Monday, February 22, 2010

horse shuffling

Another competition weekend in the south, which as a change was southernly in the temperature department, a lovely warm sunny weekend. Thursday, I arrived at Ashmore after an early morning flight (though not as early as I had thought, so I got to spend an extra 35 minutes in the airport - note to self: read the boarding pass upon printing it out). Drove up to Rocking Horse with Andre and two horses behind the coach, then back down in the 4 horse trailer with Chris Bradley. Chris took the last two of the 9 Ashmore horses up to Rocking Horse, which I waited for Dr. Scott Langton to take a look at Finn's stifles. A little lunging and blocking and diagnostic x-rays later and the verdict was Finn could continue in work. Apparently, all is good as there has been no stifle stiffness the past several days. There has been a plan for a career change. Finn has made it pretty clear to us that he would much rather do the hunter/jumpers than eventing. He quite prefers the pretty colored poles. So if you know anyone looking for a super cute, almost unbelievably quiet 5 year old, bay TB gelding, you now know where to find one

So Finn did not come to Rocking Horse this weekend. Instead, I rode Isabelle at Novice and another sale horse, Slim Jim at Beginner Novice. Now Slim Jim has done a few preliminary level events, so beginner novice a piece of cake. The only interesting aspect was laying eyes on him for the first time on Friday and then riding down center line approximately 24 hours later after one ride. Friday evening, Andre made wonderful salmon pasta for us at the coach. Stadium Saturday afternoon after popping him over 7 fences in the warmup. Both practically perfect. He did offer a somewhat enthusiastic canter lengthening in the dressage arena - the downside of beginner novice on the preliminary horse, but we scored 36.2 not too bad for my having no idea how to ride him. Presumably after the slightly lazy Ms Bella, I was a tad too enthusiastic about that canter cue. A nice dressage test with a decent score under the always tough Bill Woods for Isabella in the morning and then a spot perfect stadium round in the afternoon. Isabelle needs to do the jumpers. She is so scopey and easy in the Stadium.

This thought was enthusiastically supported by Isabelle on Sunday. Sunday morning, we left the start box quite nicely, no bucking and locked on to fence number 1. Fence two went similarly well, but at random points throughout the rest of the course (none associated with any jumping efforts), Isabelle announced that she would rather go back to the sand box and jump the pretty colored jumps as she slid to a stop and stood in the middle of the field. I felt rather silly having a time getting her going again, but all the jumping was brilliant. The only problem - that 1 minute and 54 seconds spent at a stand still tacked on to optimum time, oops. Slim Jim had no such issues. Not only was he a superstar, he was a polite and gentlemanly superstar. He asked once or twice if we were going to go faster and jump the real jumps, but was totally polite when my response was, "no, not today" If you are looking for an adorable, cuddly, well behaved, scopey, easy, super event packer, buy this horse!! Or if you aren't looking, but need to get rid of some cash, feel free to buy him for me :)

Hilda had a very busy weekend, riding 5 horses. Extravagance won the preliminary dressage with a score of 29.6, looking brilliant both in his dressage performance and his glowing overall condition. Extravagance and Vinny finished 7th and 8th in their preliminary division. Godsend had a good go, although Hilda made a wrong turn before fence 17, resulting in a few time penalties. It is easier than it seems take a wrong turn at Rocking Horse. I went through the wrong path to fence 9 on the beginner novice. Luckily, it just involved a somewhat short approach not retracing any steps and Slim Jim didn't mind at all. Shenandoah had a good outing in tough company and Cracker actually managed to lose Hilda having a pony spook at an equipment cart out in the field. Our other BN riders also parted company with their mounts, again due to spooking, not fences, but no harm done. Eddie's Point Two Air Jacket inflated on his fall and we are all thinking that these may be a good thing if you can't guarantee staying in the saddle, which no one can. Buck Davidson had a fall and commented that he didn't think he would have been riding his remaining horses were it not for his Point Two.

