Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Golightly "Show Team" of 2010

I love when lesson barns talk about their "show team" - I guess I've never understood the word because I can't remember a time when I didn't consider myself a competitor, but I've never been on a "show team." Pony Club teams, Young Rider teams - yep, done those. But never a "show team." When people find out I have a horse, 9 times out of 10 the next question is - "do you compete?" (the 10th question is, "oh, do you get to see him on the weekends?"). Being who I am, I sort of laugh every time I get the "do you compete" question because for me, the conversation feels as ridiculous as:
"oh, you have a basketball! Do you dribble it and shoot hoops?"
"No, I just pet it every few months."

Any number of 100,001 reasons can get in the way of your competitive ambitions - injury, money, weather... but a competitor is always a competitor, even if you're sidelined for a year or more. The thrill of testing your training and your bond with your horse just gets inside you! So, even though they don't have "show team" jackets - this blog is a tribute to 3 special ladies who I'll call "The Golightly Show Team"!

Adrianne, Debi, and Kerry are textbook amateurs. They balance their training and competitive ambitions with full time jobs, homes, husbands, families, pets, budgets, and other life priorities. And in the midst of all that, they have had an incredibly successful 2010 - I've documented many of their victories (and not-so victorious moments!) in this blog over the year, but partially as reflection and partially as inspiration, let me hi-light why I'm so proud to be seen with these ladies at their events! They are developing into solid riders and horsewomen - displaying confidence and skill in and out of the saddle - and when it comes to the scoreboard, these are three names to take notice of!

Adrianne & Tori

I first met Adrianne about 3 years ago. She thought she might like to try competing her horse, Tori - and eventing had caught her eye. I had the good fortune of being recommended to her as a potential instructor/coach and we hit it off immediately. Adrianne broke Tori herself. I'm impressed already. She's broken a lot of horses for anyone who had a spare unbroken horse on hand (really impressed now). Tori was to be her first chance at taking the next step into more advanced training and competing. And this year, things have really started to come together. Adrianne survived her first two "big name" clinics in 2010 - Tori's not sure she survived intact - she's still offended from Boyd Martin calling her a mongrel for trying to stop. Cause and effect, Tori. Cause and effect. We have to remind her of that sometimes! In 2010, they also completed their first 2 USEA horse trials (BN) and ended the season with a move up and win at a Novice unrecognized event!

Debi & Roxanne

About 2 years ago, Debi moved to Maryland from Texas, among other reasons, so she could event without the long distance travel to events. She had already done some eventing in Texas when I started coaching her, but Debi and Roxanne had a routine - Roxanne bolted at the jumps, ducked out in the last stride, and launched Debi at the jump. Over and over again. Watching helpless from across the field at competitions, this was not an ideal training situation. So Debi graciously let some of her immediate competitive goals go so that we could really buckle down at home. And what a difference it has made! I don't think I've seen Roxanne bolt at a single jump in 2010, and Debi's only fall this year came between fences when Roxanne momentarily lost her crackers (too bad it was at their first recognized USEA event - timing is everything). And to end her season, Debi took home the blue ribbon at only her second USEA event - BN at Marlborough HT! With her new boarding facility, Equidistance Horse Center, Debi has a busy 2011 ahead of her - adding business partner to all her other amateur-rider life roles!

Kerry & Atticus

If the Golightly Show Team was giving out year-end awards, Kerry would go home with a bunch. Lets start with the "Most Improved Award." I've been helping Kerry for less than a year. She bought Atticus about 6 months before we met, and she was an eventer at heart living in a hunter world. Kerry is a born athlete; she has the big-time soccer injuries to prove it. When her soccer career ended, she looked back to her childhood love of riding as maybe something that her lingering injuries could survive. Some days are harder than others, but it has been an absolutely wonderful experience to watch her develop and flourish in her riding. Sometimes I think we're dangerous together - we might be a little too focused and motivated! But we laugh too, and we have the funniest horses in the world! So it's all good. I took Kerry and Atticus to jump their first XC fences in April. It was a very crooked, but generally positive experience. Straightness hadn't quite entered Atticus' training pyramid yet - and what's not there in dressage won't miraculously appear on XC! Over the months, forward straightness has been inching its way into their skill set. And in November, they moved up to BN at their 2nd unrecognized event and finished in 2nd! Not too shabby!

Kerry also wins the "Golightly #1 Groom Award." For my own mental sanity (not to mention safety issues, needing potty breaks, etc. etc.), I always take someone with me to groom at my horse trials. I try to make it a learning experience for them, so that they learn how I do things; how recognized events run; what courses at various events look like; how different warm-ups work for different horses; studs; ice boots... In exchange for the mental sanity they provide, I offer a "free service" in exchange - lesson, horse ride, trailering someplace... Kerry embraced the offer and accompanied me to almost every one of my events this year. She's become an expert videographer and follows the groom checklist precisely to keep me on-time and on-task. Almost all my students have taken advantage of the "will groom for lesson" trade program at least once, but it has been a tremendous relief to me to know that I can always count on Kerry to bend over backwards to be there for me and put up with my competition crap (and Katchi's too)!

So, there you have it, the 2010 Golightly Show Team! What we lack in quantity, we certainly make up in quality! Hopefully a few of my other students will be added to the 2011 Show Team roster, but as I said before, any number of 100,001 reasons may damper those plans. Bit by bit, we'll all keep working towards our goals - no matter how big or small!

Next up: Katchi's 2010 - the good, bad, ugly, and ridiculous!

Happy New Year Y'all! See ya in 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Indoor Arena Winter Depression

There seem to be two types of winter eventers (not including those who leave winter for sun - grrrr at all of you!). The rest of us are either:
1. willing to beg, borrow and steal for just one ride in an indoor arena, or
2. bored to tears riding in an indoor arena.

Especially for eventers, winter indoor arenas are a bit like a jail cell. We live for the thrill of XC riding - fresh air, hills and logs, and scary horse-eating squirrels and deer! Locked in a box, we seem to loose a part of ourselves, or at least a big part of our motivation. Round and round inside 4 solid walls (and in my case, I don't even have mirrors to scowl at my sitting trot in!) - and before you know what hit you, indoor arena winter depression takes hold.

Your shrink is unlikely to fully grasp the severity of your depressed state. Laying in a tanning bed won't help. If you're brave enough for fox hunting - tally ho! That oughta fix you up right! But for the rest of us wimps who want to stay inside but be productive - the answer is easy - have a plan for each and every time you get on your horse and head into the indoor. Riding inside without a plan is sort of like getting into a row boat and letting yourself drift out into the lake, then realizing you didn't pack the paddles! Not a great plan. So, if just knowing that we've already passed the shortest day of the year - yes, folks! The days are getting longer! - isn't enough to curb your indoor arena depression, I thought I would share some ideas to battle your boredom that I have already been putting to use with my students and Katchi.

1. Test your moves.
Have you ever ridden a "real" dressage test (the USDF tests - not the eventing dressage tests)? There are new tests in 2011. Take a look at one appropriate for your riding level - what movements sound hard? Try them out. Dressage tests are meant as tests, but the movements are chosen based on the progression of training. So see what you find easy and what you find hard. If you plan to move up a level at your events next year, start practicing pieces of your new tests now. I caution riders about doing their entire test too many times just before a competition, because horses will start to learn the patterns and anticipate movements (and help you out by doing them early!). But, if you break the test into pieces and practice a few different pieces each day, the entire pattern will come together much easier in the spring.

