumps, all was good. Disaster number 2 occurred in Squire’s stadium round. I came off Keebler’s xc, quickly got on Squire and headed to warm up (only about 35 minutes between rides). In warm-up, Hilda reminded me it wasn’t xc. I unfortunately took this way too far to the extreme and came to the one stride off a tight turn with no canter at all, then leaned forward as Squire slowed in confusion. When he stopped (appropriately and safely), I popped off, so that was the end of SJ (elimination, for those of you who don’t event). I received permission to go XC (with the requirement of an EMT check). Since I had landed on my feet and was out running when I asked for permission, it seemed a bit overkill, but definitely better safe than sorry. EMT check ended up being conducted on the dance floor at the competitors’ party. I was able to keep up with the line dance, therefore ready to head out on cross country the next day. The competitor’s party was a lot of fun, good food (though they ran out and had to make an emergency barbeque run), karaoke (some of the best was by little kids), and a chance to talk with several of the competitors, staff and volunteers. I got to meet Jennie Jarnstrom who had Keebler for a short time. She competed on Keebler’s half sister Yoshi and on another horse of hers. Sunday, Keebler had SJ in the late morning and was an absolute star. In this case, double clear jumping was not enough to move up with the horrible dressage and the XC time faults, but it was a lot of fun. Here is a link to an Xpress Foto picture: http://www.photoreflect.com/pr3/OrderPage.aspx?pi=00FD00CG0F0039&po=39. Last of the weekend was Squire’s XC. We headed out to warm-up and Hilda came over with Duke (wearing his 4th place ribbon) to warm us up. There was a table in the warm-up which was nice. Warm up was good and we headed over to the start box. There was about a 5 minute hold and Squire kept asking “is it time yet??” but he was very polite and quiet about continuing to walk until it really was time. The starters asked Hilda if she was setting a new fashion standard for cross country as she hung out with us by the start box in her stadium gear. Duke was even braided. Once the course was ready, we headed out and everything was golden. It felt to be a virtually perfect cross-country round. Everything felt smooth and easy and this was not a small course, though nothing felt very big as Squire jumped it. Despite no ribbons and some pretty big problems, I think the weekend was once again a success. Next weekend, Keebler does training with me again and Squire’s owner, Zoe, rides him at Rocking Horse III.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend 3 - in which there is no event and I work on dressage

I traveled to Florida on Friday afternoon, after spending Thursday and Friday at an NIH study section. It is so annoying when work gets in the way of the riding scheduling, but given how flexible my job is, I really can’t complain. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for mechanical reasons and I didn’t get down to Orlando until late in the evening. Saturday, I spent much of the day doing other things, including a yoga class and an oil change for my car. I did ride 3 horses, working on the flat. I was lucky enough to ride Private Treaty (Calvin), a very cool upper level horse. He is super trained, but really long. Well, maybe in normal horse world, not so much, but since all my horses barely have any back left behind the saddle, he felt really long. It was good for me to think about riding his hind end forward and he was very nice in the bridle and comfy to ride. Later in the day, I had a dressage lesson on Squire. I rode with Bev, a former student of Hilda’s who now lives in California, and in the continuing small world saga, not just anywhere in California, which is a big state, but in Ventura about 25 minutes form Ojai where my brother and mom moved this year, so I have a standing invitation to get a horse fix (at the barn where she rides) anytime I’m out there. Aren’t eventers the best? Squire was great. We worked on shoulder in, since we will be doing Preliminary Test B next weekend (thank goodness the training is still Test A, so I only have to learn one new test) and on the medium trot. Hilda had schooled it with him on Wednesday and it really showed. I then did a flat lesson on Keebler. We are trying a new approach to get him to pay attention, lots of transitions in straight lines, with fewer small circles. This met with moderate success, although toward the end, we got a pretty amazing walk to canter transition and some decent canter to walks when Hilda (taking her life in her hands) stepped out onto the track in front of us as I asked for the downward. Keebler isn’t that interested in downward transitions, but we’ll keep working on it. As Hilda says, he is so cute, it is hard to get really mad at him. Sunday morning, I did a quick ride on Keebler, without any canter work, just walk, trot and halt. Not too bad. I did a jumping lesson on Squire at 8:00. The weather was really perfect (sorry to all of you living where it is snowing and below zero) and so was the lesson (well, except for the one time I made a bid at a long spot and Squire smartly took the extra step, but also the rail). I do feel ready for next week and look forward to telling you about Ocala II. Meanwhile, I did miss being at Sporting Days, which was happening in Aiken over the weekend. I read the general weekend update on Chronicle of the Horse, but haven’t heard the Cairn O’Mount Stables results yet (results not posted on the website yet either). Susie was riding 2 in the horse trials and Choo and Isabella in the combined test. Lesley, Gillian, V, Caitlin and T were also riding and I thought of them all several times over the weekend. Unfortunately, it is still impossible to be in 2 places at once. Hope everyone else had good weekends despite less than ideal weather in some quarters.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rocking Horse II - in which I ride at the preliminary level for the first time since 2004

