Thursday, September 30, 2010

WEG Eventing - Day One in Pictures

I promised myself an early night tonight, so just going to post a couple of photos.

The view down my row of seats. Lots of elbow room.

Between dressage rides, we took a quick look at the Head of the Lake - wow! While we were standing around with our mouths open trying to figure out how it was "meant" to be ridden - Karen O'Connor and Mark Phillips came along to take a closer look as well. We couldn't hear what was being said - but the body language was quite entertaining! There seemed to be a bit of debate about the approach to 17A - and to give you an idea of the precision required, when Karen moved her proposed line just one inch, Mark shook his head "no, no" - grabbed her shoulders and moved her back an inch!!! ONE INCH! I hope Karen tells Mandiba how important that inch might be!
Photo below - Karen standing on the top of the bounce "irish bank" out of and into water. Mark Phillips in background (only Karen got her boots wet!)

At the end of the day, we took a walk down to visit the Man o' War statue - walking towards it, I was totally struck by the sign below. Katchi and I are going to have to have a talk about his issue with getting a nice 12' stride between fences!!!

This next photo shows the distance of 28 feet - it's longer than you might think. And the thought of riding a horse where one stiride is 28 feet... wow.

Tomorrow we'll be going on the Practical Horseman course walk with Jim Wofford, so I hope to post a few videos or at least some entertaining "woff-isms" tomorrow night before the BIG cross country day!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WEG - where are all the people??

And here it is - the first blog from WEG!! We arrived Tuesday afternoon, and after checking into the hotel, headed over to the International Horse Festival (or something) at the convention center downtown. The phrase I heard over and over was "where are all the people?" Everyone wanted to know when the people would come. The funny thing is - now, having been to WEG one day - the shopping was better at the convention center, and I might even have to go back! We didn't buy anything at WEG today, and other than a cooling vest - which is AMAZING and on show special - I don't have a whole lot I'm interested in buying. And $15 for a glass of wine from the equivalent of a hot dog street vendor cart - well, that just seems a bit ridiculous!!! But, I won't complain - because the competition is everthing we imagined it would be and MORE! We attended the eventing jog and both sessions of dressage today. Both were amazing - amazing - amazing! So, I promised I wouldn't type much, but would focus on pictures this week, so here we go...

At the eventing jog - not that I'm exactly a fashionista, but the Canadians won my fashion award of the morning. I totally LOVE their white jackets - wow, those girls looked sharp!

I also heard a lot of "where are all the people" at the jog this morning too. But, for what we lacked in numbers, we made up for in enthusiasm - and Canadians had the most fans too! And "the people's horse" - RUN HENNY RUN - got probably the second loudest cheers of the day after his approval (only second to Neville Bardos, who was very naughty and had to trot again - the entire crowd was holding their breath that he would pass after the second trot - and he did! see video below).

Photo of the first row of spectators -

It was very amusing to watch several of the horses slam on the brakes and practically have to be drug to the end of the trot-up lane - when the cameras started clicking away, right at their face - several of the horses said "REALLY? - I'd like to see you make me go over there!"

And then we were off to dressage. Upon walking into the main stadium, 2 things struck me: 1) the number of empty seats, and 2) the distribution of the seats sold to people. I have so many things to say about how this whole ticket thing has worked out, but I think this photo pretty much says it all. They pretty much sold out one section of tickets and that was all! The good thing is that the volunteer event staff was awesome - so nice and helpful, and they let us sit anywhere we wanted! Which definitely worked out in our benefit, because the seats they sold us 2 years ago were sorta shit!

But watching this level of dressage was worth every bit of shitty seats, extortionist prices, and general pain in the ass arrangements. I took a few video clips, but not much - I figure it's all out on tv/web someplace already, and I just wanted to sit and enjoy it all. Let me just sum up Edward Gal's ride on Morlands Totilas - his final passage received a 10 from 4 judges and a 9 from the 5th judge. And it was stunning - and then the crowd went bananas! Did you know that dressage fans can go bananas?! They did and it was very very cool!!

We got 2 free things today. 1) A very cool hat from the race track in Dubai. 2) a free photo from Ariat. They had this super cool set-up with a show jump and HUGE image of a horse jumping over it - they gave you FEI medals to wear and clicked a free photo for you. I just downloaded ours, and well, you get what you pay for, don't you. Sorta assumed it would have been a portrait aligned photo so the super cool jumping horse might be in the photo. Nope. But, we did get a nice picture of between his back legs - too bad it wasn't a stallion - at least that would be funny!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Step by Step - off to WEG!

