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.

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