I always have a terrible time finding the tests on the USDF site, but luckily PVDA has posted them on their site -

2. A circle is not an egg.
Can you ride a perfect circle? Did a dressage judge tell you your circle was too large or too small in portions - that means it was an egg, not a circle. Can you "feel" a 20m, 15m, 12m, or 10m circle? Set out cones, poles, or some other markers at the exact distances - seriously, be exact - get out your tape measure or meter wheel! Measure the distances so that you will ride just to the inside of your markers (it's too easy to cheat by 1 foot, 2 feet, 10 feet... if you are riding to the outside of the markers). Remember that small circles require a lot of balance and engagement to be correct - start by walking these circles and move to the trot and canter as your skill and your horse's training allows. Keep in mind - 10m trot circles first appear in Preliminary event dressage tests and 10m canter circles first appear in 2nd level dressage tests - so be ambitious but fair to your horse's level of training!

To clarify - Image at right contains CIRCLES (see "how to ride a perfect circle"). A circle is not an EGG.


3. Pole chaos.
Got poles? Throw them all over your indoor! No spacing, no lines. Now ride all over the arena: serpentines, figure 8's, wavy lines, diagonal changes, circles - everything! Start at a walk, then move onto the trot, and as your horse develops his balance and engagement - canter too! Your goal is to go over each pole absolutely seamlessly - no change in rhythm, balance, or tempo. This exercise will also help develop your eye for striding to jumps. Be sure to look right at the poles until they disappear between your horse's ears.

4. Pole precision.
Now take those poles and place them very precisely. 4 poles perfectly spaced around a 20m circle, for example. Walk & trot the 4 poles - then start by cantering one pole and going around the other 3. Then add in a second pole across the circle from the first. Then 3 poles - then 4. Always take time to reorganize when you need to. When you master this, move the poles around so you have a single pole on one side of the circle and 2 poles across the circle from it - set with one canter stride between (about 16 feet should work well for most horses). You can also set them on a 1/2 stride (for example 3 1/2 strides) and then work to compress the stride to get 4 or lengthen to get 3 - be sure to count so you know for sure how it's working out for you!

5. Relive your last round.
In your last show jumping round, what line was especially difficult? Recreate it. And build it in reverse too. If it was a bending line to the right - practice the same line to both the right and left.

6. Lucinda's skinnies.
Ever been to a Lucinda Green clinic? Planning on riding in one next year? Watch her clinics on Horse and County TV - Episode 1 & Episode 2 If you have blocks at hand, or skinny poles, build some Lucinda skinnies (set at about 6" - 12" tall) and learn to walk and trot them PERFECTLY straight! You'll be glad you did when you ride in her clinic next year!

7. Gymnastics.
Go to Buy Jim Wofford's book "Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses." 23 exercises. 1 a week for 23 weeks. Enough said.

8. Lunge a friend.
Take 20 minutes to work on YOU. Ask a friend (who is competent at lunging horses - it's harder than you think!) to lunge you while you isolate your focus to assess your position from head to toe - ask your friend questions if you think you feel you are doing something "weird." Even if they are not an instructor, they can probably still help describe what they see so you can compare it to what you feel.

9. Ride with one stirrup.
Ever ridden with only one stirrup?? It's harder than no stirrups! Mark Todd rode around Badminton with one stirrup - holy cow! If I were him, I don't think I would have given up the other stirrup to find out which was harder - I guess "easier" is all relative. Anyhow, cross over one stirrup and put yourself on a 20m circle (or grab that lunge friend again!). Pick up the trot and try to post! Most of us have one weaker side - prepare yourself - you're about to be $&*! slapped by it! And then you can thank Jim Wofford for advocating this fun little game.

10. Jump by the book.
And when you've done all these things - pull out your favorite eventing or show jumping book and pick an exercise! There are no shortage of clever ideas out there. If you're in doubt about which ones will best help you and your horse - bring the book to your next lesson and ask your trainer to help you pick out a few exercises that you can work on safely, on your own, between lessons. And have fun!!!

See, there are lots and lots of things to do in the indoor! But you must have a plan before you walk in there - don't miss a prime training opportunity that just might have helped you get a leg up on the competition in the spring! It's the days when the weather sucks, and winter sucks, and egg nog sounds so good, and spring seems so far away - it's those training days that you really want to make count. Because for every one you make count - one of your fellow competitors will have stayed in bed! And that will make you that little bit better than her (or one of the 20 him-eventers) in the spring! Collecting your blue ribbon, you won't begrudge those cold winter training days inside your boring indoor arena for one second!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's Happy Holidays in pictures...

My mom sent Katchi this stocking - he's offended! If you can't read it, it says, "Dear Santa, I can explain!" I think all the little hunter ponies at his barn are laughing at him!

This is my cat - Schmoe. I don't think he's made an appearance on the Golightly Sport Horses blog before - he says he's the brains behind the operation & he also says Bah-Humbug!

On this beautiful Christmas Eve day, I spent the morning at the barn with several other folks who also believe that a day off work - no matter what the reason - is a day to spend with horses! It was a great day to get caught up on things like cleaning tack and massaging a few knots in Katchi's poll - and he even got a bit of a makeover - no more fetlock feathers! This afternoon, I wandered around the national mall with a couple of friends to see the national tree and holiday decorations. And, much to my dismay, what did I find sitting on the mall, waiting to be burned to keep tourists at the national tree warm?!?! The most beautiful pile of cross country jump logs ever. Who wants to join me in a Christmas Eve raid of the white house lawn??? FREE THE XC JUMPS!!!

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just because you put it in a field...

... does not make it a Cross Country jump!

One of my favorite local XC schooling places has a special note on their website... Note: the refrigerator wedged in a tree fork is NOT a jump. Katchi is glad they clarified that. I'm scared that they needed to. How many people do you think have actually jumped the fridge in a tree - or tried to?!

I admit, I have a sickness. I see potential cross country jumps everywhere. I'm currently eyeing a big tree that was just cut down in a subdivision not far from Katchi's barn. I'm not above knocking on doors, chasing down trucks, or shamelessly flirting and giggling - all for the sake of free or discounted soon-to-be cross country jumps. I see them everywhere - landscaping retaining walls make me sick... what idiot would build such a perfect bank complex at the wrong distance?! And wine barrels, oh don't get me started on wine barrels. Don't invite me wine tasting unless you want your day to end with me (drunkenly) trying to convince the vineyard owner to give me a few old barrels (and then they ask why - oh, yea, that gets fun!)!!! Telephone poles, railroad ties, firewood, bushes... oh, if only they could see what I see!

But, just because you put it in a field... does not make it a cross country jump.

I was "lucky" to grow up in the era before Americans became obsessed with lawsuits. We never signed releases and we could ride anywhere we wanted - jumping over anything in our way! My poor horses must have done the Catholic 'sign of the cross' with their hoof every time they saw me coming! But, to Katchi's great relief, I'm a bit smarter now.

When I took the USEA's Course Design training last May with Tremaine Cooper, we discussed that at lower level recognized events, courses and jumps are generally well thought-through and with multiple officials and rider representatives weighing in - riders should feel confident of the safety and appropriateness of the fences they will face on course. (I have no comment on the raging debates over upper level courses and a horse's ability to see/understand questions - far more qualified people are working like mad to resolve those issues and I leave it to their expertise.) I'm talking about BN/N and below courses. But, here's where the problem really comes in - the "and below courses" part. These levels run at unrecognized events and are the heart of so many XC schooling facilities across our country. Yet, many receive little if any "professional" guidance or input on their design. Despite that, they are where many horses and riders get their start in eventing - and they bear a great responsibility to instill the love and thrill of cross country in horse and rider alike - while keeping both safe and confident. Tough mission.

Unless I am very familiar with the property, I generally encourage students to attend unrecognized events at facilities that also host recognized events. My reasoning is that these locations tend to run their unrecognized events closer to a recognized event standard - including the quality of jump construction, course design, footing, and etc. However, my assumption isn't without flaw - for example, a perfectly acceptable Novice ditch at fence 13 (as seen at the recognized event) is not the same question at all when it appears as fence 2 (at the unrecognized event). Ugh.