The theme of the weekend was moving up. Following last weekend’s brain dead, but enjoyable outing, this weekend I rode Keebler in Training Horse and Squire in Preliminary Rider at Rocking Horse II. The last time I did a Preliminary event was on Gizmo in August of 2004. I may have been more nervous this time than the very first time I went preliminary on Gizmo in 2000. Saturday, I did dressage on both horses and that just didn’t go well. In Keebler’s case, it was his fault. Hilda described him as being “exceptionally disagreeable” in the test and he got no extra points for a very lovely entrance canter down center line. In Squire’s case, it was my fault. I’m clearly at a loss for how to ride a really trained horse in the dressage and confused the poor guy on pretty much all the canter transitions, leading to wrong leads, swapping, etc. So, after dressage, DFL on both horses (17/17 on Squire; 15/15 on Keebler with scores of 47.5 and 49 respectively). Saturday afternoon, Keebler went cross country and while he almost bucked me off a couple of times in the warm-up, he was great out on course. A little on the speedy side. We ended up with time faults (6 seconds slow) as I made him do a collected canter in a few places where I was actually able to get him back and also had to spend about 20 strides setting up for every fence. Trying to be in charge and zoom about like a maniac aside, he jumped like a champ. It was a much tougher training than last week, including a half coffin (roll top, 2 strides to ditch), a jump over a small roll top with a drop into water (I thought this was a fairly tough question for his second training level event, but he didn’t even hesitate), a bounce bank up and a couple of pretty substantial tables, but nothing phased him at all. I walked the preliminary again after that and watched a few preliminary stadium rounds.
Sunday morning started with stadium jumping for Squire. The course was substantial, but fair with some turning questions that required paying attention. Hilda warmed me up and helped me find the right canter and then all I had to do was go in the ring and steer. Squire jumped double clean and made it feel completely easy. I then went out and walked the preliminary course country again (would hate to have a repeat of last week). Keebler stadium jumped a couple of hours after Squire. Luckily, I had wandered back and walked the training stadium as it was completely different than the preliminary (unlike last week when training and novice followed the same track with just a couple fences removed for novice). Though the training fences were, lower, I thought the track was actually more difficult, with harder turns and some odd angles from fence to fence. A little more settled than on Saturday (Keebler clearly needs to be on the work the spots off bootcamp program), Keebler went in and clocked around clean. Last of the weekend was Squire’s XC. I knew the course and after the stadium knew that the fences wouldn’t really feel big. So off we went. I had determined that I wouldn’t ride for time (and, in fact failed to press the right buttons on my watch, so had no idea what was going on timewise) and set off with the intention of a smooth balanced ride in which I kept my shoulders back and my heels and hands down and stayed out of Squire’s way. Evidently, I succeeded well enough (or, more likely, he’s such a champ, he just ignored all my screw ups) as we finished clean. I assumed we were quite slow as I never really kicked him and everything felt easy and controlled. When I checked the scoreboard later, it turned out that we had been only one second slow. The super jumping moved both horses up to 8th place, so I brought home two lovely brown ribbons and the chocolate caramels that Hilda bought me as a congratulations prize. It was actually hot in Florida (coats were waived on both days, unfortunately after my rides). After cross country, while walking Squire, I was feeling a little out of it, improved by glugging down a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade, so will have to keep that in mind for the future. Looking forward to Ocala II in two weeks. Next weeks update will be about my dressage lessons!