After finishing up at Rocking Horse, we headed back to Ashmore and I had lessons on Finn (who was very, very good), Sioux who was a lot of fun, and Godsend who made it very clear when I was riding properly and when I was not. All three are great jumpers, though possibly cover the entire spectrum of jumping and riding style, so it was great for me to ride them all. Finished the evening back at the Cheesecake Factory, which has become this year's hangout.

Meanwhile, in Aiken, the Cairn O'Mount gang was competing at Paradise. Lesley and Hannah each finished fourth and Morgan and Merlin snagged another blue to add to their collection. Aiken seemed to have warmed up a bit as well.

The season feels like it is going fast. Hilda will head up to Pine Top next weekend where Susie also will be running, so I'll have to keep an eye on the scores in addition to hitting the Derby at Rocking Horse.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In which snow precludes the weekend trip

I was pretty worried on Tuesday, but as of 8 am Wednesday morning, the claim was still that evening flights would be heading out only slightly delayed. Boy, was that ever a bait and switch moment. By 2 pm, the flight was cancelled. I got on the phone with the airlines to find out that there were no flights available until Saturday afternoon and those were multi-stop flights that would result in more time in the air than if Florida. Decided Wednesday was a snow day and sent out the invitation for folks to join us for wine and cheese. Several took us up on the invitation and we had a lovely time and drank quite a lot. I headed out to shovel (again) after the guests left and think the wine might have been equally to blame with the ice for my lack of stability, but got the sidewalk well-cleared. Thursday morning, called the airlines bright and early to see if anything had changed, but not, so talked to Hilda and the final plan was that she would take Sioux in Finn’s place and that Jenny would ride Tribute. Thursday was another work from home day. We (mostly Henry, but I helped for a while) shoveled out the cars, then headed off for yoga (me, not Henry) before working at home. Thursday evening, we enjoyed wine and dinner at Salt & Pepper, one of our favorite Philadelphia BYOs after trekking the two miles from our house to the restaurant. Friday, back to work as usual for me, though many had still not dug out cars and the smaller roads were still a bit questionable. Friday evening, no traffic at all as we headed up to Lambertville NJ to see David Fraser’s most recent showing of his interesting twining art (a version of basket weaving Amazing all the things to do when not heading for Florida. The remainder of the weekend included work, yoga, the movie From Paris with Love and plenty of basketball watching. Susie had a good run at Pine Top after the snow delay! Amazing that there were 6 inches of snow on the ground there, but the super crew at PTF made it happen and the folks at hoofclix documented it In Ocala, it was sufficiently cold and rainy that even Hilda abandoned propriety and rode in rain gear and half chaps. Isabella put in a lovely test, prompting the judges’ comment “very good test in very bad weather” at the bottom of the dressage test. At the end of the weekend there, the Carpenter’s Cracker won his first event with Hilda aboard at Intro. Eddie Wideman and Duke were 6th at Eddie’s BN move-up after an unlucky rail moved them down from the dressage and XC second place. Isabella wasn’t so sure about going on in the conditions and Hilda retired her on cross-country. Godsend and Extravagance jumped like pros, although the weather was apparently distracting enough that Hilda had a TE on Extravagance. All in all a good and busy weekend, but I’m looking forward to being back in Florida for Rocking Horse III next weekend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In which we have derby fun