Back to the USEA's Course Design training - key point: the shape of the fence and the terrain really matters. A perfectly safe fence, put on different terrain, can become dangerous as heck. Portables can't just be dropped wherever the tractor runs out of gas! Things that can be jumped in a ring out of a collected canter, may not be safe when galloping at speed (including up/down hills!). For example, Mike Etherington-Smith writes (Cross-Country Course Design and Construction), "It is generally accepted that true verticals are exceptional or a thing of the past... As always there are exceptions to the rule one of them being a wall, but the key point with upright fences is that the profile is soft to help the horses not get too deep to the fence. If in doubt put a groundline in. This will help the horses, particularly the less experienced ones, jump the fence better. Clearly an upright fence must not be sited where competitors may be travelling at speed." Ever wonder why events stack all those straw bales in front of those dreadful white gates? Yet, we jump straight up verticals over and over again in the ring - no problem. Speed and terrain change the question.

If you think about a horse's movement and shape while jumping - you can answer a lot of questions about what shape of jumps will work best. Why do we all love to jump roll-tops or anything really round? Because they mimic the horse's bascule shape - they encourage him to round over the top. Why do we love when our horse steps right to the base of a triple-bar or ramp? Because this placement puts the top of his jumping arc right at the highest/back point of the jump. Why wouldn't you jump down a bank and have a bounce to an upright? Think through the horse's movement - ouch! Why does the same rule not apply for an up bank to an upright? Again, think about the horse's movement and jumping arc.

Hugh Morshead's book (Design and Build a Cross Country Course) explains, "Horses have to be able to make the distinction between the 4 inch diameter rails used in show jumping that will knock down and the solid, fixed fences on the cross country course. This is achieved by using timber that is at least 8 inches in diameter. Airy 2" x 6" construction, as once seen in picnic table and hay rack fences, with their sharp edges and false ground-lines, combine all the worst characteristics of a fence." And materials must be able to survive impact so that a horse cannot break through and become stuck in a broken board. Furthermore, Mike E-S says to "reduce the risk of a horse getting a leg caught between rails it is important that any gap between two rails should be less than 3 inches or greater than 8 inches." And, I would add, do not make anything into a jump than could come apart to tangle-up your horse's legs (for example, tires are a wonderful and soft shape - one of my very favorite free jumps - but they must must must be solidly secured. Imagine your horse trying to 1) do an Army tire obstacle training course! or 2) turning 4 of the tires into hula-hoops - one for each leg!).

Obviously, there is much more to say about designing and building good cross country jumps - some of the best have written entire books on the matter. I've just shared a few of my favorite disasters that I see all too often. So, put your new knowledge to the test... is this a cross country jump?? It's in a field...

(Yes, this photo was posted to adverstise a new cross country course. Sorry, I won't share the source!)

P.S. - thanks to my dad for spending countless hours helping me turn my visions for "stuff" into awesome jumps!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

ANNOUNCING: Jim Wofford Clinics!

The March clinic has been moved by one day - the new date is March 9 (Wednesday). We will have 2 groups, starting at 8:00 AM.

I'm pleased to announce that Jim Wofford has finally agreed to make the trek around the DC Beltway and into Southern Maryland, not just once this winter, but twice!!

ANNOUNCING: Two winter 2011 gymnastics clinics with JIM WOFFORD at Baywood Farms in Harwood, MD.

January 26 (Wednesday) & March 8 (Tuesday)

Contact me with questions and to save your spot - the clinics are filling fast!
Click here for clinic information and registration forms.

Auditors welcome ($25 fee).

More information about Baywood Farms at
More information about other clinics with Jim is available on his website calendar:

Lets hope for warm and sunny winter days on both clinic dates! Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The eternal eventing dilemma

When should I move up?

This must be the eternal eventing dilemma. Every time big name/upper level riders open themselves up to questions from the lesser-eventers of the world... someone will ask this question. Because it's really important to a heck of a lot of people. And every time any one of those big name/upper level riders answers it - its the exact same answer - "it depends". But what the heck does it depend on? A lot of things. Sheesh. Okay, so back to square one - when should I move up?

Katchi is back to work - 3 days of "walking" now. Walking is relative. Thoroughbreds who are super fit, don't loose a ton of fitness in 3 weeks of vacation time. They are, however, so happy to go back to work - well, they make life interesting! Cold wind makes it even more interesting!

At Full Moon Farm a couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend who I ride in Jim Wofford clinics with a lot - she asked if I have a plan for moving up to Prelim in the spring. I stumbled all over my tongue, and finally spat out, "I have several plans - but I'm not telling any of them!" Apparently I was very funny because several people standing around laughed very hard. Ha ha.

Almost a year ago, my friend Abby posted an excellent blog about the practical questions we should ask ourselves about picking a move-up event - I just re-read it, and found it as well-said as I did a year ago! Here's to Abby (and me!) making good use of all this planning in 2011!

As Katchi is coming back into work and we're about 4 months away from our first planned horse trial of the season - the inevitable, when (and where!) should I move up keeps popping into my head. Because it's on my mind, I thought I'd share some comments I've gotten from some of those big name/upper level riders when pushed a little further than "it depends".

Jim Wofford -
When I was thinking about moving Katchi up to Training level, Jimmy and I were discussing when I would know it was time. He already knew what we'd been schooling at home, so his comments were about making a decision using competitions as a guide - Jim said, "you know you're ready when you have a really good competition, and then a couple weeks later at your next show, when you finish walking XC, you feel a tinge of disappointment and think that's all?"

Phillip Dutton -
Just last month, someone asked Phillip the eternal question during the clinic Q&A. After he said, "it depends" - he said he really encourages people not to skimp on their dressage preparation when moving up. It's the one part of the show where you know, with 100% certainty, what you will be faced with. Your horse is going to be a bit unsure of himself in the jumping phases, so don't start your day by rattling him up and losing his confidence in the dressage. Make sure the first phase doesn't knock the wind out of him before you even start jumping! Notice he didn't say you should expect to win the dressage at your move-up event, but it's pretty good advice not to scare your horse in the one phase that should not be a surprise to him! (I already know which prelim dressage test is running at the not-to-be-mentioned possible move-up plan event and Katchi, unknowingly, has been walking the test pattern for 3 days now!)

Boyd Martin -
Boyd told the Eventing Radio Show that taking time to develop your partnership is very important; don't rush it, because the best ones are worth taking your time - "it's not a cheap hooker that you're hiring for the night, it's a long-term partner that you want to be eventing for a long time." (If you haven't met Boyd - you must! I really do want to know - how do people get to be so funny??). More seriously, Boyd went on to describe the move from Training to Prelim as "a bloody big jump" - the biggest change of all the levels. Great. "To be honest, your first prelim, there's no way around it, you're going to feel a little bit out of your depth and you're probably going to be terrified and horrified and have a sleepless night the night before cross country. But it's one of those things that once you get through the first one, the second is a little bit easier. And by the time you do the third and fourth ones you start really enjoying yourself and cruising around. ... You've just gotta try to brave through it without too many complications. ... My basic rule is that you've got to do something badly first. Then once you do it badly, then you get a bit better at it the second time. And by the third or fourth or fifth - or two hundredth time - you start to get the hang of it." No worries, mate. Maybe I should rethink my lessons with Boyd. He might actually be insane. I think I'll go vomit now. (P.S. his interview goes on to include a description of Silva competing Neville at his first horse trial which ended with 200-some XC time penalties which will make you laugh until you cry! Go get a glass of wine and click on the link above!)

