Monday, January 30, 2012

In which being back at Rocking Horse is the best birthday present

This blog started by reporting my kick off event for what was to be a season of preliminary and training level eventing in Florida. The theme was good horses, spastic rider. Isn't it good to know that some things never change? But 4 years and two horses that wanted a life that didn't involve eventing later, Keegan is a superstar and I fail to ride nearly well enough to deserve him. After excellent jumping and dressage lessons and another dressage saddle that didn't work (but I sent it back, so haven't added one to my collection), Saturday morning I headed off to Rocking Horse without Keegan. Not because Keegan wasn't coming, but because I was going to volunteer for a couple of hours and Hilda was going to bring Keegan up later. A primary advantage of the lower levels is much later start times. So, I got to hang out in control with the wonderful Cyndi Kurth and watch a bunch of excellent training level rides. Then headed over to find the Ashmore trailer (which was somehow more complicated than it should have been), but arrived and braided Finn, the most adorable pony ever, who was going to be doing the BN with Grace Carpenter. Grace was also doing the Novice on Eddie and Hilda was doing the BN on Tegan Star. Let me skip ahead here and say that Tegan won and is for sale, I was quite impressed that Keegan was just hanging out on the trailer with his buds, munching hay as if this was his 50th event instead of his first. After I got little Finn (so called to distinguish him from my Finn, who remains for sale) braided, I braided Keegan standing on my braiding stool in the stall of Hilda's head to head trailer next to him and he stood perfectly quietly through the entire procedure. We then headed off for a short walk, where he was quiet, though attentive and did want to do a meet and greet with every horse we passed. The only one that was permitted was with Lisa Marie Ferguson's very handsome youngster, Honor Me. Both he and Keegan were very gentlemanly about the meeting. We headed back to the trailer and I started thinking about tacking up for dressage, which I eventually got around to doing. I hopped straight on without even a thought about lunging and we headed over. While there was a small amount of screaming on Keegan's part, it was accompanied by excellent behavior - on the way over, in the warm-up and throughout his dressage test. Given OTTB and first event, I failed to push hard enough in the dressage to get the scores Keegan is capable enough and since we were in front of Bill Woods, we totally got called on it. Nonetheless, he scored a 7 on his trot walk transition and an 8 on his free walk, finishing on a 40 overall, smack in the middle of our division, which included horses with training level experience and several pros (OBN-B). I ended up staying on his back as he played couch while I watched Grace and Eddie warm up. Horses running an jumping were no worry at all. We then watched Grace and Eddie jump a clean (though slightly slow) round in the SJ. Hilda had finished her dressage on Tegan and was able to see it as well and Annalise was there for the day, lending a hand throughout. Keegan racked up more points when he stood quietly for me to watch a couple of rounds and learn the course while Tegan and Eddie walked away from him back to the trailer. Once, I knew my course, I headed back as well. Bonnie Kibbie was down for the weekend and Jeff and Bonnie watched Keegan's dressage and later his SJ as well. It was fun to chat with them and hear that Loki had done a super job, adding just one SJ rail (which I heard separately from Jeff and Bonnie was Jeff's rail) to his unworthy of much-improved dressage score. Keegan got a little while to chill, drink most of a bucket of water and go back to munching hay, now while standing quietly tied to the side of the trailer. After about 30 minutes, I tacked him up again and hopped back on for stadium. He once again hacked quietly over, warmed up (over a total of about 8 fences) and put in an easy (for me) and clean show-jumping round despite my spectacularly failing to help him with any distances and absolutely burying him to fence 6. He just jumped better the rest of the course (obvious, his rider wasn't going to help, so he'd better just step up and take care of business, which he did). We headed back to the trailer again, ate a bunch more hay and once Grace finished on Finn, headed back to Ashmore, where Keegan was able to go out for the night with Gizmo. Sunday morning, I went to Ashmore and loaded Keegan after watching Hilda teach Shawnee on her very cute gelding. They will be doing the hunters at HITS coming up. We headed off to Rocking Horse, where I realized I had left my packet with my number in my car (still at Ashmore). I prevailed upon Nancy Russell, who kindly printed me a new set and Hilda loaned me her lovely navy pinney holder. In the two years since I last did a recognized event, the world has moved