So here we are waiting for the next round of snow. I just beat the last round, heading down to Florida before it really started on Friday and returning after it ended on Sunday, so a shorter weekend. Friday, I had lessons on both horses and then yoga at Full Circle, very fun "happy hour" practice. Saturday, off to Rocking Horse for the Derby and "Ride a Test" We were running a bit late again, so Finn didn't get to lunge before I got on and when we went over to warm up, there were kids bashing bushes with sticks, which provoked some jumping about even from Finn. It was once again cold and windy and this time it seemed to affect him (more later) as I couldn't really get him to stretch down and go forward. I went into the dressage arena, where things improved to some extent and then had a little lesson with Gretchen Butts, where things improved some more, but he never really stretched down or moved forward. Next came the Derby on Isabelle, a nice novice course. On our first round, we had a stop at the Chevron (yes, the same one she jumped last week). But our second round was spot on. In fact, it was so spot on that we ended up winning both the blue ribbon and the prize money!! Go Isabelle. Next out for the derby with Finn. He warmed up fairly well, though still seemed more distracted than usual. First round eliminated for refusing to jump the second fence (same as fence 7 from the schooling event). Hilda came out and put a pole beside it. After doing that a few times, he then jumped it and finished the course. Second round, perfect, though not good enough to win. Hilda rode Sioux, who was lovely, but too fast at BN to win. Then Grace and Justin Carpenter rode, first time xc (other than schooling for both of them). Grace got jumped loose on the second last fence, unlucky, as it had looked great until them. Finglebridge Fearless (or little Finn as we must call him to distinguish from big Finn) wasn't sure about the whole thing. Hilda ended up keeping him company around the course the first time, then Justin went out on his own and all the way around by himself the second time. We finished up the day with some footage of team Finn and the Monteverde coach and trainer, Jennifer on Tribute. Sunday morning, I had a dressage lesson on Isabelle, working on transitions. Eventually, I will figure out this whole dressage thing. Then I got on Finn, but it quickly became apparent that he was not quite right. All that tightness Saturday, not the wind and greeness, but left hind soreness. Hilda and I were both feeling pretty badly that we had kept pushing him Saturday, but as always, he seemed happy enough to keep trying so hard to tell given the conditions that there was something wrong. We think it is the stifle as he has just had another growth spurt. New shoes yesterday and a couple days off are helping. We will see if he feels ready to compete on the weekend. Meanwhile, I'm missing the nice hills in PA, not that they are usable at present, but rather a dearth of hill work opportunities in Florida, so will have to figure out other approaches to loading the hind end for fitness work. Hoping I will not be prevented from returning this week by the approaching storm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back to recognized eventing for the first time since August 2008