Right... focus... back to the eternal dilemma...

Mike Huber -
Now the head of the US team selection committee, I had the good fortune of being under Mike's tutelage for several years as a young rider - bringing 2 horses up through Preliminary level and one to our first One-Star long-format three day under his careful eye. I remember Mike saying many times that moving up isn't about the scoreboard. It's not about winning X number of events. It's not even about time penalties or rails (XC stops - yea, it might be about that!). Mike said some of the very best upper level horses are some of the worst lower level horses. They're bored, or have no respect for the little fences, or can't find a rhythm at the slower paces, or... It's something to keep in mind both ways - 10 blue ribbons does not mean you're ready for the next level. Nor does 10 x 10th place finishes mean you're not ready either. Remember, it depends!

Okay, so there's some input from some big names. Recently, the USEA has also put in place "qualifying ride" requirements before moving up to Prelim and above. I understand why they have created this rule, but Katchi and I have been "qualified" for quite some time, but that was definitely no measure of our readiness to move up. Without a doubt, when a horse and rider are moving up the levels for the first time together, things go slower. When one or the other has some experience under their belt, they can carry their partner along the way until the one's experience catches up to the other. And when your horse is stuck with a rider who spent 10 years away from competition, be aware it may affect your heart more than your head. And, the bottom line is, some partnerships simply take longer to form. It has taken Katchi until this year to really trust me (and Katchi still makes me say grrrr Katchi grrrr sometimes).

By way of "stats" my horses tend to move up pretty quick... once they get to their first horse trial! It takes me freaking ages to get to that first event! I'm sort of a low-risk kinda gal when it comes to this high-risk sport. I want to KNOW our first event will go well - not hope it will go well! Not perfect - but well. As Jim Wofford says, your best defense against nerves (and disaster!) is preparation. And I need a lot of preparation! But as there is so much talk about people moving up too quick, or parking at a level to win ribbons, just remember the reality might be very different than it appears on the scoreboard. Lets take a look at Katchi's stats...

November 2006 - purchased as 5 year old baby, OTTB, with a year in a field as his list of recent accomplishments!

Dressage dressage dressage. Banks; oh, the stories I could tell. Then ditches. Yea, more stories.

Fall 2008 - FINALLY - after 2 years of bumps and bruises - made it to a horse trial! Completed 1 BN & 4 Novices.

Spring 2009 - 3 novices (finished 7th, 17th, & 4th - not exactly a winning streak!)

Summer 2009 - moved up to Training level (completed 3 T events that year; finishing 1st & 4th in the last two - ah, finally finding our niche, I thought!).

2010 - mileage, mileage, mileage at Training level (Big bumps in the road in the spring; trust issues sorted, pick up some real pretty ribbons in the fall!)

2011 - Prelim??

By the numbers, Katchi went pretty quick from BN to T. But after so much time getting to our first event, he needed to get up to Training level before he was at the right level (for him) for meaningful mileage. In another year, we might be accused of camping at the level for ribbons - oh, such pretty ribbons! :) And if we never go Prelim - so what?! Why can't we enjoy eventing at any level we want?? Ribbons included?? My point is - with so much online debate about whether people move up too fast or too slow, I wanted to put out there how much can go into training an event horse before he even makes his competitive debut! Before "anyone who is anyone" knows the horse exists - countless hours go into developing the horse and the partnership. Some horses/riders develop their solid foundation at BN or N - others need to get to T or P before that need for mileage at the level kicks in. And still others, maybe a 4-star rider and a future 4-star horse, might make it all the way to I or A before the challenges are right for them. So, be careful about assessing yourself against the progress of others and about what you assume is going on based only on the scoreboard. Go talk to the horse if you really want to know whether he's ready to move up - Katchi already whispered something about that in my ear, but I won't tell you what he said... not just yet!

So, back to thinking about "the decision" to the "the eternal dilemma" - 4 more months of planning, over-analyzing, and worrying. Excellent.

The cartoons are by Hope Holland - I purchased her greeting cards at Waredaca some time ago, but I've never found any info about her online. If anyone knows more about her cards - I'd love if you'd share! I think they're fabulous!

Monday, November 29, 2010


In the other half of my life - the one where I make money to fund the furry money pit that makes up the horse half of my life... I work in the behavioral and social sciences and have recently been reviewing some work on communications. As I'd rather apply this research to something to benefit my riding, I've been thinking about communication between instructors and riders. In this "science" there is a lot of research about processes to be certain that experts understand what decision makers need and that decision makers understand what experts think they know. Enter the manipulation check (similar to reflective listening) - whereby the listener explains what they've heard the speaker say. This gives the original speaker the opportunity to correct inferences, assumptions, or understandings that might have been manipulated by the listener so that the original intent is not quite preserved. Kind of sounds like what should happen between an instructor and student, doesn't it? (cartoons by Custer Cassidy).

In 2000, I went on an amazing trip to Egypt with my Granny - who was one heck of an awesome traveling companion, until the pasteurized incident. Sitting in a cafe along the beautiful Red Sea, trying to order fruit smoothies with yogurt - my Granny asks the waiter, who speaks NO English, "is the yogurt pasteurized?" He looks at her. She says, louder and slower "PAS-TEUR-IZED" I try to interrupt, but again, even louder and slower... "PAAAASSSS-TEEEEUUURRR-IZED." oh boy. No matter how much louder or slower she was going to get - pasteurized wasn't suddenly going to appear in his lexicon. She was either going to have to use words they might have in common (milk, heat, kill bad things...), or resign to the fact that drink it or not - she was never going to know if the yogurt was pasteurized. So, what does this story have to do with horses? Because every time I hear a screaming instructor, getting louder and slower, I think of my pasteurized Granny! Screaming "ride better" louder and slower is not going to miraculously make me ride better!

A couple years ago, I was working with a dressage instructor who would scream at me - "right seat bone down!" And I would try and try - I would beat myself up during and after lessons, practically in tears - why was I such a failure for not being able to make this simple thing happen? In the midst of this, I read an article in the USDF magazine that said uneven seat bones are often the effect of one overactive (the raised seat bone) leg and one under active leg. Due to several horse-related injuries, my left side is weaker (and lazier). So the more I tried to force down my right seat bone, the higher it got, because in my fight to force it down, I was actually engaging it and making my already over-dominant right leg stronger. I figured out that when I heard "get your right seat bone down", if I would just relax my right leg and activate my left leg, the screaming stopped. This instructor was not wrong in what she saw - but she failed to communicate it to me in a way that facilitated understanding and improved my performance. And I was paying money for this. (Among other things) it was the start of the end of our instructor-student relationship.

After every speech (or lesson), we are taught to ask "any questions?". The answer is almost always "nope, I've got it." Yea, right. Ask them to explain to you exactly what they've learned in the lesson today, and I guarantee you'll find holes. I recently asked a student to relay something I thought ranked up there in difficulty with "what is your name?" But, the student had no answer. Whoa! Really? Seriously? Major communication breakdown! What I thought I'd said to her 100 times apparently didn't get through 100 times. Saying it a different way 1 time was all she needed. Sure am glad I asked that question - finally.

On Saturday, I spent the most wonderful day watching Silva Martin teach. Watching some of the upper level lessons was inspiring, and helped me focus in my own mind where Katchi is headed in his training (and me in my riding). But, I also had an incredible opportunity to watch Silva work with two of my students - Adrianne and Kerry. It was fascinating to hear how she corrected and explained the same things (I think) I've said, but in different words. For a German with an Australian accent - that girl communicates good!! I tell people that Jim Wofford has the most amazing communcation ability - he has a way of saying things so simply. Things you've spent months beating yourself up about suddenly click in your mind, and you start riding like you do in your dreams! And your horse says, geeze, what took you so long to figure that out? When you find an instructor that speaks your language - hold onto them!