on to pinney holders and paper numbers, a reasonable innovation, but one I missed dealing with in a timely fashion. Will be acquiring a pinney holder soon. Keegan and I got to hang out again. This time, I didn't even bother to take poor Keegan for a walk, but spent the 3 and a half hours watching a bit, walking my course, schmoozing with friends and vendors, having a great mango-peach-banana smoothie from the coffee connection, finally wandering back to tack him up for xc. Once again, there was a bit of screaming as we headed down the lane, but he was quiet and focused as Hilda helped us warm-up and bold enough to the log jump in the warm-up that Hilda had us do it with a half halt to get a quieter, deeper spot. We headed over to the start box and with about a minute and a half left, I walked him through the start box to make sure he was ok with that - total non-event. Then it was 5-4-3-2-1 have a great ride time and we did. He was easy to ride, super brave to everything except the jump before the water and fun, fun, fun! At the jump before the water, I was worrying so much about what I was going to do at the water, that I failed to ride at all and Keegan got a bit bug-eyed at the water on the other side and had a stop. But popped over it nicely on the second try and headed (albeit, still a bit hesitantly - but hey it was only the 4th time he has ever laid eyes on a water jump) through the water, and then on to complete the rest of the course in fine style. Toward the end, heading back towards the trailers/barns, he got a little strong although was still perfectly manageable in his loose ring snaffle. We were only 14 seconds late even with the stop and the slow tiptoe through the water, so no worries about pace at this point. I'm already looking forward to the schooling show at Rocking Horse and the season to come. Checking the scores, it was good to see that many friends had great weekends, including Justine Dutton's SPUK team, Jeff, Hilda's two other students Jessica and Madison, Leyna's lovely Mr. Binx (Leyna and I are sporting matching "liverpool from Leslie Law clinic" facebook profile pics this week) and others that aren't coming to mind right now. Rocking Horse really does rock!

Monday, January 23, 2012

in which Keegan rocks the Leslie Law clinic

Off I went to Florida for another weekend with forecasts of sunny weather and highs in the 80s. As winter was just making a serious bid in Philadelphia, this was a very good thing. Thursday, I had a stadium jumping lesson on Keegan that went very well. As usual, never mind that I have a green horse, what needed work was me. So, lots of work on keeping eyes up over fences and shoulders up around corners. Then on to a dressage lesson on Godsend that was a lot of fun. He has become quite the trained silly pony and we were able to do shoulder in, half pass, turn on the haunches and get some very nice compression/lengthen at both trot and canter. Then back to Maitland for the next culinary adventure, duck with plum sauce. Quite good, even though I am not the biggest fan of duck, this was nice because it was very lean and well cooked. Friday, after I worked all morning, I tortured rode Finn and then had a dressage lesson on Keegan. He was a bit distracted when we went down to the front arena, but still good. Every time Godsend moved to a different position around the outside of the ring, Keegan cantered a bit faster, though would always come back when asked. We ended up cantering a fair bit and working on the halt a bit, which along with the canter transitions are where I feel the most work is needed at this point. That will no doubt change on a regular basis as green horses always manage to find new things to make you work on. I was also able to get to RDV on Friday evening and take a yoga class. Biggest fitness facility ever, but nice staff, good yoga instructor and it will be a nice fitness opportunity when south. Saturday, was the Leslie Law clinic stadium jumping day. Hilda and I had a slow start morning as I did a bit of work and then was treated to a quail egg breakfast sandwich ( Then headed to Ashmore to pack up the trailer and load Keegan for the Leslie Law clinic. Keegan is getting very good at loading although he is still a bit unclear on the concept of standing on the trailer once loaded, so it helps to have assistance to put up the bar behind him (we took the two horse trailer). Off we went, with me hoping for no repeat of trailer issues from last week as a) I was driving and b) Keegan and I were alone, but all was uneventful. We arrived at Rocking Horse and I was able to put Keegan into a stall next to the lovely Ned Divine, who had just finished the training group at the clinic. I went up and watched a bit of the novice group to let Keegan settle in. Leslie was working with all the riders and horses on the canter. There were jumps, but the idea was that if you could get the right balanced canter, your distance would appear far away and then you could just canter down with nothing