Monday, June 17, 2013

Laid back weekend success

The weekend started Friday with Facebook letting me know that it was National Bourbon Day.  While this prompted my looking for interesting Bourbon cocktails and finding these Food and Wine's Bourbon Cocktails. After an excellent dressage lesson, I headed home to see what plan had developed. In the end, we went old school and just drank the good stuff on its own.  We were able to sit out on the patio, where the weather was lovely.  I managed to enjoy the bourbon, but kept it minimal as Saturday morning, I was getting up at 4:30 a.m. to run a half marathon.  This was the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half marathon in Pennypack Park.  Interestingly, I had never been to Pennypack park, but it is quite nice.  The weather was perfect and most of the race was in the shade. I followed my current modus operandi of slowly running the first half and then walking with brief (downhill) run bits the second half.  Prior to starting the race, I met some interesting folks (always a fun part of racing), including an Australian chap in the process of trying to beat the Guinness world book of records string of 160 marathons in a single year Marathon Man.  I also met several marathon maniacs and half fanatics.  You may remember that I acheived my goal of mania in June 2010 Becoming a Marathon Maniac.  There was quite a representation of the group at this race and someone arranged a group photo that another of the members was kind enough to share.
The race itself was very friendly and well organized, with even the wait for the bus at the end not very long.  Following the run, I headed back to Chester County and had a jumping lesson on Keegan.  My leg seemed to be swinging a bit more than usual, but Missy gave me a pass on that given the proximity to running the half marathon. Everything else went really well.  Keegan is jumping ever better and other than my position, we didn't have to work on much.

Sunday morning, I did yoga to loosen up those muscles and then had another dressage lesson.  This lesson also went well.  I feel like we are making real progress.  I rode in Caitlin's demo Voltaire dressage saddle and while I quite liked it, it didn't put me in quite as good a position as my Antares, so I'm going to stick with what I have (this is good because I really don't need another dressage saddle).  If anyone is looking, still for sale are the following dressage saddles in a 17.5 medium tree:

1) Hastilow Atlanta Dressage - this is an older saddle, but in impeccable condition.  Very good for a TB.  quite deep seat with a narrow twist  (this model no longer made, but this are high quality, British saddles).  $1000
2) Hulsebos WB4  They do still make this saddle, which sells new for $2600.  Make me an offer above $1600 and it can be yours.
3) E. Jeffries Elite - price new $2400, but there are a lot of these out and about.  You can have this one for $900 OBO
4) Michael Stokes Centaur - lovely dark brown and black.  Fits a solid TB very well.  $900 OBO
And if none of these tickle your fancy, ask me as I know of several Counties, at least one Albion, an older Miller Klimke and others from under $500-$3000.

David Ziegler and Criticial Decision competed at Intermediate down at Seneca, where Sally Cousins and Sharon White were also showing several and the big international event for the weekend was Luhmulhen, which didn't go so well for the US contigent.  Elsewhere, the US Open played much harder than predicted at Merion, the Phillies played poorly and the Heat need to win two to avoid another championship loss on their home court.  We have Phillies tickets tonight.  Hoping it doesn't rain

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In which we get our dressage on

Had a great event at Plantation (prior entry) and know we have a bit to work on xc and quite a bit to work on in the dressage.  While the xc schooling at Plantation was cancelled due to yet more torrential rain (not to mention tornado watches about the time I would have been on course), the dressage schooling show at Blue Goose was still a go.  Thanks to David and Rachel, I got entered at First Level Tests 1 and 2.  USDF dressage tests.  For all you eventers, the First Level Test 1 has many of the same moves as the training level eventing test A including 15 meter canter circles, canter lengthening on the long side, stretchy trot circle, and canter change at the end of the diagonal after trotting at X.  1-2 adds some leg yield and 10 meter half circles  and has a bit more complexity.