And what about our horses? Isn't it the same thing with them? One day we're having a party because the little baby horse finally a managed (a terribly awkward 4 beat) canter! Then some other day down the road, you're asking for engagement from the inside hind, a relaxed topline, and soft connection! To them, you are the expert. Give them time to ask questions. Answer them thoughtfully and constructively. They will reward you 1000 times for it. Just as riding students do for their instructors.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A One-Two Finish at Full Moon Farm

An event season can't end much better than today! If we did such things in eventing, the Golightly gang would be yelling "SCOREBOARD!" to the opposing team all day long!

With Katchi watching the trailer pull out this morning without him (he was SO SO sad and was definitely pouting when I tried to say hello tonight!) - Adrianne and Tori, Kerry and Atticus, and I were off to Full Moon Farm for the last of the flurry of unrecognized-type events of the year. Both ladies were finishing off the season with a move-up; Adrianne to Novice and Kerry to Beginner Novice.

When we arrived, we ran up to show jumping for a quick walk before the first horses came on course - looking at the map to orient ourselves, it hit me - I know this course. Hum, I think, really? Yep, this is the exact same course as Waredaca's October recognized horse trial. Sort of ironic that I got lost TWICE on that course - in the middle of my ride - yet, I take one look at it a month later on paper, and I know it. Can someone shoot me now?

And then the show began with an excellent start for Adrianne in dressage. Kerry was up next - and the devil pony arrived. Not Atticus - but a real devil pony! At least that's what Atticus said. I was trying so hard to help Kerry, but I just couldn't stop laughing - so I abandoned Kerry for a few seconds to catch this video clip. See, it really was a devil pony?! It even had a red bow in its tail - its rider had a matching red bow. Does that mean she kicks too?? I mean seriously, devil-possession aside, is this not the cutest thing ever?!

Anyhow, back to the show - at the risk of spoiling the ending... Adrianne kicked butt, leading her division from start to finish and taking home a pretty blue ribbon and Dover gift certificate! Kerry also kicked (all but one) butt - sitting in 2nd from start to finish and taking home a pretty red ribbon and a Dover gift certificate too!

But the best news was not only that both ladies rode like stars - they learned a lot too!

Adrianne learned:

1. The value of forward: We've been working through some issues with Tori hopping and skipping (and much worse!) mid-course for no apparent reason. Adrianne is really getting the hang of dealing with that FORWARD, and it brought her great success today!

2. The value of sitting back: Almost eating your horse's ears when they take an extra look at the ditch - is no good. I bet Adrianne will never take another ditch for granted!

3. Jumping down hill is easy if you let the horse come all the way to the base of the jump.

Kerry Learned:

1. Atticus is an event horse: This was his second event, and he's figured out this is fun! Which made dressage a bit more challenging as Atticus was already thinking XC! He'll figure it out, but today was tough - and Kerry definitely had her hands full (and that little devil pony did not help!). But, wow, when he hit that XC course - he was a machine! Yea, he's figured this out!

2. Don't pull back going to a jump up hill, especially when the horse is slowing down! I think I was momentarily possessed by that mean little Australian (P Dutty!), because, gee, - there I was yelling at Kerry for just the same thing Phillip yelled at me for exactly a week before! And didn't I feel like a schmuck seeing how blatantly obvious the problem was when you're standing on the ground! Good thing Kerry learned the lesson fast as we were about out of warm-up time!

3. The value of sitting back: I'm detecting a theme here. I guess sometimes you just have to learn it for yourself and then kick yourself a little for being told not to do it in the first place!

Anyhow, it was a great way to end the season - always lots to work on, but also so nice to end the season being really proud of everything you've accomplished over the course of a year!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Katchi and I have been Re-Duttonized. Wow. That about sums up our weekend.

After my really tough show jumping warm-up and round at VA Horse Trials, I was so thankful that Boyd was able to get me going again with a confidence boosting private lesson on Friday. We did some excellent exercises in precision using ground poles and tight turns, combined with gymnastic jumping lines and roll-backs. It was just what I needed to remember that we can jump! Boyd struck just the right balance between getting me going and not wearing us out so we'd be ready for P Dutty!

People say Phillip is quiet - but what he lacks in numbers of words he makes up for 100-times in word choice. He really is exceptional. At the clinic, there were 3 groups (BN - 3 riders; N/T - 2 riders; and Katchi and me in a T/P group with 3 other riders). The three groups were excellently paired in skill, and Phillip found every horse and rider's weaknesses... it happened earlier for some, and later for others... but eventually, we each heard "Come Again." And a few heard "Stop, stop, stop. Come here." I was tremendously impressed with Phillip's ability to create such an individual experience for each horse/rider, despite the group lesson set-up with everyone doing the same lines - yet addressing their own unique needs. He really narrowed in on each horse/rider's strengths and weaknesses and was not satisfied until we really got what he was saying. I was also stunned with his "Jim Wofford-ish" psychic mind reading abilities! More than a couple of times, I found myself sitting on Katchi, thinking "how the hell did he know I was thinking that?!" Not only is he an eventing super hero, he performs jedi mind tricks as well. sheesh.

Click here for more great photos of the clinic by Kasey Mueller!!

Rather than trying to recount all the amazing things Katchi and I learned and did over the past two days, I think I'll just share some of his comments during Saturday afternoon's Q&A (with wine and cheese!) and during the riding sessions - his comments weren't revolutionary. They were grounded in basic horsemanship that works - although he didn't say it, I'll summarize everything he said - "keep it simple, stupid." If you stick with this post to the end - video awaits you!

November 2010 "Phillip-isms"

- Horses at all levels should get a few weeks off each year - even if they don't need it physically, he believes they come back to work mentally refreshed. However, he said each horse will tell you what they need - if you turn them out to pasture for a break, and all they do is stand at the gate waiting for you - put them back to work! And be careful in giving them too much time off so that it takes months to get back a good fitness base - be sure they are exercising themselves in the field while you're not exercising them in the saddle.

- As part of the USET training sessions, Phillip thinks the specialized dressage and show jumping training has been exceptional. However, he said at the higher levels of eventing - dressage specialists have trouble understanding what fitness does to an event horse in an electric environment (like having 25,000 fans in the stadium!). Training at home for big big movement should be done; but at a big event, maybe you can only ask for big movement. With super fit event horses at top events - your first goal probably has to be to calm and soothe - you cannot push a highly fit event horse too hard in an electric environment because they will explode. [From my own eyes at WEG, I was very struck by the difference between the dressage horses and event horses as they left the arena after their tests - almost every dressage horse WALKED out on a free rein despite the crowds going berserk- almost every event horse danced and pranced, lept and bounced, at something between a piaffe and a gallop to relatively quiet applauding crowds. A horse is definitely not a horse.]

- A horse must learn to jump cross country slow before he learns to do it fast. The importance of cross country schooling is to give the horses time to look, understand, think, and learn. On course, adrenaline kicks in and many horses will jump things they haven't really thought about. Eventually, this will catch up to you. Once a solid foundation is formed and the horse moves up the levels - he probably rarely (if ever) needs to school. And the reality is that 4* jumps just can't be schooled - you need to rhythm, adrenaline and flow of the entire course for them to jump right. Woodburn's first XC jump after Rolex in April was on course at Richland Park in August.

- A really well trained horse makes the rider look really good. But the real test of a rider comes when things don't go right - and especially how you train the horse to correct the issue. That's horsemanship. To that end, make every jump count - give the horse every opportunity at every fence to do it right. Pick the right line and the right canter for your horse. A horse that wants to run out left will be turned right "for the rest of his life" - after every fence, after every run out to the left, forever and always until he learns the door to the left is never ever open to him.

