Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Birthday Blog

Being in Aiken instead of Florida this year meant no birthday weekend competition.  Actually, that was mostly the result of being a cold weenie as Full Gallop did run this weekend.  Sally had two novice horses, her own Tommy and Hannah Ong's handsome Stash.  My Aiken weekend was great.  Friday was much colder than it is supposed to be in a southern state. I believe the high was in the neighborhood of 33 degrees.  The horses did notice this and there was quite a bit of leaping about on the part of many, including Keegan.  Once we started jumping, he settled right down and we had a great lesson focusing on reacting quickly after the jump to be well set up for the next.  Using both hands and legs to steer around corners and continuing to remember to go forward to the jumps.  Sally is very impressed by how well Keegan does the figure 8 over the jump exercise landing smoothly on either lead.  Thanks to Hilda for working with us on that exercise from the start of Keegan's jumping career.  After the lesson I headed downtown to Aiken Yoga.  It is great having a real yoga studio in Aiken.  Sydney Hayday and Amy Borun were both there as well, so in addition to the cold, that made Aiken feel more like Pennsylvania.

Saturday was more yoga, some work and then cross country schooling at Sandy Hills.  It had warmed up a bit, but the gale force significant wind made for the coldest version of 50 degrees.  Sally brought Wizard along for his first school of the new year.  Interestingly, there was almost no jumpiness despite the wind.  I think it was bothering us (the riders) more than the horses. Apparently, the wind knocked the rust right off as the school went super well for both horses.  Keegan jumped everything without a second glance and all from great distances.  I even got myself going forward after the first couple.  It was a lot of fun.  Sally paid Keegan a huge compliment (she had taken him schooling a couple weeks ago), saying that by her (very high) standards, he qualified as a really fun cross country horse.  I can't disagree at all and while he would be a great horse for anyone, I think he fits my needs incredibly well having all the attributes of being quiet, able to take a joke, think for himself and bail me out without holding a grudge - and being good enough at it that Sally said she didn't really see any fences where he had to take a joke...

Sunday, Sally was at Full Gallop, so after a couple of hours of work while I waited for it to warm up a little, I met Caitlin for a dressage lesson.  It was quite pleasantly warm and the wind had headed for some alternate venue (possibly Chicago from what I heard later). We had a great dressage lesson, with much use of the half step approach to get Keegan's trot more correct.  His canter transitions were quite good.  Caitlin said she thought that his trot was going to be quite good once he figured out what to do with his front legs when he was actively pushing from behind. So that was a great success.  We also had lunch and time for more horse gossip.

After another relatively uneventful trip home (the flight was about 30 minutes late), I watched a little of the Pro Bowl. Nick Foles ended up being the MVP which is pretty good for a 2nd year, third round pick. I totally missed the Grammys somehow, but heard about it through friends and facebook.  I was glad to hear Macklemore won best new artist and heard the singing might not have been the best, but the thought behind having same-sex marriages serended by Same Love definitely was. I also liked seeing Darius Rucker win best country solo and the Skyfall soundtrack win.

Yesterday was my birthday.  I started the day with a spin class at Body Cycle Studio.  I miss getting there regularly so it was nice to be in the city for Russell's class on a Monday morning.  Then Henry and I had breakfast at the Four Seasons.  Perfect way to start the day. Work was pretty usual and then dinner at a new BYOB in Philly called Entree.  It was fairly good and the bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose was fabulous as always.

As I kicked off my new year (fairly coincident with the Chinese New Year of the Horse) on my yoga mat, it was easy to feel thankful for the blessings of wonderful friends and family, engaging work, rewarding hobbies (that bring more friends) and hopeful that the year to come will bring more of the same and excellent adventures to report in this space.

Monday, January 20, 2014

'Tis the season

I know, I know - the holidays are pretty much over.  Although the Year of the Horse will get underway in the next couple of weeks.  But, it is football playoff seasons.  I enjoyed watching the Broncos win and the amazing game despite the 49ers loss in the championship games.  I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favorite players at the ProBowl next weekend and then the Super Bowl, always a highlight for me.

It is also winter riding season. I enjoyed my first Aiken weekend although it failed a bit on the "go south to be warm" front.  I got in Friday evening and it was quite pleasant, still around 50 degrees at 9:00 p.m., but that didn't last long.  I woke up to below freezing temperatures and a nasty wind.  Knowing that this can happen in Aiken, I came equipped for the arctic tundra with plenty of fleece, handwarmers, and toe warmers and stayed pretty comfortable.  Thursday Sally had texted to ask when I arrived on Friday.  My text response, "Late. Why yes, I do trust that I can just get on him Saturday at the show." And he completely justified my trust.  Dressage was a little tense, especially his first test, but he got much better and jumped like a total superstar.  Sally's horses were all good as well, as was Pooh Hoblitzell's adorable Irish youngster.  It never got particularly warm, but as always in Sally's program, all 9 horses were ready to go on time and looked great.  I definitely felt I was knocking the rust off, but there is really something to be said for a horse you can get on after 2 weeks of no riding and have no trouble clocking around the course (Novice).  The new dressage tests are OK.  I still don't like the canter, lengthen canter, stretchy circle, lengthen trot, turn up centerline to end Training Test B, but Keegan was quite good about everything.  His canter work is continuing to improve.