I headed out from the office and arrived at show (where the amazing BHF team had already brought my horse and tack).  I spent the first hour wandering around to pay, change, brush Keegan, etc. all while participating (and carefully muting in between speaking) in a work conference call (technology has its advantages).  I got on Keegan once the call concluded and warmed him up with Missy's help (and Jamie's supervision).  The major reminders:

  1. keep his speed steady (neither slower nor quicker) when turning
  2. keep my right hand up when doing downward transitions
  3. Quit with the leaning forward into canter transitions!!!!
  4. Focus on keeping my seatbones connected to the saddle in the canter
  5. soften when he is good (which is more and more common)
I headed over for the 1-1 test and, aside from puddle dodging (really - you're an event horse and you need to avoid small puddles in the arena), he was quite good.  His trot lengthenings still aren't, but he does go forward a bit more and then quietly comes back.  At the end the judge asked me why I chose to do this test.  When I told her it was because of it being close to the training level eventing test, she said she had guessed as much, but for this level in dressage, he needs to be much more engaged and stretched over his topline.  We are working on this.  At least she didn't think he was behind my leg and did compliment his obedience.  Off we went to continue warming up after watching Laura Faulkner's lovely Fenway Park do his test (he has a very nice trot lengthening). We worked in the field by the trailer, practicing some 10 meter half circles, a few straigh steps, then leg yield as well as more trot lengthenings and canter transitions.  Then back into the ring.  By this time, I had been on him for an hour.  Being Keegan, he was cheerful and as willing to go forward as ever.  Apparently, he was also much more engaged and stretched over his back (which was what the judge told me at the end of the test saying it was much better). I tried hard to keep my right hand and shoulders up throughout and think I was a bit better (my rider score did improve).  He also splashed right through the puddle, apparently having decided there were no allligators in it.  Our leg yield right, first transition downward from lengthen to working canter and our second trot lengthening were not so good, but everything else really was - even garnering a couple of 8s, including one for the final halt.  And, wait for it......even with two of our bad scores being x2, we scored a 69.7!!  Pretty much my best score ever (and much better than the 61.4 on the first test.  We scurried back to the trailer to avoid a cloudburst and then watched Brigitte do a very nice test on Margarita before heading back to Blue Hill. 

I love my off the track TB and see longer dressage warm-ups at events in our future.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sometimes you can do it all

Have tropical storm, will event anyway.  Thanks to the dedication of the organizers and the kindness of the landowners as well as the incredibly high quality of the land itself, despite over 3 inches of rain on Friday, Plantation Field Horse Trials got underway on Saturday with a one hour delay to allow drying time. Reports were that the footing was excellent. The delay allowed me to ride Keegan before the event without having to be up at o'dark hundred, love the country house that means I am only 15 minutes from the barn.  Keegan was great and even modeled his Five Star Tack bridle and breastplate (although it was hard to convince him to put his ears up - thanks for the assistance from Dory the dog)
After riding, I headed over to Plantation (conveniently 5 minutes from Blue Hill Farm), where I was the judge for the stadium jumping which went very well.  As always, it is a real pleasure at Plantation, both because of the great courses and getting to see lots of friends and because of the great crew that is always there.  Our in-gate steward (Gabby) isn't pictured, but she was super efficient, leading to us having some waiting time between horses, as there were people who had scratched, not trusing the footing. There were no really interesting stories (well, I'm sure there were many I didn't know about), there were lots of cute ponies, one TE, one RF (no injuries), and quite a few rails, especially at preliminary and training.

At the end of the judging day, I headed off and walked the training level course, which looked great.  The footing was near perfect and the course was very inviting, although the ditch at the half coffin was looking pretty big.  Arrive home at 6:35, quick shower and change and a short drive to dinner with colleagues at 7:00 (yes - we were on time - I'm very practiced at the really quick shower and change drill).