- Going fast does not mean the horse is in front of your leg. Running away is a disobedience of its own kind. Many riders do not understand this - they think if they are going fast at a jump, the horse is forward and responsive to the leg - but its not likely true.

- On the danger of long spots: the rider must find a way to train the horse to come in deep to his fences, to rock back onto his haunches, and round over the fences. A horse who continually leaves long will flip over a fence - maybe not today, but someday. As they learn, they may get in deep and stop - but you have to stick with the lesson at every single fence until they learn.

I should have had a notepad with me all weekend to take notes on all of Phillip's clever comments, but this is as good as my memory can do. It really was great stuff & I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have such amazing eyes on the ground helping Katchi and me put our stuff together! And, of course, thanks to my mom for being a great groom and taking the videos below - which will make for excellent winter watching - over and over again! And special thanks to Karen and Amy for putting it all together to let us come play with Phillip - and to Cosequin for BUCKETS AND HATS!
And now the videos...

1) Lesson learned at the coffin: rider pull back, horse no go. rider let go, horse go. Funny that.

2) XC hi-lights! Woo-hoo! We're havin' fun now!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Run Katchi Run Helmet Cam!

This post is coming to you from one state up, Pennsylvania - where it felt like summer today! Lovin' this beautiful weather! I've come up for 3 days at True Prospect Farm for a post-season training camp before Katchi starts a few weeks off. Was able to get a private show jumping lesson with Boyd Martin today, which was fantastic! He immediately narrowed in on some weaknesses in Katchi's training and gave me some good ideas for winter exercises. Tomorrow and Sunday we'll be riding in a clinic with Phillip Dutton - he's moved around and added a lot of fences to his XC course, so I'm excited to try out some of the new challenges since Katchi and I were "duttonized" in summer 2009 (check out the other blog that started it all - Cherie & Katchi Get Duttonized).

BUT - that's not why I'm writing tonight! This post is to share The Run Katchi Run Helmet Cam footage from the Virginia Horse Trials 2 weeks ago. My mom (a HUGE fan of Henny's helmet cams) came along to be my groom (not to mention being the fan club president, chief treat giver, and Katchi's grandma) - and when she heard that Brant Gamma was renting helmet cams for XC - she ran to sign me up! I sort of had mixed feelings about it - but, I am SO glad my mom wanted it so bad, because I LOVE IT! I was worried it might capture foul language and require a "parental advisory" warning on you-tube. But, don't worry -I kept it clean! I was also worried it wouldn't be as "cool" as Henny's camera. But, to me at least, it is! What I didn't realize was how much I would learn from it! XC happens so fast - even at Training level with a time penalty! This has given me an opportunity to take a second look at things - see where and how I lost my lines - see where I wasted precious seconds - and watch Katchi's ears (this is definitely NOT something of interest while riding the course!).

So, here it is - the first ever Run Katchi Run Helmet Cam!! Hope you like! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

WEG Photo Album

I know, WEG's over, but I want to go back! What a tremendous competition - and every time I hate the sitting trot, I think back to how good eventers have gotten in dressage (no matter what those dressage queens said about us!) - and I sit a few minutes longer! Anyhow, I'm collecting pictures from my WEG travel companions, so thought I'd post a few of my favorites from Kerry's sister Christie. She has one heck of a camera and got some great shots on XC day!

Boyd and Neville coming to the sunken road.


I love Comet! An OTTB you know! I read something last winter, shortly after Becky Holder moved to the orange Georgia clay - Comet got himself so orange that they called him "Courageous Cheeto"!!!

Dirk Schrade (Germany) on Gadget de le Cere

I think I mentioned that the WEG shopping was a bit disappointing - this picture (of me & Kerry) represents all things purchased - except for that $15 plastic glass of wine from a hot dog street vendor cart (I'm still stunned). Ariat saved the shopping! They had some awesome attire at normal prices. And credit to the USEF for my hat - love the TeamUSA gear - still wondering why the fashion designer of that line didn't help our eventers with their jog attire!

I've mentioned to several people that I found one jump on XC that Katchi could jump - #7B. So thought I'd post a picture. It's a ditch. We'll pass on #7A and #7C, but if they could just remove #7A, so I could get a nice line, we'll have a go at #7B. :) It's all about consistent little steps in the direction of big goals, right?!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Katchi brings home 3rd place from Area II Training Championships!

The end of the competition season is always a little bittersweet. So many amazing things have been accomplished, but there is still so much work ahead! I enjoy the winter "off" season for the opportunity to focus on specific improvements without the rigmarole of competing - but its also hard to temporarily say good-bye to all the nerves, adrenaline, goals, tests, unexpected challenges, clean/slick/fit horses, and ribbons that come along with competing! This year, more than others, I'm not quite ready to step into the winter training regime, because I'm having too much fun competing!

This weekend, Katchi went to his final 2010 competition - the Area II Training Level Championships at the Virginia Horse Trials. And he came home with a very pretty yellow neck sash/ribbon! He still hates his winner's circles photos, but my mom and I came up with a way to solve the miserable mistreated pony look - just push his ears forward! Kinda cute, eh?!

Over the course of a horse's education, there are many events you enter for lots of different reasons - exposure to competition commotion; confidence builder on a course you've schooled many times before; exposure to new specifics of basic well-schooled questions; test the trust and relationship between horse and rider on a course never seen before with tough questions; evaluation of readiness to move up.... while all those things are in the back of your mind at a Championships - we enter these sorts of events primarily for one reason: success.

I am absolutely thrilled with so many things about this weekend, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a twinge of disappointment. Third place was good - but second is better and first is best! So, what went wrong? Sports psychology, for one thing. Don't have it mastered yet. After an excellent warm-up, a cascade effect of terribleness started about 30 seconds before I began circling the arena. It's not that any single thing that was so terrible - but I let it all get inside my head - and Katchi fell apart because of it. When we finished, I told Katchi that we'd be lucky to be in last place. You could see the tragedy in his eyes - he knew he let me down. And I knew I let him down too. When scores were posted - we were lucky - we sat in 4th - well ahead of last. But, oh what we could have done had we done what we should have done. Ouch. I just kicked myself again. I keep thinking about Boyd going into dressage at WEG when Neville started to have a breakdown when the crowd (small and reserved as it was) went wild just 17 seconds before he had to be in the arena. Silva said that Boyd just about freaked out - 17 seconds to defuse a live animal bomb for the biggest moment of you life! But he didn't freak out - he kept his head in the game; he rode; and Neville flourished. I could take a few lessons from that.

Overall, I couldn't have been happier with Katchi on XC. It was a much harder course than I expected based on what I saw at the spring HT - it was definitely a championship course! We still have some work to do to improve the fluency of our "conversations" on course - especially those involving downhill turns to skinnies. But what a difference in Katchi's confidence and trust in me compared to earlier this year! And we finished just one second over optimum time - which is definitely going in the right direction. The division leader after dressage, Kim Severson, had a stop on XC, so those of us trailing her without other incident, happily moved up a place. Katchi sat in 3rd going into show jumping on Sunday.

I am extremely grateful that Katchi decided to give me his first double clear show jumping round at Training level at this particular event. I am, however, not grateful for the warm-up. I came as close as I have in ages to falling off Katchi when he landed between the front and back rails of the warm-up oxer - both rails still in the cups, and us stuck in the middle. What on earth makes a horse do that?! And then it got worse - I jumped the X and vertical a couple more times to get him going again, and came back to the oxer - he did it again!!! HOLY SHIT! And I was just about out of warm-up time. I scrambled for a plan - Katchi and I were losing confidence fast and he had to relearn how to jump oxers - and fast! My mom raced to put down the oxer to about 2 feet - I went round and round, trotting and cantering it until I had about 30 seconds until it was our go. That was the best I could do - I had to ride the horse I had at that moment.

