Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Love Surprises

Don't you just love surprises?! When something totally unexpected, but really cool just lands at your doorstep - literally! I got home this afternoon from a very hot morning of riding, and a stop at Sam's Club to purchase almost $150 of water and gatorade (no joke - toilet paper and kitty litter also snuck into my cart, but it was so heavy with water by the time I checked out, I could hardly control the cart and was a danger to small children and snacking patrons - really, have you ever noticed how much people eat while they shop?!). Anyhow... I got home from my HOT morning, and was gathering up the mail. I turned over the Potomac Valley Dressage Association (PVDA) newsletter, and WOW! There's Katchi and me gracing the cover of the newsletter! (It's not posted online yet, so I scanned the cover and posted below.) I do feel really bad for poor Katchi though - my little off-the-track thoroughbred eventer looks so miserable in the picture - definitely NOT a dressage queen!! But, it should give any horse person a good laugh - oh, the words Katchi had for me! Despite Katchi's lack of enthusiasm, what a great honor and surprise to be in print!

If you haven't checked out my favorite website, now is a great time to do it! Go to I'm addicted. This weekend is Rebecca Farm's horse trial in Montana, and thanks to Eventing Nation, I have learned this is one hell of an event! First of all, they chartered a plane from Baltimore to take out about 15 East Coast horses - it was called Air Horse One. LOVE IT! Then they used a helicopter to film the entire cross country course for all us wanna-be's to check out! Seriously, NBC and Rolex - get with the program! Where's your helicopter?? (Okay, I just learned it was a remote controlled helicopter with a camera that did the cross country film; not a real helicopter - well, that's pretty cool too.) My prediction - we might very well see Rebecca Farm as the next host of the AECs.

And speaking of the AECs, I might as well announce that I am 99% sure I have decided to opt-out this year. It's been a hard decision (getting qualified ain't exactly a gimme), but I believe it's right to sit it out this year - and a consolation prize presented itself this week, so I'm feeling pretty good about it all. My last big event as a young rider was at Carl Bouckaert's North Georgia Three Day Event - my horse, Telly, and I did the one-star long format there, and wow - what a place! Apparently a divorce brought North Georgia to an end, but Carl's new farm, Chatahoochee Hills, may be even bigger and better! I am just dying to see it! But, the reality is that I'm faced with choosing vacation time off to compete or vacation time to get better. I choose to get better. I have some big goals over the next few years, and as hard as it is in the moment, I'd rather put my time, money and effort into those bigger goals. Meanwhile, Area II announced a change in the Area Championships qualification date range - which works out perfectly in my favor! Katchi and I are now qualified! And one day off work to get to the Virginia Horse Center is a whole lot better than 5 to get to Georgia (if my faithful wonderful and OLD truck would even make it that far!). It will be a nice end to the season to go to a destination event, ride a championship course, and still have vacation time and money left over to get my butt kicked by Silva, Boyd and Jimmy on a regular basis!!

Tomorrow I head off with 2 students for a local combined test - this will be Kerry's first dressage test, and Debi is going with a mission to show her horse how not-scary show jumps are! I predict it will be a great day for both of them! Good thing I bought $150 of water today - we may drink it all tomorrow!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Still Lovin' Loch Moy

Phillip Dutton posted in his WEG blog last week that someone had calculated that he jumped 382 fences last week at the Maryland Horse Trials. 382 jumps in a single weekend. The week before, Boyd had told me I needed to jump 500 fences just like I did in his clinic- then the memory would kick in when things started to go wrong at a show, and it would just work out. I jumped 20 on Friday. 480 to go. Okay, but seriously, 382 fences in a single weekend. wow.

Okay, anyhow - MY Loch Moy (all 30 jumps of it) was fantastic! But, let me start with how we got there this week. Last Sunday, Katchi and I took 3 students out to an An Otherwise Perfect Farm for XC schooling. What a beautiful day!!! We spent about 3 hours schooling, and then sat around for another hour eating watermelon and chatting. It was a simply lovely day! Katchi didn't jump anything substantial - but jumped everything he likes to look at. His lesson of the day was: Look AND jump! We did it over and over and over again - banks, ditches, all sorts of jumps into the water, and the trakahner too. Over and over and over again. Meanwhile, Kerry took her horse out for his 3rd XC school - I just started helping Kerry a few months ago, and we've spent the past 2 months revamping her dressage work, so it was really fun to see the results on the XC course. She even tackled her first set of steps down - three of them! They were each only about 12 inches tall, but no easy task!! They also really helped Debi who has been struggling with her upper body on the stride after stepping down a bank - those triple steps made her figure out real quick how to stay back! And, Adrianne who was headed to Loch Moy yesterday for her first recognized event, set out to do anything similar to her course (we had the benefit of walking it the week before as the courses would not change between Maryland Horse Trials I and II). It was a great day for all!