Boyd Martin posted a picture on his blog today - it shows him with a Mexican rider at WEG. In 2007 they finished last and second to last at their respective horses' first three-star event at Jersey Fresh. It just goes to show that you never know what the future may hold - especially if you have the passion and determination to be brilliant... someday!

Meanwhile, the Golightly gang is working step-by-step towards our own level of brilliance! On Saturday, Adrianne, Debi and I (with Kerry and my mom as water girls, film crew, and EMTs) enjoyed this insanely HOT fall weather on the Marlborough XC course. The folks at Marlborough graciously granted Katchi a free go around as a consolation prize for the "golf cart incident" - they promised there were no golf carts on course this weekend, so we were off to a good start! Actually, all 3 of us had a great day. Debi followed up her Beginner Novice win by tackling quite a few Novice fences, with equal success. Adrianne tackled Tori's up-bank (and down bank!) demons - and won - as well as several Novice fences too. It's such fun to see these two ladies and their horses really embracing the challenge of eventing and the confidence that comes with success!

And then there was Katchi, who continues to to become more and more brilliant with each go. Something has clicked for him this year, and he's taking on every new challenge with confidence and ease - like he's been doing it his whole life! He jumped his first prelim corner, straight as an arrow, like it was a simple cross rail! There will be more bumps in the road as we put our eyes on the upper levels, but I sure am enjoying the journey right now!

And speaking of journeys, my mom and I depart for WEG at o'dark thirty on Tuesday morning. So, the next post will be from Kentucky! I'm hoping to do a couple of photo updates during our 6 days there - I know all the news will be covered by "real" websites, but I hope to share some views of non-media interests (like shopping, Kentucky bourbon tasting, food, and did I mention SHOPPING?!).

And to end this post with a couple of photos - I mentioned before about the scary as $%&! trakhaner on the Marlbourgh course - after we finished our school, we took a little detour to introduce the Beginner Novice horses to their future and let Katchi see that ditch he sailed over last weekend! They were too funny sniffing and checking it all out - if horses could talk, that would have been a priceless conversation! We had finished schooling, we got off and drug them over to peer into this ditch - I can imagine Katchi chatting away about how brave he is, while the BN girls roll their eyes at his machismo ranting! I don't care how well it rode, that was one tough Training level trakhaner and Katchi has the right to brag to anyone he wants!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rosaryville Rollercoaster

I've been trying to think about how to summarize yesterday's Marlborough Horse Trials at Rosaryville Park - but the day was too bizarre - amazingly fantastic and extraordinarily sad. There is no way to summarize it. So, I'll just start from the beginning...

Katchi had Tori as his trailer-mate, which caused a bit of a ruckus for both horses this time around. They traveled together to Loch Moy in July, and were perfect angels - separating for their competition times and being entirely professional. At the end of the day, I felt a bit ridiculous for being so obsessive with the careful choreography of distracting and separating them. I wasn't so vigilant this time around, which was definitely a mistake. Katchi hollered through a good deal of his dressage warm-up, but put in a solid test, putting us tied for 3rd out of a class of almost 20. He hollered once during the free walk - but I think the entire park exploded in whinnies as I started to let my reins out, so I guess I can forgive him. But the test definitely had the slight feel of riding dynamite.

Debi and Adrianne had their dressage rides at nearly the same time I was in the show jumping ring and off to XC. So, I only got to watch a bit of their warm-up and rides from a distance. But, with Adrianne winning the dressage (YEA!) and Debi just 3 points behind her and tied for 4th (out of 11) - they clearly held their own! Meanwhile, Katchi put in the show jumping round of his life - I had to hold back the tears as I came out of the ring!!! Even with 4 jumping faults (a very unlucky rail at the first) and 4 time penalties (that's what I get for trotting to change leads 3 times) - I must have been the happiest rider in the entire show coming out of show jumping! Yesterday was the first time I didn't feel like I was riding a llama around show jumping - it's been getting better and better - but yesterday was THE ROUND. That was it - that was show jumping - Katchi was perfect. Really, I almost cried - I was that happy! Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch, so I have no video proof of our fabulous-ness!