So into the big indoor coliseum we went - Katchi had never seen such a thing, and I was so thrilled with his professionalism. Unfortunately, we had two more incidents of perfect striding, close my leg, nothing, vomit - but thankfully they were over verticals, and by the skin of his hooves, Katchi left the poles in the cups. I don't know how. It wasn't our prettiest round, but I was thankful for the score. I'm not satisfied with how we kept our 3rd place, but I'm happy that we did! And, it's probably good to be humbled before the winter break - I wouldn't want to be lulled into thinking we have nothing to practice over these next cold months!

Monday, October 25, 2010

With a silver medal on my Jacket...

Tomorrow we're off for the Area II Training Level Championships - my mom flies back in today from California to be my groom for the weekend - but the main reason she's coming back is to go with me to Phillip Dutton's 2-day clinic Nov 13-14 - She LOVES going to Phillip's! I just managed to con her into being my event groom as part of a package deal!

And to send us valiantly on our way, something very special arrived in the mail this week. Katchi and I received our USEA Silver Medal for Training Level. When I sent off the forms a few weeks ago, I thought - well, what the heck, we earned it, we might as well claim it. But, when the certificates and lapel pin arrived, I realized, it really is something special. The USEA went to a lot of effort to make the medal program both achievable and meaningful. It is not a consolation prize and it most certainly represents hard work and success. It's unlikely Katchi will stay at Training level long enough to earn his gold medal - but perhaps we'll make a gold medal at Prelim a long-term goal!

So, with my newly awarded silver medal lapel pin on my jacket, Katchi, my mom, and I are off to the Virginia Horse Center in the morning. The Training Championships is a pretty small class - only 11 entries. It's a little disappointing for my competitive nature, knowing there were 50+ horses in what would have been Katchi's Training level division at AEC's. But I'm sure it will be a great end to our 2010 season!

Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In the midst of the season finale!

I love October. And I really love this October.

Big news first - check out Katchi with his pretty red ribbon he won yesterday at Waredaca!

I feel kinda bad about this picture - Katchi's eye looks like he's in pain! I don't think he likes his winner's circle photos. He works so hard and then I hang some stupid thing off his halter, make him stop eating grass, and try to get him to look excited - he clearly hates it. So what can I do for photographic documentation of his big moments?? I'm open to suggestions!

Anyhow, Waredaca was a great day. I had a crazy early and fast schedule - dressage at 8:48 and entirely done by 10:15!! Thankfully my student Adrianne was able to come with me to help with the quick costume changes! There was still frost on the grass when we arrived. No wonder some eventers are already heading to Florida! Katchi was pretty wide-eyed when we arrived and in walking over to dressage - I have said for years that there is something about Waredaca that unsettles horses. Anyone know anything about Indian burial grounds?? Mercifully, Katchi settled down immediatley when we arrived at dressage warm-up and he was all business - and good business! He led our class of 17 after dressage with a 30.0, our lowest Training level score to date!

After dressage, I let Katchi take a few minutes to look (wide-eyed!) across the XC fields - the last time we competed there, he was so wide-eyed going XC, he nearly fell over his Novice jump that he never even saw. I was not looking for a repeat of that experience. And with barely a moment to think, it was time to jump. Trying not to hold myself accountable for a perfect repeat of our Marlborough perfect show jumping round, I went into the arena full of confidence that we were capable of repeat if we both did our job. And we almost did - well, Katchi did, I didn't quite. I lost my way TWICE on course! What the hell is that all about? After a lovely first 2 fences, I totally forgot I was supposed to make an inside turn to get to the 3rd fence - so I rushed around the wider turn and threw Katchi at the third fence for a rail. Stupid. AND THEN - after the in-and-out at #6 I came around the roll-back turn (wide and long, but still a roll-back) and the jump number wasn't where it had been when I walked the course Friday afternoon! I knew they were going to put up an option so you didn't have to jump the liverpool at #7, but they moved the jump number to the far right side where you could barely see it from the direct line. I always keep a running list in the back of my head of the fence numbers just so I don't stupidly miss one - it's not something I'm really conscious of, but it's there in my head. And when I couldn't find that number I panicked - within 2 seconds, I had panicked, madly looked all over 4 wing standards and poles, finally located the number, the red flag, the white flag, and decided I was okay - but by then Katchi was confused, trotting and lost! And then he proved how freaking wonderful he is! Just feet from the liverpool, I decided I DID want to jump it - so Katchi did. STUPID rider again. Really, I never ever do that kind of stuff. And I'm absolutely kicking myself for not taking one quick look at the course in the morning. Those 2 mistakes cost me 4 jumping faults and 3 time penalties - and I lost Katchi the win he so much deserved!

SJ video below. Still work to do - but we're really getting there now. As my friend, Erin, said yesterday about her own SJ round in the Training 3-day - I finally didn't feel like I was riding a bowling ball around SJ!

XC was brilliant. If you didn't know that Waredaca is a really tough Training level course, let me tell you that of the 17 starters in my division, only 10 finished. 4 riders fell off in XC, and 1 in SJ. Of the 10 that finished, 4 had XC stops. Only 2 went double clear. I was not one. Damn those time penalties - and there you have the second way I lost Katchi's win in one day! We came in 8 seconds over time. I'll spare you the details, but the meter wheel I bought at Fair Hill measured the course 950 meters shorter than it was. So much for that plan. The wheel has been returned. But time penalties aside, I couldn't have been more thrilled with the ride! There wasn't one particular fence I was worried about, but the course overall was a huge test in the horse's confidence and trust in his rider - lots of blind landings and leaps into space. And Katchi didn't blink an eye at a single one. We did have one mis-communication about 1/2 way around the course - after jumping 2 large logs at the top of a MOUNTAIN, landing running downhill (which he was SO cat like at) - you had to run down the hill to a slightly skinny "wedgie" with bright orange flowers all over the top. Katchi just didn't understand he was meant to jump it. We were rolling down the hill great, but I never felt him lock onto it. About 2 strides out, he 1/2 figured it out, and we did manage to jump it - but let me tell you that the pictures GRC captured of it look like I am in the middle of a horror film! Katchi coped pretty well - my face, not cute. It would scare small children.

I also have to extend a HUGE thank you to my student Kerry's mom - who graciously let me borrow her barely broken-in custom Vogel boots that have been living in the closet for over 15 years! Ariat is sorting out what to do about the defective boots I returned to them - but meanwhile, I was left bootless and literally without options! It's so wonderful to have such great people in your life that when a boot crisis hits - multiple people show up with boots in hand willing to let me put my feet in them, potentially tromp around in mud, and run cross country where who knows what might happen to them! Aren't horse people the best?!

I think that about covers Waredaca - so, moving backwards I have 2 other quick updates. On Monday, I had another fantastic lesson with Silva - Katchi is flourishing under her guidance and what fun we have with her! I was quite thankful to keep up a bit better this time - I was seriously sore for 3 days after our last lesson! There were some new folks auditing the clinic, and after my ride, one of them asked if Katchi was for sale! I said I kinda like him and I think I'll hang onto him a bit - the woman said she was looking for a good natured lower level packer. I almost choked! Katchi, a packer?! And then I smiled - because that's about the best compliment any rider/trainer can get. People used to say the same thing about my first event horse, Decker - the one in the videos in the last post. It's funny how people take a snapshot in time and label a horse a packer. Maybe there are some horses who are just born "packers". Others are not. And when you make one who (and let me assure you - several parts of my body can attest to the fact Katchi didn't come to me as some ol' packer!) - anyhow, when you make a horse who quite certainly ain't no born packer - when you make him give that snapshot appearance of being a packer - because he's that relaxed, happy, and confident in his work and his skill - that's what being a horse trainer is all about. Katchi, a packer?! wow.