On Wednesday, Adrianne and I had dressage lessons with Silva, which were fantastic! I was so pleased to have Silva push Katchi and me in the areas she saw as weaknesses at Ride for Life - Katchi is just getting better and better (and me too, a little anyhow). I've been helping Adrianne with her horse, Tori, a lot the past few weeks after I rode her in a lesson with Silva about 2 months ago - we've really been trying to do our homework. And it paid off! Adrianne had a stellar lesson, and she couldn't be more pleased with her beautiful horse!

And then it got hot again, and we headed off to Loch Moy for the Maryland HT II. Here are a few pictures of "Camp Golightly"... notice Katchi (who I have just let go to take these pictures - I figured there wasn't much risk of him running away) is fully engaged in checking out the 'buffet of goodies' under the tent. HUGE thank you to Adrianne for bringing the tent!!

Katchi's dressage test was good, but stiff - he still has some lingering knots from his fall in the field, and I don't ride him as soft and loose as Silva can! But it was a good test, putting us tied for 4th, out of 20. But, my real test of the weekend was show jumping. I had hoped Boyd Martin would be able to help me warm-up, but our ride times didn't work out. He said next time - you can bet I'll take him up on that! I tried so hard to 1) not critique my ride in the middle of it (thank you Jimmy), and 2) keep Katchi engaged behind and off his forehand (thank you Boyd). Our round was not perfect - but it was so much better! I'm even being brave enough to post the video here. We still have work to do, but I'm confident it's going in the right direction.

Super pleased with my toughest phase, Katchi and I headed out on XC. It was the easiest and best ride I've had on him!!! He was spectacular - back to the horse I expected to start the season off with. There is only one jump I would like to have jumped a little differently - that was the bank out of the last water. Katchi was just starting to get a little tired, and I didn't hold my line as well as I would have liked. It worked out fine, but it is the one I'd do different if I could. Not too bad for 19 numbered fences. And I couldn't have been more proud at his confidence - every fence I pointed him at, he just sorted out the question, and said "yea, okay, check, got it." Even the very tough roll top, 2 strides, to down bank that I watched a number of horses stop at. I let him trot the roll top, but he never even thought about not going. It was as smooth and easy as could be. To be honest, crossing the finish flags, I was a little disappointed - it was too easy. Hum, maybe I can start thinking about the Prelim checklist again. Oh - results... well, we finished in 8th. I couldn't get my watch to start as I headed out on the XC course, and ended up just 5 seconds over the optimum time. Pretty impressive for my ability to gauge pace, but those 2 time penalties cost us 5 places - yes, 5 places!!!! I hate when scores are that close.

Here's poor tired Katchi at the end of the day (who, incidentally, went galloping off into his field at 10 o'clock Saturday night when I let him loose - yea, real tired.)...

Next up was Adrianne - despite one error in her dressage test, she still scored a very respectable 31.5. With a double clear show jumping and XC, she ended up in 4th place!! Not too shabby for her first recognized event! And the best part was that Tori just ate up the cross country course! For a clyde-thoroughbred cross that we normally have to kick on a bit, Tori just tackled the course! Adrianne had to ask her to slow down to make it over the minimum time fault! And Tori just attacked every jump presented at her - she's figured out what XC is all about - and she thinks it's FUN!

Here are a couple pictures of Adrianne and Tori, all braided and posh!

When I started eventing on the East Coast, having evented as a young rider on the Area V circuit (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, etc...), the most disappointing thing for me was the relative lack of camaraderie among the average eventer. Of course, all the big name professionals know each other - but then there's the rest of us. We pull in, ride our 3 phases, and go home. In Texas, it was a 3 day affair - arrive on Friday, ride, hang out, go out to dinner, compete Dressage and Show Jumping on Saturday, hang out, go out to dinner, compete XC on Sunday, cheer all your friends on, then pack up and head home. You almost always had tons of friends cheering for you as you went around XC - and we all knew each other! There would almost never be someone I didn't know in the stables - and if I didn't know them, that didn't last long! Yesterday's event was the first time I really felt eventing camaraderie everywhere I went! I ran into so many people that I have met over the past few years - at clinics, shows, ugly sweater Christmas parties... I even ran into a fellow camper from Phillip Dutton's camp last summer who went back to camp this year - we were in the middle of walking the sj course, and I wanted to start crying when she told me how great camp was this year! It made me SO sad to hear she had gone back and I'd missed it all - next year, I hope. (by the way, thank you to everyone who got my attention to say hello! And sorry that I was off in another world and didn't see you first!). But the very best moment of the weekend was Shane!!! I was walking back from my dressage test, quite frustrated and wondering if Katchi was really okay or if he's just the kindest horse in the world to keep on trying despite knots in his neck. And I hear, "Cherie, Cherie" from across on the other side of Katchi. I'm looking around, not recognizing anyone, and thinking - I know it's hot, but I really shouldn't be hallucinating! Finally, I see where the "Cherie"s are coming from, and then I start thinking - damn, who is she, who is she??? - and Shane says, "Hi, I follow your blog!" WOW!!! How fun is that?!?! Eventers really are the coolest! So great to meet you Shane, and I hope to see much more of you in the future as you get your horse going! And thanks for sacrificing yourself to the heat to jump judge for those of us insane enough to be out there - including those who jumped 382 fences over the weekend! And, while I'm saying thanks - Maryland Horse Trials did something super cool this year - they had about 5 young kids on hand in the cooling tent to help sponge down horses after cross country! Not only did they provide the water and ice (which, didn't stay ice for more than about 2 minutes), they provided people! The numbers dwindled by the end of the day, but there were still 2 loyal kids there when Adrianne came off the XC course at 6:00, and we gladly put them to work. And, two final thank you's - one to Adrianne's great friend Maritza (pictured below), who had no idea what the heck Eventing was - but who came out and went nuts cheering us on!!! She also opened the bottle of the wine at the end of the day, so we will all be eternally grateful. And the final thank you is to my student and great friend Debi, who was groom extraordinaire (and videographer extraordinaire). Debi kept us hydrated, focused, and on time all day - we couldn't have done it without you!