changing - neither your horse's tempo nor your body position. Leslie pointed out that he rides a bit more forward than many and advocated a position with the hip over the heel, and the shoulder slightly forward of that, but for small fences over the toe and no further forward than the knee. Once that position (and the canter) are established, the focus is on being still, "sponging" the rein/s a bit if needed for keeping rhythm or line and landing in the the same canter, using the corner as needed to balance, repeat. After watching for a bit, I tacked Keegan, and prepared to lunge him, but given that I had to chase after him smacking him with my bat (hadn't brought a lunge whip) to keep him moving, decided it wasn't necessary and got on and walked and trotted him around a bit. He remained quiet, although very alert. He had lost a shoe earlier that morning, but seemed sound, and the ring at Rocking Horse is lovely, so off we went. Leslie had us trot and canter to warmup and Keegan was very good trotting and cantering with 4 other horses in the ring. It was a big ring, but I was still pleased. Keegan was quite enamored of the motorcycles on SR-19. He wasn't spooky about them, but rather kept staring at them as if trying to figure out if they were friendly and whether joining their "herd" was an option. When it came to the jumping, Keegan was a star. Leslie reminded me to keep my eyes up and my shoulders up (gee, where have I heard that before - or more appropriately is there anywhere I haven't heard that), but Keegan's pace was great, he went straight to the fences, he jumped, I followed, all was good. After a few trips over a vertical with placing poles front and back and a couple jumps over a single gate, next was the line. Vertical, three strides to liverpool, two strides to oxer. Leslie has a nice technique for showing the greenies the fence. You walk up and "chivvy" them a little toward the fence with leg or stick, but hold them from jumping. When Keegan went down the line, he jumped the liverpool as if it were the 100th liverpool he had jumped not the first and only one of the horses had an issue and that particular horse had a pretty significant "go right instead of over" issue not limited to the liverpool. The picture was taken by Cyndi Kurth who came to audit and was kind enough to take and share pictures.
We finished up over another couple of lines, including a five stride to a decently sized one stride. We were then treated to a demonstration of Leslie riding Zenith and telling us a bit about his training process and principles. Zenith is a lovely and talented horse, with both a buck and a spook and apparently a lifelong distrust of liverpools. Leslie did the small vertical several times, raising it higher and higher. Neither the canter nor Leslie's position changed with the change in the fence. Amusingly for those of us watching, neither did the "happy bucks" on landing after every effort. Leslie very quietly sat through them, saying he would never punish a horse for just being happy. Zenith jumped the liverpool by itself first (at the same height as we had in the BN group) after the same bit of chivvying, although he was much spoookier about the liverpool and Leslie had to work fairly hard to get him up to it. He did jump it the first time and each time subsequently, but each time overjumped it and clearly did not really like it. Leslie says he jumps a liverpool at home 3-4 times every week when in work. We are all looking forward to seeing Leslie and Zenith out at the intermediate at Rocking Horse next weekend. Keegan and I headed home (he stood better during loading) and he got turned out with Gizmo and I had a promise from our ever accomodating farrier Mark Male that he would meet me at 6:30 am to get the shoe on before we headed out Sunday morning. Sunday was an early start, as Grace was riding Eddie up at Longwood and had a 9:38 dressage time. Gage was going along for the ride and Keegan and I were getting dropped at Rocking Horse en route. Loading onto the head to head was a bit easier and off we set right on schedule. I pulled Keegan and our stuff off at Rocking horse and put Keegan back in the same stall, where he proceeded to roll and then eat hay. I left him to it and went off to watch the preliminary xc group. There were two riders, Laura Duhamel with her lovely Patrick and Megan Mitchell with Natural Light who is for sale Once again, the focus was on rhythm. Find that canter tempo and keep it. Keep it right up to the fence and keep it as you land and go away from the fence. The horse should only go faster when you close your leg (at which point they should respond immediately). Keep them in front of your leg, but right underneath you at the same tempo whether that is 350, 450, 550... Both riders and horses did very well. It was very interesting watching them figure out the double drop bank, getting better and tidier with each repetition. I then went back and got Keegan out of his stall we walked (both of us) and grazed (only