And the final note of the day - FAIR HILL IN BEAUTIFUL WEATHER! My student, Debi, and I headed out for XC day last weekend - Debi had never been to something of this level before, and it was super fun to see her amazement as we figured out the lines and angles - something that looked pretty do-able from one direction, when you found the related line they would have to take - well, now Debi knows why I'm so relentless about pace and line!

Below is a picture of us at the 2* mushroom coming out of the sunken road. Debi and I decided that when I have my own XC course some day - I need a family of otters and a mushroom patch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thinking about Lexington

WEG has come and gone. It's always a strange feeling when something you have looked forward to for years is over. And I was just a spectator! It's like there's this feeling of absence over what's next? But what an amazing trip with such amazing friends! And special thanks to my mom for financing the adventure and for being a great travel partner! Lets do it all over again next week (this time we'll smuggle in our own food and booze!)

Several people have asked me what happened to my final WEG post - other than hitting some roadblocks getting the last pictures together due to cameras being dispersed across the country and my own technological lack of prowess... and, well, what can you say about Team USA's final day? If you haven't seen it, Jim Wofford's last blog entry for Practical Horseman was heartbreaking. When Boyd put in his double clear round, the crowd went absolutely bizerk! FINALLY the eventing fans showed up the dressage fans! 30,000 feet stomping the metal stands and cheering for AN EVENT RIDER - while he blew kisses to his fans (I was waiting for young girls to start fainting a la Elvis Presley!) - it put chills up my spine (which also could have been the result of freezing my ass off, despite 10 layers of waterproof clothes). It was spectacular to be part of that crowd - can you imagine how it must have felt to be on your horse in the center of all that? And then the dream of a medal was gone.

Since making a 9AM trip to the ghetto Lexington liquor store on Monday morning (SERIOUSLY - who buys "horse piss beer" and 4 bottles of Maker's Mark at 9AM on a Monday - damn horse tourists). Anyhow, since starting the drive home, I've been thinking a lot about natural mistakes that are part of a solid learning process, bad luck, and excuses. If you've picked up on any theme in reading my blog entries, it should be - eventing is hard! There are 1001 ways to mess up. And when all 3 phases come together for you in a single day (or 3 days!) - it's got to be nothing short of a miracle! But, we don't train for hours and hours on end, in hope of a miracle. We train to be better than that - no matter what level we're competing at - BN or 4* - it's all the same. So where and when does one draw the line between learning, luck and excuses? Becky and Kim hit some seriously bad luck. I don't think Karen or Buck would account their stops to learning, luck or excuses - but something was terribly off in both their rides. Karen came right in front of us 2 fences before Mandiba's stop - her face said it all. She was not happy with whatever conversation she and Mandiba were having or not having on the course at that time. She really shook him up in the rollback turn, and I thought - oh yea, Karen's in the game, she's got him now, they're good. But 2 fences later, disaster. Why?

Watching these heartbreaking moments when everything slipped away in just a fraction of a second - I've been thinking a lot about my own eventing season over MUCH SMALLER fences! I know - what the hell does WEG have to do with my Training level events? It's made me think about that line between learning, luck and excuses. Every eventer knows that BN, N and T provide great learning opportunities for horses - we expect them to make mistakes and learn. But for how long? It certainly depends on the horse and the rider. And when they move up to P, I and A - they'll make more mistakes and learn more lessons. That's one of the things I absolutely love about working with horses - they think and they learn, and if you teach the lessons right, they get more confident and they just become amazing - and they take us with them! But when does letting the horse learn become an excuse for a lacking performance? Does it ever? Horses never really stop learning, do they? But at every level, we eventually start to hold them accountable for not making mistakes - if you've been doing BN 10 years and your horse decides to stop at a simple log - that makes you really really angry. I have a feeling Karen and Buck feel that way right now - multiplied by 1000. Anyhow, I don't have an answer - but I'll be thinking about it if I ever get another stupid XC time penalty at Training level (they stop NOW, really!).

Anyhow - if you haven't given up reading this blog yet, I'll reward you with pictures and video!

While we were on Jimmy's XC course walk, he took everyone over to the wishing well corner combination, #8, for sentimental reasons - he said it was the only remaining fence from the 1978 World Championships. It got me thinking - I think I've jumped that jump! So when I got home, I went digging through old videos, and sure enough - I have video proof that in 1992 I jumped the option of 8A or 8B (can't tell which side of the well we jumped!) of the 2010 WEG XC course! There wasn't a corner appendage back then, but it was still a big wide wall with a lot of rocks and cement. I was at the Kentucky Horse Park for Pony Club Championships and Festival with the first horse I took from Novice to Prelim - Decker. Yea, I can hear Jimmy yelling at me for making too big of a move with my upper body - but, it was a big jump and I got excited! :) So here's my 15 seconds of 2010 WEG fame, that happened over 15 years too early!
And here is Mark Todd standing in front of that same jump - 2010 Mark Todd that is.

And now that I've figured out how to put old videos into youtube (watch out world - I have hours and hours of old videos living under my bed!) - here is my very favorite video clip. Not because I was so spectacular - quite the opposite actually. Still in1992 in Kentucky - take a minute out of your life to watch me fall off Decker at the Head of the Lake - which is a bit fancier these days (nope, didn't get wet)! I really don't like falling off and I try very hard not to - which you can probably see by the way I attached myself to poor Decker's face rather than hit the ground! Lesson learned - never assume your horse's feet are coming up the bank with you! And, yes, I realize I screamed like a girl. What can I say? I hope it makes you laugh! It makes me laugh every time I hear it! Check out how deep the water was back then - Jimmy always talks about how shallow water jumps are now - geeze, he really is right!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Yet another night of total exhaustion - had the best day! I love XC day!! Other than the TOTAL muck up of the food situation this morning (good planning, WEG), I only have one complaint for the day- I was a disappointed with the crowd (and there was a huge crowd!) - lots of cheers for USA and Canada, and of course all the favorites in the likes of Mark Todd, Mary King, William Foxpitt - but, to let any rider go past you, over those HELLA HUGE AND HARD jumps, and not cheer on the horses and riders from every country - I was disappointed in the crowd. But, even if it was a bit quiet, it was an absolutely spectacular day and I especially enjoyed chatting with so many eventers from around the country and world! Eventers really are cool people! So, minimal commentary on this post today - just photos from yesterday and today. After the XC was over, we spent some time crawling around the WEG jumps - wow, wow and wow!

The Saturday crowd -

Rolex Keeper's Brush (not on the WEG course - I think it was too small for WEG!)

The Snail & Squirrel! (front and back sides!)

ENORMOUS table at #19. We found several skid marks across the top of its nearly 6 foot wide top, but my favorite was the perfect hoofprint (complete with a little grass) just on the far endge of the top. I did find it quite curious there were no dents from studs?!

The goose at the head of the lake - is that a goose? duck? Water fowl?

As we walked out of the park tonight, I noticed the show jumping course was being set up. I walked a few feet into the stadium to sneak a peek and check out the footing. It was like walking on air. And the jumps look stunning. It must be the most amazing feeling to ride into that stadium on Sunday, knowing you just survived one of the toughest courses in the world the day before - go Eventers (and their ponies!!).

And, to end, we did our own re-take of the Ariat FREE photo - this time, you get to see the entire jumping horse, not just his (gelded) family jewels!

Final words: When Jim Wofford was asked yesterday during the course walk if he had any advice for riders who aspire to this level, he said "Experience is something you get right after you need it. So start getting some."