Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Out and About in Maryland

Original text deleted - now a real post...

The Golightly Gang has been all over Maryland the past 10 days - working hard and kickin' butt! As I mentioned in my last post, I had 2 students entered in the combined test at Equilibrium Horse Center. Again this year, it kills me that they run a 2' jumping course paired with the Novice dressage test - HELLO?! Do they not realize there is a Beginner Novice level to eventing? That being said, they always run a really nice and friendly day - and we love Aviva Nebesky as a dressage judge - she is so helpful and takes the time to speak (at length!) with every rider. Just what a schooling show is supposed to be.

Anyhow, Debi won her class which is a fantastic lead-up to her FIRST recognized USEA event in a couple of weeks at Difficult Run. Last winter, Debi and I spent hours (in the cold!) completely fixated on fixing her jumping. We went over-and-over-and-over the basics and Debi suffered through jumping without reins, jumping on the lunge, posting without stirrups, eyes closed over cavelletti... that takes a lot of guts for someone who is, well, she's not a teenager! And for all her hard work, she is a new rider with a new horse. Debi came out of her jumping round and said, "well, wow, that was nice - that was almost, um, hunterish?!". No more bolting at the jumps, flailing about, a quick run-out and Debi on the ground!! Nope, it was "hunterish" and we loved it!

Meanwhile, Kerry, who I've only been working with a couple of months - took home a pretty red ribbon at her first combined test ever - which included her first dressage test ever! The first time I worked with Kerry, we went out XC schooling. She has a beautiful big moving horse, who pretty much went sideways the entire XC outing. As I'd never seen them in the ring, I assumed this was an 'excited to be out in the open and jumping weird logs' thing. Nope, it was a dressage thing. As fate comes at you in weird ways sometimes - Kerry got a bit banged up when her horse fell down FOR THE SECOND TIME in a week. I wasn't there for either fall, but I know one thing - horses do not just fall down (with the exception, apparently, of Katchi when he has a tantrum in the field). So, we started with the simplest answer first - feet. A change in farrier seems to be all that was needed. Meanwhile, as Kerry recovered, I spent some time sorting our her horse's dressage work. Sometimes a mandatory dressage focus and walking lessons are the best thing that can happen to you - but one that isn't on the top of most people's list of "great fun with a horse." Since I turned the reins back over to Kerry, she and her horse have improved more than many people do in a lifetime! I predict her red ribbon is the first of many more ribbons to come for this pair!

And then it was a Golightly getaway to a Jimmy clinic! I had 3 students ride in the Beginner Novice group, so we all took a vacation day from work and made a holiday of it! I was so proud of the girls' riding - and it was a tremendous opportunity for me to hear what Jim Wofford had to say to MY students! We learned a few things - Adrianne forgets to breathe (hum, isn't that a basic survival instinct?!); Debi gets nervous and looks anywhere but the jump (jumping works much better if you know where the jump is!); and Kerry, a former hunter rider, never knew to look at anything but the treetops (but at least her horse doesn't come at jumps sideways anymore)! As these 3 rode in the first group, they spent the afternoon in the shade enjoying a picnic (with Sangria!). I decided against turning up for my ride time with Sangria on my breath. I wonder what Jimmy would have said to that!?

And as for my ride with Jimmy - I think the video below speaks for itself. It was excellent. I had to suffer through one of Jimmy's clever little tricks though. At the start of the lesson, we were speaking about my continued struggle in staying up over my knees in the air over fences. It's not a weakness in my lower leg; because my leg is right where it needs to be. I just don't get up in the air. So Jimmy fixed me. He's done this to me before, but it has been a few years. Hard to describe, but he wrapped my reins around Katchi's neck like a figure eight. So I had to hold onto two pieces of the rein with each hand - it basically creates a neckstrap with the reins. I do wonder who came up with that idea the very first time - "hey, schmuckatello, let me try something!" But I stayed with the motion over every jump - and Katchi was so grateful! Even when he did one of his humungo jumps over an oxer - I was right there with him. I was stunned.

And then it was Olney HT. I had planned on giving Katchi a week or two off in August and not competing at all this month, but he's given himself so much time off already this year, I cancelled his vacation. Olney and Fair Hill (which we head to on Saturday) were also my last 2 chances to decide whether AECs should be on the calendar for this year. I knew when I sent in my entries that there was a good chance I would scratch or withdraw at some point due to heat or footing or both. But, August is turning out to be a better month for eventing than May, June or July!! The weather was beautiful at Olney, and it rained so well the night before that the footing turned from horrendously hard to pretty acceptable. I didn't decide whether I was going to run XC, however, until after SJ. After a clear SJ round - which was not perfect, but much better - Katchi felt really good and seemed to be okay with the footing. So, I figured I'd head out on XC - I could pull up if he didn't feel right. I just let him cruise around at about 400 mpm, so we racked up some time penalties, but he was brilliant. It was "easy peasy." The course was pretty simple, with the exception of one combination which he almost drug me down to - the coffin complex (pictured below) . Katchi skipped through it like he'd been doing coffins his entire life - and this was the first one he'd seen with all 3 elements and a dip (even if they were quite small - it's still a significant question!).

And, finally, yesterday was a Silva lesson day. We are really pushing Katchi into a new level of his work, and I'm so pleased with his progress! I, however, almost died! I know it was humid, but really?! Is dressage that hard?! We're not exactly doing Grand Prix movements, ya know?! When I went for my run today, I was determined to run longer and faster than normal - I never want another dressage lesson that hard again!!! I come off the XC course in better shape than I was at the end of my dressage lesson yesterday!

So, it's off to Fair Hill on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to a solid 3 phases - Katchi is stronger than ever, and he's ready to kick butt!

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