Keegan) while watching the training level group go through the same set of work. There were a couple of horses that were quite keen and one that was a bit slow though always jumping. Leslie worked with the riders on the same ideas. The culmination was at the water jump where all the training riders jumped roll top, two strides to biggish log drop into the water, very impressive. One young rider had gotten into a bit of muddle with the question previously, and Leslie ended up schooling her horse. One lesson he pointed out here was that it is important to get the horse light in your hand so that when have access to their mouth through the reins for steering purposes. They also worked on the up banks with the plan of balance in the bottom of the hollow so you could be riding forward to the banks. Same to the water question, even tempo over the rolltop, then press to the drop. It was fun catching up with Cynthia and Denis Claramunt who were down with Chimene (who had one in the training group) and hearing about all of their horses including their race horses. After his 100 minute walk, Keegan went back in the stall to chill while I caught up with Steph and Gretchen Butts. I then got on Keegan (no attempt to lunge) and headed off onto the xc course. There were six in our group today, the five from yesterday and one addition and our goals were the same. Find the rhythm, keep them straight (especially key with the younsters) and let them jump. And jump we did. We started over 2 logs and a log pile, easy peasy. We then did a little bench to coop. Then the same coop to a log with a tiny bit of terrain to a fox trap. All fine so far. Then we headed to a "log on the lump" type question. Quite an easy one, but with some definite terrain, making keeping the rhythm a bit harder, requiring a little press up the hill. Leslie reminded us to press with our legs, keeping our shoulders up especially at the top as we approached the log so that we did not end up on their neck if they took a little peek or chip. Olivia had a tumble off Louie (the run out right boy), but was unhurt and hopped right back on and made it work. It was almost a fabulous save. We then headed to the ditch. Leslie doesn't like walking the youngsters up to the ditch, but rather has them walk alongside the ditch, where you can leg yield them closer and closer. Keegan was a bit leery, but moved over as I asked him to and jumped both the super tiny side and the BN side of the ditch bravely. Leslie had several in the group jump the training ditch and said he was sure Keegan would do it, but that there was no reason to abuse his generosity. We then headed into the big central field and put some together, working on the steady pace. Keegan jumped around the 5 fences including the kind of scary novice mulch box like he had been doing it all his life. Johnna and her mare looked great, but needed to turn down the speed as Leslie said and so they worked hard on keeping the slower pace with speed adjustments being Johhna's idea. Olivia had great success keeping Louie centered. Lauren and her boy continued to look super, Sarah and her young mare did a great job as did Leyna's great jumping OTTB, Binx. We finished at the water, with no particular new lessons. All the horses were great there and I was really proud of Keegan who jumped down not only the little step into the water, but also over the medium log drop down. All in all a really successful weekend for us. I can highly recommend riding with Leslie and am really looking foward to next weekend and Keegan's first event. Leslie had parting comments to everyone, very personalized to what they had been working on and I really prized his to me, "just keep doing what you've been doing. I see no reason to not just keep moving him along. Just be careful not to abuse his generosity"

Monday, January 16, 2012

In which Keegan is a star as the chronicles return to Florida

I've been planning the 2012 Forida season for a while and this past week, it commenced. The plan was to pack up the car and head out around noon on Wednesday. This plan lasted until about 9 am, when work and work meetings started pushing back against my plans. As it turned out, I ended up leaving the office at 12:30, throwing stuff in the car, heading to Blue Hill, throwing more stuff in the car and leaving BHF around 3:00, a mere three hours behind schedule. Of course, the throwing stuff in the car packing methodology resulted in not having with me, 1) my phone charger - bought a new one; 2)my ipad - but I brought my laptop so no big deal; 3) Hilda's gifts - she will get them next week; 4) my show coat - no show until the 27th so no worries; 5) my Florida toiletries collection - there was plenty of sunscreen in the car and I did not need any first aid supplies this weekend, so despite packing failure, it all worked out. Wednesday night in Petersburg, VA. My old favorite Walker House B&B has closed, but I enjoyed the High Street Inn, which Conrad kindly recommended. The high point of Petersburg is