Circling the XC start box, the starter says "hey, didn't I just see your photo on the cover of the PVDA newsletter?" Wow! Didn't I feel like a celebrity?! We had a good laugh about the silly photo of an eventer (with wine bottle in hand!) on the cover of a Dressage Queen newsletter! And then it was - 15 - 10-9-8.... and we were off! My plan was to get ahead of the clock through the first 5 fences, and again between fences 8-9-10, knowing that we were spending a good chunk of the course in the woods at the end, which never goes as fast as you think it's going. So, we blazed over the first and were rockin' and rollin' down the hill looking towards the hill back up to fence 2.

And then I screamed louder than I think I have ever screamed in my life. Thank God Katchi has outstanding brakes. Just as we were about to reach the lowest part of the dip between hills, a golf cart came flying out from behind the trees - full golf cart speed - right into my path. When I started screaming "HEADS UP", the driver slammed on the brakes, and the cart went to a screeching stop. It was truly the most frightening thing I have ever had happen to me on XC. Katchi slammed on the brakes, swerved left around the back side of the golf cart (at least I had the sense to swerve behind it in case it started going forward again!). Honestly, if Katchi had been 2 seconds faster, I think we would have collided (or jumped it - I think Katchi would have actually tried at least!). We carried onto the second fence, but it took me a while to regain my composure - my mental toughness went out the window. It actually took me until after fence 6, when we successfully made it through the down bank combination, before I realized it was time to get my head back in the game and get back on the pace. But the damage was done on the clock. Katchi had a fabulous round - he even jumped that scary as "*!&!" trakahner without even blinking an eye! But we came in almost a minute slow. It's partially my fault - I know that. I should have gotten back in the game faster. But, that golf cart really did me in. I've been thinking how fun it would be to go around with a helmet cam - I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or thankful that I didn't have one on yesterday!

On my way back to the trailers, I stopped by the secretary's office to let them know what happened - they already knew. They heard the scream. I told you I screamed loud! They were so kind and apologetic - and Katchi got about 10 molasses cookies out of them! They said they would remove all my time penalties and give me a free schooling pass. I didn't go up there to protest or get anything out of it - but that was scary beyond anything I've ever experienced. And there's especially no excuse for it between the first and second fence - you KNOW a horse will be coming every 2 minutes. You just don't come out of a blind tree line into a galloping lane not having any idea when the next horse is coming. In the end, they took off 30 seconds from my time. That still left me some time penalties - and we finished up in 8th. Even though there was no ribbon to prove it - this was by far Katchi's most successful event to date and I couldn't have been more proud of him - especially his ability to deal with rogue golf carts!

After XC, Katchi really knows he's a star and can get away with anything! My mom was exhausted by the end of the day - she couldn't even eat in peace!

Shortly after getting back to the trailers, the unexpected hit again. Hearing a bit of commotion on the other side of my trailer, I went around to take a look. There was a horse in trouble. Big trouble. He was going down, but he was still fighting. The vets were on hand within minutes and everyone dropped everything (in my case - there were studs and a wrench that went flying) to come to help with anything we could do. But there was nothing that could be done. I didn't know the horse or rider, but I'll never forget either. There were a lot of tears around the trailers. Our horses were quite good - my mom graciously took Katchi (in his ice boots) for a walk away. Tori, unfortunately, saw too much through the trailer windows before I realized she was watching. Adrianne got back from walking a final look at the XC course just before the end. It was hard on everyone, but especially on Adrianne who still had to run XC. I always thought my worst nightmare would be to go home from an event with an empty trailer. Now I know it's worse than I thought. How do you leave an event, with your dead horse in your trailer? I realize he needed to be moved and delivered for the necropsy, but I guess I assumed there would be some other way. I never really noticed that horse ambulances are only around at the upper level big events. Katchi got a lot of extra hugs and peppermints yesterday.

But the show carried on. Debi & Adrianne were off to jump. Tori was full of shenanigans, but Adrianne really held things together - she retained her lead through show jumping, but the up-bank on XC was her nemesis. But any number is better than any letter, and Adrianne finished with one stop on XC and a number by her name. Meanwhile, Debi pulled off two fantastic jumping rounds - her 2 double clears bumped her up the placings and she WON the Beginner Novice Rider division! She was all smiles when she came of XC, but she was really all smiles when she came back with her winnings!

To end this very bizarre day of highs and lows, Katchi and Tori gave us the most fabulous laugh! Check out this video of them playing with a bucket of ice - do you think horses can get brain freeze?!