We can’t really call it bad luck, but this past weekend, the minor mishaps followed the “comes in threes” format. I set out to the airport Thursday morning, boarded the plane and after a short time, the captain announced that he had been told by maintenance that said plane would be going nowhere. Good news, another plane was coming in and we’d be making off with that one. Even better news, same plane so no need to rejigger seat assignments. So off one, on the other and on the ground in Orlando about an hour and a half later than planned. I did a bit of work, including a productive call with Heather Gold that may revive the percutaneous breast biopsy diffusion grant and then had a fun lesson with Susan Straub, doing some flatwork and some jumping on Isabelle, while Susan rode her Dutch (both horses for sale should anyone be looking). Finished in time for yoga at Full Circle, wonderful practice with Lewis. Friday morning, I worked for 6 hours, starting at surgeons’ time (6 am) and then heading back to Full Circle for Hatha Yoga. I had always thought Hatha an easier practice than Vinyasa/Ashtanga type power yoga, but this class totally belied that thought. It was a marvelous, super tough class that was a lot of fun. Then off to Ashmore, where I discovered minor mishap 2. Finn had managed to pull off a shoe and then bury it in the sand in his paddock so I couldn’t find it. We called Ashmore’s farrier John May, who offered to come out Saturday to fix this problem (I have been blessed with wonderful farriers at many barns and here is another example. John hadn’t even put the original shoe on). Meanwhile Hilda was off at Rocking Horse having a wonderful dressage test on Extravagance, completing dressage and SJ on Extravagance and Godsend. When she returned to Ashmore (so nice that Rocking Horse is so close), I had a dressage lesson on Isabelle, which went very well. Then Isabelle had her bath (followed by rolling in the sand). Saturday morning, after sleeping in until 6:30 (quite the late morning for a horseshow), headed off to Ashmore where I cleaned up and braided Isabelle. Then off to Rocking Horse with Isabelle, Extravagance and Godsend after a bit of trailer drama with Isabelle. You wouldn’t expect such a handy and compact horse to be even a little worried about the tightness of the trailer space. Saturday was quite successful. Hilda elected to run both of hers slowly, Godsend because he is practicing slowly as a life concept and Extravagance as there was no need to run him fast at this level. Isabelle put in a lovely dressage test – she even got to warm up this time. We ended up with a 34.4, my very best dressage score ever, though just shy of my 2010 dressage score goal of 34. Then, after plenty of time as a break and enough for the rain to start, back on for stadium jumping. It was an absolutely rhythmic, lovely round, though apparently a bit too much on the hunter plan as we were 4 seconds slow. I think I was so enjoying the lovely rhythmical aspect that I forgot to get a bit of step there, but it was a clean round and Hilda was pleased by the steadiness. The rain continued and as seems to be the trend, the skies opened up significantly twice through the afternoon. Once when Hilda was on course with Godsend and the really wild time when she was on course with Extravagance. The wind was blowing and it was raining sideways. Extravagance is well enough behaved that she was at one point, holding a hand up at the side of her face to block the rain and riding with only one hand on the reins (excellent opportunity to use homonyms in a sentence). At the end of the day, sans rain, we walked the cross country. It looked fairly straight forward, although the first two fences were less inviting than some of the later ones. There was no ditch, but water and a significant terrain feature, both of which Hilda said Isabelle might want to take a peek at before heading through. Sunday (more on this later). With us, were Marianna and her mom, Yitka. Marianna was riding at training level and is one of the up and coming area 3 young riders. Very nice young lady and I enjoyed meeting Yitka as well. Sunday morning dawned cloudy with a forecast high around 56. Had this happened, it would have been excellent. What we actually got was wind and about 45 degrees, brrr! Not appropriately Florida-like. And how do the weather-guessers mess up so badly? There was only xc with Isabelle, so we loaded Finn up as well. Finn, who hadn’t been ridden for two days (just got his shoe on Saturday afternoon. Yeah to Jackie for finding the shoe – she credits Vinny – after John May and I had the entire discussion about how to match a new shoe to the one Finn was wearing that had a tiny drive in stud, borium nails seemed to be missing, maybe drill and tap so I could thread in a tiny stud, or file off or drive out the other, all moot – Thanks Jackie!!). So, Finn who hadn’t been ridden in 2 days gets loaded up to head off in the cold and windy day. Those of you who have worked with OTTBs know what I was expecting, but it was not what I got. In fact, most of Hilda’s comments through our little dressage lesson and tour around the facility were of the ilk, “more leg” “go forward” “more canter” “go faster” Apparently, I have in my older years, become the queen of slowness, a very odd thought for those of you who have known me a while. But more extra points for Finn (he is really hoping all these points translate into cookies!). He then loaded back onto the trailer and stood there by himself for an hour while I tacked up, got on, warmed up and went xc on Isabelle. This time period was lengthened by minor mishap number 3. We set off from the start box, some minor bucking (perhaps my saddle doesn’t fit her or she is just excited to be on xc. I didn’t hit her this time, really). Jumps 1-6 went perfectly. 7 was the chevron before the water and she wanted to take a little look so we did and trotted through the water, all very nice, then back to the canter. Trying to be a bit more forward, I got up off her back and off we went to 9 and 10. 11 was the terrain feature. My plan, to put my butt back in the saddle 3-4 strides away so I could push her forward as she took her peek. Plan thwarted when she decided to take her peek 6 strides away while negotiating a stop that would do a roping horse proud. I stepped off over her shoulder, none the worse for the wear, actually thinking during the period between saddle and ground, “drat! Despite being far from the jump, that was definitely caused by jump, we need penalty zones.” We were in the exact middle of the field geographically and so the walk back was a bit long. Finn was waiting patiently when we got back and we put Isabelle back on the trailer (no problems) and headed back to Ashmore. We were back early and had time for me to do some work, chat with some Ashmore riders and get things cleaned up while Hilda went off for a long hack on Extravagance with Eddie Wiedmann and Duke. Then, to Hilda and Andres’ house for a great meal prepared by Andre for which Lynn and Johnny Merlet joined us. We watched video (of Pau and this event), ate yummy food, drank the Ferrari Carrano Siena (an excellent low price option) and I got yet more birthday presents!! All in all a great weekend, despite that trio of mishaps. That will teach me to keep my shoulders up and my tush nearer the tack. Next week is the Derby. I will get to work on maintaining forward speed, without losing the smoothness.