Brick House Run, a lovely local restaurant. I had dinner at the bar (lamb and barley soup, yummy). My dinner conversation partner was a local who is a Packers fan. The conversation ranged from Sports to George Washington Carver, to pension plans and employment to politics, beer, and .... I was also impressed that Steve (the proprieter) remembered me from the last time I was in town despite the time lag. Thursday morning an early start and the longish drive down to St. Simmons Island Georgia. Quite a nice little town. I can recommend the Village Pub and Inn as well as the St. Simmons Island Health Club, where I did a spinning class and yoga (neither fantastic, but spinning was quite good. The yoga teacher was not my cup of tea, but the stretching was good after the car time). Completed the drive to Ashmore on Friday morning, arriving just before 11 am. Friday was taken up with riding and work. I had a lovely lesson on Keegan, a flat work warm-up, then jumping in the ring. Keegan was a very good boy. Then, I rode horses for horse sales clients. They were local trainers. I rode Finn, Tribute and Wy. All the horses were good. For me, this was the "toss her in the deep end and see if she sinks or swims" reintroduction to riding. After not riding at all for 2 weeks and not jumping for around 2 months and not jumping anything over 2'6" since July 3rd, I jumped all three horses, including jumping Wy (whom I had never seen before) over a 3'3"+ vertical to oxer, 5 stride line. Good pony! I am sure the trainers found me quite hysterical. All three horses did lovely lead changes with no help from me and all jumped wonderfully. Then off for a few hours of work, before heading back to the house. It is lovely being able to share evenings with Hilda. Friday evening we had her fabulous shepard's pie for dinner, my favorite. Pretty amazing that I am getting super trainer and personal chef all rolled into one. Saturday, the plan was to head to Longwood for a XC school. I decided to ride Keegan for 20 minutes at the farm before we set out. This was a good plan, but had the potential for some complication as there was an Ashmore birthday party going on. What did this entail? Well many shrieking children, including the ones in the "bounce house" set up right in front of the barn, along with pony rides in the ring and rocking loud hip hop music over speakers right next to the ring. Keegan earned a gold star, went in and quietly worked through it all. With this all still going on, we loaded up. Keegan went right onto Hilda's head to head that he hadn't been in before. Then as we were approaching Ocala, a car beside us honked, pointed and yelled, "rear tire" so we pulled into a shopping mall after Hilda called AAA. We looked at it and the tire didn't look that flat and was oddly hot, but we are eventers so we changed the tire, called and cancelled AAA and pulled out. Oh dear, metal shrieking noise. Look at tire. I think, this is not good. The axle is bent or broken. Sent picture to Christian, he said maybe bearings. That would have been preferable. Off we head, carefully to Coast to Coast trailers in Ocala where they confirm the axle diagnosis. Does this stop us? No, we are eventers! Hilda rents a 4 horse slant load from them, we reload the horses. Keegan got in and then had to get off and get back into the last spot after lovely young Gage (Annalise's 4 year old Irish Boy) decided the last spot was too small for him (he was probably right). But all were stars. We arrived at the Holling's farm shortly thereafter and mounted up. I lunged Keegan, but after 5 minutes it became clear that he was fine, so I hoped on. He was hypervigilant and a bit ADD, but perfectly quiet and the jumping was easy and impressive. He jumped all the little logs, went through the water, did the little bank and then had been so good that he did the double bank up (pretty sure that it a training level question). Yeah, I have an xc horse! We finished schooling as dark descended, but got the horses loaded up with minimal difficulty and headed back to Ashmore. After getting horses bundled up and turned out (forecast low 27), headed back to the house for lamb chops, mushroom risotto and asparagus, yummy! Sunday was a dressage lesson. Keegan warmed up well so we headed to the back bowl field to practice our test. Keegan was a star, especially consdering that it was still below 40 degrees and he had never been out there before. The test was absolutely what I would want from a greenie. We will continue to work on the sharpness of the canter transition and the balance of the canter circles, but otherwise, it was quite a nice test and he was surprisingly more attentive than in his "home" enviornment, where he always wants to keep tabs on exactly what is going on. After that lesson, I had the lovely treat of riding Gizmo for the first time in 7 years. He is still rehabbing so it was just a walk/trot ride, but he is grumpy and lovely as ever. He and Keegan also go out together. By 11:00, it was much warmer, so I left the boys in their paddock, quickly changed and headed to the airport for the trip home, in time to hear the Ravens win (yeah!) and watch the Packers game while working out (that was sad enough that I mostly watched the movie, Shooter instead). Such a great start to the season. Loving Keegan, appreciating Hilda and enjoying time with Grace, Annalise, Cassie, Jessica, Christian, Peggy and I am sure a whole cast of the Ashmore gang to follow. Feeling even more psyched for the Leslie Law clinic next weekend.