After getting Keegan settled back at the farm, I headed back and did some work. I can report that the document editing apps available for my Nexus 7 are far superior to those I had on the iPad so that was great. Caitlin and I met for dinner.  Ryan was off clinicing so we had girl time.  We did discuss the sadness with what seems an unreasonable number of serious horse injuries and fatalities, particular Santa's Keeper and Lionheart, but also Waitangi Notebook, Astro, and Seahawk.  Hug your ponies. But, we also had lots of fun with plans for the upcoming year, trying to sell horses (please, let 2014 be the Year of Horse Sales), and general updates.

Sunday, I went over to Boyd's and saw Hoku go.  She looks like a million bucks. Caitlin said she is doing really well although the cold winter weather means keeping on top of her skin. Caitlin is using a human aloe vera, vitamin E lotion that seems to be doing a great job keeping the skin supple and helping any minor blanket rubs grow in.  I also got to give Remi a kiss and check out the way too cute dogs at Windurra South.

After a farm tour of the very impressive Bridle Creek layout, I headed back to Sally's for my lesson. The focus was to be riding forward to the fences (both needed and alliterative). The lesson went really well and I was a bit surprised that I didn't have too much trouble even with reasonably big fences. We really focused on two things: 1) getting the right, sufficiently forward canter to the fences, and 2) quicker reactions times on the landing.  Sally also says she is very focused on straightness.  The quote, "good jumper riders can control and adjust their horses back to front - great jumper riders can do that laterally." Keegan was jumping fabulously and the lesson was a lot of fun.  Following my lesson, I watched Sally ride a couple, including Hannah Ong's handsome Stash.
Sally was very complimentary of the excellent start that Hannah has given this guy. It warmed up in the afternoon and many horses took advantage by napping, including Sue - appearing a bit different than the usual cross-country machine look.  Wall-E also had a nice nap and Kelsey had to wake him to be shown to a student of Melissa Hunsberger's. It was good to catch up with Melissa.  Wall-E was a superstar.  I might point out that Sally has not traditionally sold her horses, but she has some of her personal mounts for sale right now and they are all ridiculously nice horses - in case you are in the market and want a going event horse (as opposed to my h/j horse, jumper horse or greener OTTB .) Then it was get things tidied up at the barn and the room, head for the airport and finish up the weekend with football.  Altogether excellent!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Excellent Keebler visit, good half marathon, up and down football results

It snowed again over Thursday night into Friday morning.  Apparently, the almanac forecasts of a severe winter were not completely delusional this year. We hadn't quite gotten our plowing plan sorted, so in addition to working from home Friday morning, I spent an hour shoveling the driveway so I could get to the airport.  I needn't have been in a hurry.  My original flight was cancelled and the replacement flight late, but I did end up on a plane, warmlands bound only about an hour late.  I stayed Friday and Saturday night with Ed and Cyndi north of my usual Florida stomping grounds, but close to both Keebler and the half marathon. Cyndi and Ed were fabulous hosts all weekend, providing a room, meals and chauffering.  Their dog, who loves me when we are at Rocking Horse took a while and much food bribery to decide I was acceptable in her house.

Saturday was Keebler day!  I hadn't realized that Lynn was visiting Florida, so she also joined us to watch Jordan have a lesson.  Emily also had a lesson on Shelby.  Both of them looked great and Lynn and I really enjoyed seeing the Keebler.  Lynn got on and had a canter and a crossrail and I hacked him back to the barn.  Cyndi said Jordan was nervous, but she looked great and did a great job with him and Emily and Shelby have really progressed since I saw them last year.
 Seema and Emily hacking back to the barn (thanks to Jen, Emily's mom for the picture)
 Keebler with his ladies
 Lynn riding Keebler
We topped off the day with tack shopping in Ocala and dinner at Bites in Deland, netting leftover rabbit to complete dog bribery.  Sunday was half marathon morning.  The picture is Ed and me before the run (thanks Cyndi!).  The first 5 miles were great.  I was able to run all of it at a 12 minute pace, which is respectable these days.  Ed stayed with me and we had a great opportunity to talk about all sorts of things.  Unfortunately after about mile 7, my lungs became very unhappy.  This actually felt more like asthma than the more recent stuff, but we ended up walking the second half.  Ed stuck with me and it was enjoyable, if a little frustrating.  Jordan and Billie came to watch us finish which was great of them and we headed to the Track Kitchen at Spring Garden for brunch.  Very yummy and then back to the house for some football viewing prior to the final phase of the weekend. 

The football this weekend had its ups and downs.  Amazing come from behind victory for the Colts engineered by Andrew Luck UP.  Two point loss for the Eagles against the Saints DOWN. Big Chargers win over the Bengals - actually, I'm not sure which way to point the arrow on this one. 23-20 win for the 49ers, hmm another toss up on the rooting front.  But lots of excellent football regardless of outcome.

I finished off the Florida weekend with a visit with Hilda.  She cooked us an amazing dinner as usual and it was great to have a chance to catch up and visit.  I even have leftovers for lunch today. Hilda is as gracious a hostess as she is wonderful as a trainer.  I will miss Florida, but am looking forward to Aiken this winter, although I'm worried that it may not be very warm given the general arctic trends so far.