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!