And to end this very long post - a special thanks to Adrianne's husband Erik and her dad, and Shane, Laura, and Ilkim who came out to cheer us on! And of course to my mom! It's great to have fabulous friends and fans!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Fall season is in full swing!

With the AECs and WEG news the past week - I've almost forgotten that I have my own training and competition calendar to get through before I earn my week off to be one of the 350,000 or so WEG spectators! I've already got a pile of Team USA flair and bling ready to be packed - let there be no doubt who I want to see go home with a fistful of Gold medals!

It was so hard to watch the AEC coverage, knowing Katchi and I could have been there, right in the middle all the craziness & excitement. But it was the right decision for our training and long term goals. And with our win at Seneca this fall, we're well on our way to being qualified for AECs 2011. On her way home from the event, I spoke to a former student who was grooming at the AECs as part of her working student gig for Jim Graham and David Adamo - yes, Amanda, I am terribly jealous of your adventures! She said the final official AEC horse count was 703! Wow. There were 54 in the class Katchi would have been in, and I figured if he'd put in one of his better dressage performances, a clear XC, and pulled 1 show jumping rail - he should have finished up around 20-25th place. Respectable, especially considering we would have been competing against Training horses ridden by Karen O'Connor, Jennie Brannigan, Allison Springer...

Meanwhile, back in Maryland - I spent last Saturday at the Fair Hill unrecognized HT with a student, Kerry, who was competing in her first HT since dabbling in it a bit as kid. Some people like teaching and some people don't. I like it. Bill Moroney said in a recent COTH article, "The ability to bring people to a level where you can set them free and they can rely on your teachings to make their own path in life is by far the greatest reward I've experienced in my training career." I get that feeling every time I watch a student head out on course, and come back all smiles! It changes something in their confidence, inner peace, happiness, enthusiasm for life - yes, I still have more to teach Kerry and she still has more to learn. But, this was a huge milestone for Kerry and Atticus. Atticus came off the course knowing he's now "a BIG BAD event horse" (we won't tell him that his 14 Intro XC jumps could probably fit into the ditch in front of the Keeper's Brush at Rolex!). With a solid dressage test, and two double clear jumping rounds, they finished up in 3rd place out of a class of 9. Not too shabby! Video by Patrick was out on course - what great videos he makes! If he's at your show - buy the video! And, don't worry - if you fall off at the first jump, you get the video for free! Check out Kerry & Atticus in the photo and video below.

I'll try to embed the video later - in the meantime - here's the link.

This weekend is Marlborough HT - I've got Katchi plus 2 students competing on Sunday. If you're in the neighborhood, come say hello! Look for the sparkly Golightly-Katchi mobile, pulled by the not so sparkly grey/rust ol'faithful truck!

Ride times:

Cherie & Katchi (Training)
Dressage: 8:18 (Ring 2)
SJ: 11:04
XC: 11:24

Adrianne & Tori (Beginner Novice)
Dressage: 10:50 (Ring 2)
SJ: 1:30
XC: 1:50

Debi & Roxanne (Beginner Novice)
Dressage: 11:00 (Ring 2)
SJ: 1:34
XC: 1:54

My mom flew in last week for a couple of weeks in Maryland before we make the drive out to WEG. She's been enjoying quality time with Katchi - but today and tomorrow are big treats for her... we're off to work with Silva this afternoon and have a show jumping lesson with Jimmy tomorrow. Isn't that what every mom wants to do on her vacation?? Well, I know at least one who does!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And a Ribbon Katchi Won!

KATCHI WON SENECA VALLEY! And he deserved it. He had 3 good phases - finally, sheesh. I was a very proud mom. It's been so frustrating to know you're so close and something just keeps getting in the way. And then one day, it all comes together! And it really makes you smile. It's sort of funny, because Katchi won Seneca Valley last fall, only his 2nd training level event. And I really thought we were onto something big. And then this year has been the year that wasn't. Jimmy warned me that might happen; Jimmy is always right.

Dressage was tough with the very hard ground and my mistake to only put studs in behind. Katchi slipped pretty good up-front twice early on in his test, and it hurt his confidence (and mine!) for the lengthenings. But it was still a solid test that put us tied for 3rd.