And the next question: To AEC, or not to AEC? Entries open July 27. But I'll save those thoughts for the next posting.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's only been 2 weeks since Ride for Life - but I'm an entire year older! Last week, I turned 33. wow - where does the time go? Despite the onset of mild depression as the longest day of the year has come and gone, and I can feel the morning sunlight coming later and later, minute by minute... I still had a wonderful birthday - largely to the credit of several students and friends who hosted a birthday dinner, complete with candles on a cake! Thanks!!!

There is something about birthdays that gets you thinking. About everything. But especially about the path you're on and the path you want to be on. Not always an easy task. I don't have any answers... yet.

I had a pretty cool unexpected birthday gift last week - I'm in "print" - well, online print anyhow! I went to the Win Green web site to take a look at some of their cross country jump pictures (if you haven't checked out or schooled their course - do! It's absolutely fantastic!)
When I clicked on the first page of their jump pictures, I did a double-take. Hey! I know that horse! Hey! I know that rider! I couldn't believe my eyes - but there was a picture of me and Katchi jumping over one of their new jumps! I stole the picture and posted it below. It was taken in April at the Lucinda Green clinic. It's not exactly like being put on the cover of the Chronicle of the Horse or the USEA's Evening magazine - but I was pretty excited to see Win Green had selected a picture of me to advertise their wonderful new big log jump! It's the little things in life!

Katchi also gave me a "gift" last week. And I'm still mad at him! He was showing off in the field (acting like a stupid idiot - sorta like, "hey mom, look! no hands!"). And what happened? He fell down. Right in front of me. Splat. He didn't stumble. Nope, it wasn't that simple. All 4 legs went right out from under him and he fell on his side making a 'thump' like I have never heard before. He flailed around a bit, got up, looked around, and ran away. I stood there, with my mouth open in total shock. There were a bunch of small children and parents around when it happened - they were horrified as well. Luckily, no permanent damage seems to be evident. But he's stiff, sore and knotted. Even my amateur hands I can find the knots - they're that bad. Courtney came out on Thursday and gave him a massage - her evaluation sheet was frightening! Knot, sensitive, big knot, knot, big knot, sensitive... Hopefully we are on the road to recovery, but what an idiot! I just want to shake him.
In the midst of all this, we managed to survive 100+ degree heat during our Boyd Martin clinic on Wednesday. Katchi couldn't bend so good, but he jumped like a champ. And the most exciting part of the clinic was when Boyd hopped up on Katchi! I was talking to him about some of the issues I'm trying to work through with my position, Katchi's balance, and his enormous jump. Boyd asked if he could have a go on him - and I ran for the video camera! There's a clip below. Seeing how well Katchi jumped for Boyd, it definitely shows me how much I have to work on. It's both exciting and frustrating. There's obviously hope for Katchi - but what about me?!

Today I spent the day as a dressage steward at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy. What a great day! My student Debi was also a dressage steward, and another student, Adrianne, was on golf cart duty! I've been a steward at dressage shows before, but this was way more fun! Eventers are just fun! A few months ago, Adrianne asked me about the benefits of recognized shows versus unrecognized shows. I had several answers, and it took me a little while to figure out my real answer. It's about bringing your A game because you're surrounded by the best of the best in the sport - even if they're riding Novice! I had so much fun today watching and chatting with the stars of eventing. They work amazingly hard and still manage to be so nice and hilarious! I'm still laughing at some of their antics with each other in the warm-up! And the best part is how supportive they are of each other - but, don't get me wrong, there was one SERIOUSLY competitive novice division today!! I walked the Training course when I was done with my volunteer duties - really sad I won't be riding it tomorrow! I thought it was going to be harder - but it looked great - including the new 2 steps down which showed up on the T course! Am really looking forward to seeing what they do with the course next week and to hopefully having a go at those steps!