The first event of the season - in which the horses are great and I exhibit signs of early memory loss

Rocking Horse I took place this weekend. A great way to spend a birthday. Saturday was a bit drizzly, but quite nice all in all. Squire and I had a “pleasant” test scoring 40, but given that it was the 5th time I had ever sat on him, I was pleased (the best dressage score in the division was 31). Keebler was in “I don’t wanna” mode for dressage, but had some respectable moments here and there and scored 42.5, putting us in last place and taking off the pressure J. Both horses jumped clear in stadium, making it feel totally easy and the stadium steward very nicely commented that Keebler did the best job she had seen all day (and there were only about 10 rides after us) between fences two and three (a 5 stride bending line around a corner past the in gate – as long as there are jumps, Keebler is totally over his going past the gate issues).

Sunday (I turned 45 and it obviously affected my brain – and no I hadn’t started drinking yet), Squire had a fairly early xc time, so off we went to warm up. The warm up went great, Hilda was a great help in reminding me to keep eyes and shoulders up (the never-ending Seema bad habit) and we headed off to the start box. Squire came out of the start box ready to rock, but not at all keyed up. Fence 1 was excellent, and then I didn’t go far enough right and didn’t see fence 2 (not surprising it was in a different field). Apparently the announcer was announcing that I was out wandering around. I finally went back toward fence 1, saw fence two and everything else was perfect. It was a pretty soft training course. 2 waters that you just went through, no ditch (though last fence was a trakehner), no banks, a couple of accuracy questions, but nothing tough. Squire was perfect, so easy to ride and totally fun. It seemed like he was having a good time too. So other that about a million time penalties, we were golden, as was the weather with the sun out and balmy temperatures.

After finishing on Squire, I headed out to walk the novice XC. Everything looked pretty small and I figured Keebler would have no problem. The start and finish were in line with training, and I now was very clear on where the pesky fence number 2 was located. Keebler’s Florida fan club came out for the second day in a row to cheer him on and enjoy how much he likes jumping. It was fun having people there who knew him before he was an event pony. Off we went, with him acting as if he were as experienced as Squire (yeah, right – but those of you who know him know that he’s that kind of horse – I’ve got it, I’m in charge, just get out of my way!). The novice course was also quite straight forward and seemed small, so we bombed around. Optimum time (at 450 m/m) was 4:45. After fence 16 (of 19), I looked at my watch and we were at 3:46 (well no worries that he can make training time next week). Unfortunately, I neglected to jump fence 18. I had neglected to walk fence 18. I had no idea that fence 18 existed (didn’t take the map when I went out to walk). Altogether an Alzheimer’s moment, but had way too much fun to really care. Hilda was great throughout the weekend, helping me trying to get my act together. Godsend (her ** horse) had a nice, restful outing at training level and Mary Balduff’s young mare Isabelle (with Hilda aboard) finished her first training level event in 6th place. Carol McCarty helps out teaching and working with horses at Ashmore and her young TB did his first or second event at BN and had a very good outing (although Carol also had a moment when she realized she’d learned the wrong dressage test). Hopefully, we’ve all kicked the rust off and will be more with the program next weekend – Rocking Horse II.

That concluded the riding part of the weekend, but there was added birthday fun as Cathy (my trainer when I was in Michigan) and Sherry (who also rides with Cathy) came into Florida for the symposium at Longwood and we were able to have my birthday dinner at the Bonefish grill in Ocala (very good). It was fun to see them and I’m looking forward to hearing about the symposium from their viewpoint as audience and Hilda’s as demo rider. More next week.