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Eli is a pretty cool horse, a trakehner/TB cross gelding by Zarr, a well known hunter Sire. I bought Eli this summer from Margaret King at Maple Shade Margaret usually sells off the track TBs. I got both Tobe and Finn from her, but when I was looking for something for Caitlin Silliman to ride this summer while Hoku recovered, I called her and she told me about Eli. I bought him and had him shipped home. From the start, things were a bit hit or miss. He was quite good both at and about jumping, but flat work led to "naughtiness" After a couple of months, Caitlin and I decided a veterinary work-up was in order. The wonderful Kevin Keane did a full work-up and discovered that Eli has mild arthritis in his neck. I paid for him to have ultrasound guided injections, a treatment that Kevin says has met with reasonable success in his experience. However, in Eli's case it didn't work that well. We are not sure if he is still in pain, or just remembers being in pain, but he is definitely not feeling ready to be in a serious training program. If someone wants to take a chance on a fancy and talented horse, he is available to a knowledgeable horse person. Meanwhile, my friend Holly Covey is keeping him working and happy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another New Year. Surprising, as I went back and counted on my fingers, the start of my 5th year blogging. Given the state of the gym yesterday, fitness is on many people's resolution list, although that is not unusual. Apparently, the resolution surge does not extend to 6:30 am yoga, as there were only 4 of us practicing this morning. I can't blame folks for savoring those last few minutes of sleep before heading back to work. Personally, I'm not that keen on resolutions and I'm not sure I really count this as the New Year. For me, the time that feels like a new year is September. Not so much because it is the religious new year, although that probably figures in, as because as an inveterate academic, September just feels like the beginning of the year. Seems better to take this turning of the calendar as a chance to count my blessings. I am healthy, married to a wonderful man, have lots of super friends and hobbies that engage me. My horses are (knock on wood) mostly healthy and sound and with luck the *my* part will number 3 less in short order. My work has been largely unaffected by the tough economic times and along with counting my own blessings, it seems appropriate to offer thoughts and prayers for those less blessed and/or more challenged in their lives right now. There were losses in 2011. My mom, Henry's aunt Davita, my good friend Andre Merlet, the True Prospect Farm horses as well as Smart Move and Model Cadet. But the losses allowed time with friends and family and a true connection of the eventing community (in the case of the horses), a reminder to look for the silver lining in the challenges and losses. While they can't be counted as resolutions, I do have goals. Event on my own horse for an entire season. The last time this happened was in 2008 and even then, Keebler's season was cut short. I think Keegan is going to be willing to be an event horse, so I'm looking forward to the year. Our first event is scheduled for my birthday weekend at the end of January. Another goal is running a 50 mile "race" I won't be racing it perse, but do hope to stay on my feet for 50 miles in November at the JFK 50 mile run. This goal is accompanied by plans for various other runs, including half marathons, marathons and maybe a 50 kilometer run. I want to keep finding time on the yoga mat too. I'm hoping it will be a big year for publications. I have a number of papers in various states of work, and I'd like to get them all out there as most of them are really interesting to me. I'll also be finishing up work on my grant looking at physician preferences for CER information. I'm writing another grant now with Josh Metlay to look at the role of technology on the performance of hospitals in infection prevention. Maybe my resolution should be to make some real progress on my book on publishing in academic medicine, as I have been wanting to do it for the past 18 months or so, but haven't buckled down and made the time yet. That will work. See, if you keep writing for long enough, there is always a resolution in there somewhere. Meanwhile, wishing everyone a new year filled with blessings and success with all your goals (and resolutions)!