When I arrived to watch a few show jumping rounds before warming up, instead, we got to watch the paramedics and ambulance take a friend away after a fall. I heard today that she's fine with only a broken wrist - but it's never nice to see a super nice person on the ground being 'tended' to. I then proceeded to have probably the worst show jumping warm-up Katchi and I have ever had. We put Kerry, my student and groom, to work pulling rails and standards back up from the ground (for a few other riders too, so at least I was in good company!). I seriously thought for a few moments about withdrawing, because we were a complete disaster. But we managed to have a few good jumps, and then it was our turn - I just hoped it would be better in the show ring. It was, but I worked for it. I was determined not to have 12 jumps as bad as we'd just had in warm-up, and I had to do something. So I rode. I focused and I rode, and it worked out pretty darn well - with just one rail down.
So, with 4 points added to our score, we were off to XC. I wasn't really worried about anything on course, so I had 2 goals: 1) not to ask Katchi to trot anything, and 2) to make the time. Katchi decided to trot to the vertical after the bank at #5 and up to the bank into the water. But, I don't really count either as having trotted, because he decided what he needed and he did it. And we made the time - by one second! I had hoped to make it a bit more comfortably under time, but we'll take it! And he jumped like a star! Bold and brave to everything. There are only 2 jumps I'd like to to have a do-over at - 1) the bank out of the water. There was such a nice inviting ramp out of the water just to the right of our skinny bank out, and Katchi really thought that was a better option. We had a bit of an argument over it; I won, but the deer hop up the bank was my punishment, apparently! And 2) the last fence. Katchi LEAPT off the bank at #14, and as I moved to collect him back up to get to the last fence, I forgot the new bit is a bit different/more than what I've been riding him in the past year or so - and Katchi reminded me by getting, well, pissed off. Pissed off all the way to the base of the last fence - when I thought, 'shit, he's going to stop and I deserve it!' - and then he went. I have the best horse in the world, don't I?!

And then, to top it all off, the scoreboard put him on top of his division!!! After the year we've had, I appreciate this win so much - there are just so many ways for it to go wrong! But yesterday was our day - and Katchi deserved it! I won't even begin to describe the number of oranges, peppermints, and various other treats he got at the end of the day - I'm probably lucky he didn't colic!

Check out Katchi checking out that handsome pony in the mirror!! Maybe I should hang his silver plate in his stall so he can check out his beautiful self all the time! :) Thanks to everyone for wishing us good luck this weekend - it clearly worked!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bringing in Fall

It's Fall already. I honestly don't know where the year has gone. Katchi has just 4 more events scheduled for this year - 2 busy months left, then he'll take a well deserved vacation. I guess I'm old school, but I still think horses that work 6 days a week deserve at least 3-4 weeks totally off a year. I think it's good for body and mind. I still go out and see Katchi about 3 times a week during his vacation, so he doesn't think he's been abandoned. It's a good time to just enjoy his cute furry face and contemplate our winter training plans in hopes of kicking off spring with a bit more of a bang in 2011!

I spent the last weekend of summer enjoying a much needed vacation - with Katchi! Actually, Katchi says - "Bullshit. That was no vacation crazy lady." Adrianne arranged for 6 of us (with our 6 horses!) to spend a long weekend at the Inn at Kelly's Ford. It was just the break I needed before our crazy fall season kicks off. Good friends, good horses, a cross country course, picnic tables, and a pub! On our last morning there, Katchi and I spent some quality time together - just the two of us making our way around the property and through the woods. I imagined I was back out on a long format roads and tracks phase - Katchi didn't understand, but it was a simply wonderful ride down memory lane for me. Afterwards we did some good galloping work - Katchi really didn't understand that game - why were were galloping past the jumps?! He kept trying to get me to pick one to jump, and when I wouldn't, he'd spook at the 10" tall Baby Novice jumps! I was giggling the whole time. With Katchi's work done for the day, we collected the 5 others and took them out to school the XC course. This was the second time I've asked Katchi to be the instructor's horse - he couldn't have done it last year. He would have spun and reared and generally acted like an ass. And now he's acting like a racetrack pony - he tells the others its okay and shows them how to do things. I actually saw him reach over and tell Ilkim's horse, Luna, "it's okay, it's just a little ditch... here, follow me, we go like this." Not only has he developed confidence in himself, now he's showing others the way. It was a really special thing to watch.

Just off to Seneca Valley to walk courses. This has always been a good event for us, so I'm really looking forward to a good run tomorrow. 4 shows left in 2010. wow. Wish us luck tomorrow - no more joking around, it's time for a ribbon, please, Mr. Katchi!