Sunday, I also didn't have to get up too early and headed straight to Blue Hill Farm (well, straight meaning with a stop at Starbucks - not only is the country house 15 minutes from the barn, the wonderful Kennett Square Starbucks is at the 6 minute mark). We got everything ready to head over, the only glitch being that Solo had a slightly warm leg.  Not clear that there was anything major, but of course, he stayed home as we headed off with Keegan and the adorable pony Rue La La (who competed with Rachel Gross in the tack). We arrived a little late, so I grabbed packets and climbed on Keegan (David Ziegler was kind enough to help us on his day off and got Keegan tacked for me while I was getting packets).  Keegan was a bit ADD in the dressage warm-up, but the canter transitions were excellent and there was a bit of medium trot (hard to get more than a bit in the hilly grass field at this stage of training).  He was very obedient in the arena, but not as forward as ideal, so future plans include riding with a whip and near future plans are a dressage show at Blue Goose tomorrow (better learn those real dressage tests - we'll be doing 1st level 1 and 2).

After dressage, we had a brief break then got back on for jumping.  Keegan got little hind studs for the first time as well as the new bit with the fancy Five Star Tack figure-8 bridle.  We use this bit for dressage Keegan's dressage bit and so decided on this bit to give us a little bit of extra "pay attention" cross country Trial cross country bit.  Because we were going straight from stadium to cross country, we decided to use it in the stadium as well and not do a bridle change.  Success!!  In the stadium, it seemed to help with the balancing around the corners and Keegan was jumping really well.  Interesting, he seemed able to get better shoulder rotation (probably because he was staying a bit more uphill between the fences).  The stadium warm-up is on new footing and as it hasn't had a chance to settle yet, we went with the minimum warm up and jumped three fences before heading to the stadium, where he put in a great, clean round.  Then off to cross country, which was really just amazingly fantastic. The bit was perfect.  It totally eliminated the freight train aspect, but did not seem to bother Keegan at all.  He jumped like a superstar.  The only glitch was when I brought him parallel to fence 4 rather than perpendicular (oops!), but once I realized where I was actually supposed to be, we circled around and he popped straight over and luckily, with no timing at the starter, there was no penalty for the time it took to figure out the correct line.  Everything else was great.  He did tiptoe into the water, but then picked up a canter, the half-coffin was no thing as far as he was concerned and I had the best jump I have ever had over the red Weldon's wall jump.  Now we just need to work on getting him a little straighter through the combinations and work on my trusting that I can ask him to go forward on landing to make up a little more time, but for this event, we finished on our dressage score and even got a ribbon - our first eventing ribbon.

I hopped off and with David and Tom Geno's (the adorable Rue La La is from his barn) help, we got Keegan back on the trailer and I headed off to play dressage steward.  I got to see more friends. Rachel and Rue La La took home the fourth place ribbon. Chris Talley had a super day although we probably are allowed to tease him about missing a jump on the novice course, Molly Kinnamon was out with some more small horses/ponies, Dom and Jimmie Schramm were introducing some TBs to the joys of eventing and, in the big news of the day - while Phillip might have been winning at Bromont, the big Dutton news was that Olivia won at Plantation.

And to complete the grand slam as it were, we can add live-score stalking to the weekend's judging, riding, and volunteering activities as I did follow Bromont through the weekend.  There were some tough conditions up there, with probably even more rain than we had here (and it didn't conveniently quit before the event started).  Erin Sylvester won the CCI** on Mettraise, while Will Coleman and Phillip Dutton captured the CCI*** and CIC***.  Sally was 3rd on Tsunami in the CCI***, putting in an impressive clean cross country round.  Kate Chadderton's two OTTBs, Cole and Liberty had great weekends, finishing 11th in the 3-star and 5th in the 2-star.  All the results are here Bromont Scores.  For many, it was a rough weekend, with the footing and difficult weather leading to several falls and stops.  Sally came off of Taz, when he slipped and lost his footing, but she said he was jumping brilliantly to that point.  Ian Roberts also came off and ended up in hospital, missing Waylon's win in the CCI* on Yarrow.  Healing thoughts to Ian for a speedy and complete recovery.

The Phillies lost horribly to the Brewers and the Heat wrapped up the weekend by winning to move the series to a 1-1 tie.