Monday, May 30, 2011

Popping Champagne at Fair Hill!

I'll get straight to the big news - woo hoo!!! to my fabulous student Kerry York and her super brave horse, Atticus, who finished their first Novice event - on their dressage score!! The first time around at a new level is usually "the toughest thing you (and your horse) have ever done" - and wow, to move up a level and finish cleanly on your dressage score - well, that's sort of like a dream come true! And Kerry and Atticus looked like old Novice pros making Fair Hill look like walk in the park! Kerry made a green mistake at the up-steps (yep! 2 steps up with one-stride between at Novice!!), Atticus still wants to walk into the water, and Kerry has earned a lesson on proper use of the bat (poor Atticus almost shot past a skinny when she tapped him on the shoulder and scared the crap out of him!) - but I officially declare them successful Novice eventers! And so, we popped open the champagne to celebrate (and indulged ourselves with mango too!).

When Kerry and I got the course maps, I couldn't believe it when I saw a 6:25 optimum time for Novice! But, it sure didn't take very long for us to walk the course, and I commented to Kerry that maybe they were a bit generous in wheeling the distance. As it was her first event at this level, we agreed that she should ride the speed that felt right and not worry about the time - but we reviewed the rules for minimum time, willful delay, etc. etc. Turned out, it's a good thing we did that little rule review! As I was getting Kerry ready for show jumping, Jennie Brannigan was introducing her very cute and beefy horse to everyone as, pretty much, the slowest horse ever, who never wants to go above Novice cuz moving quick is just too much work! And then as we headed over to XC, I noticed Jennie (on that very same turtle of a horse), trotting and circling on the last loop of the course. Uh oh! If the turtle was in danger of time faults - Kerry better watch out! And sure enough, Kerry cruised around the course (looking a perfect speed), and she also had to trot the entire last loop of the course to come in at 5:35 I watched quite a few of the Novice rides, and everyone looked to have a lovely Novice pace - I didn't see a single scary fast Novice ride (like at so many of the starter events!), but when I looked at the posted times, it seemed like almost everyone came in between 5:00-5:45. Interesting.

The Golightly Get-up

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - what's up with Katchi? He's getting on a program. Since our MCTA, clean but totally icky jumping - I've been reassessing lots of things. Starting with me. Katchi and I need a new program that works for us - for the things I can do well and can't do well - and same for Katchi. So, Part I is a new stack of books: Riding with Your Right Brain (THANK YOU so much to my blog follower who suggest this book to me - it's awesome!); Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence; and Denny's new book, How Good Riders Get Good. Katchi doesn't make things easy, but he doesn't make them impossible. I can fix this show jumping thing. So, Part II begins on Wednesday. I love riding in jumping clinics, because I think it's so valuable to have lots of different kinds of questions thrown at you from lots of different instructor styles - and that's generally served us well, but it's not good enough any more. Katchi and I need a program - we need an individual program to consistently and systematically address our (my!) weaknesses. So, on Wednesday morning, we'll be starting "oxer" training with Boyd. I've got a Katchi helicopter photo saved in my phone, ready to show Boyd - I plan to say something along the lines of "dropping rails is not the problem."

Disappointingly, today was another potential Prelim move up day that we've missed. But, I have to admit that when I saw the show jumping course, I was actually quite happy to not be competing (that DAMN green rolltop was f*%$ing fence #1 again - if you recall, in August, that green rolltop earned Katchi 2 refusals and 51 time penalties in show jumping!!!). But, show jumping concerns aside, I walked the Prelim XC course and asked myself, at every jump, as honestly as possible, "am I ready for this one today?" And I've decided the USEA needs to introduce a new move-up division. Forget the N/T and T/P mixed-levels. I would like Prelim-1. In this division, each rider will be allowed to select 1 fence on either show jumping or XC for which they are given a "buy." You must choose your fence before you start on course (you cannot get a stop and then declare the fence a "buy"). In Prelim-1 at Fair Hill today, I will happily jump all XC fences and take my -1 at #5. The Tra-F*$%ing-kahner. Kerry said someone could live under there. I think an entire family could live in that ditch. shit.

Everything else looked quite do-able - the water had an almost 180 degree turn between the A and B elements, which I really would have enjoyed being able to watch ride. I wonder if anyone chose to avoid the water after A, coming around on dry land and coming into the water straight at the B and C?? A little longer and awkward from the first, but turning on dry land sure is easier than turning in water - and with that Intermediate fence in the way, it seemed awful like a blind turn. Wouldn't I laugh to see everyone navigate it just fine without the horses even blinking an eye - horses are so clever!

And - oh look - this one's familiar! I got a good look at it's dirt when I let Katchi stumble up the bank in April. Same combination as the April Training course - but with a small log placed on the step - despite the ridiculousness of our jumping effort in April, I still feel that I can check Prelim #13 A&B off as sorted (pretty muchly anyhow).

To end this Memorial Day weekend post, I'd like to thank Eventing Nation for their public service announcement reminding all riders to warn people before exposing their pasty white legs! However, I have to announce that I have taken the severity of rider tan line faux pas to a whole new level. California beach babe tan arms - check. Lovely porcelain white hands (compulsive glove wearer!) - check. And, my legs - well, can you say Oreo? Big mistake to spend your first summer day exposing those pasty white rider legs - while wearing shorts and Dubarry boots. I've never looked more ridiculous. No photos attached.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ribbon Fairy Came Again

There is something especially nice when the Ribbon Fairy chooses just any old Monday to pay a visit! The USDF Ribbon Fairy delivered my First Level Performance Award and patch yesterday, and I have to admit, it's market value may be about $1.34 - but it's priceless to me! And just as I'm making plans to let Katchi give Second Level a whirl, it's quite a sense of accomplishment to have checked the box of repeatable success at First Level! And considering that Katchi only does 1 or 2 dressage shows a year, we've got a pretty respectable batting average!

But here's my question - what do I do with the patch? Does the USDF have letterman jackets (can you imagine a bunch of DQs in letterman jackets with Training, First, and Second Level patches - oh and what about the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals?!) - Okay, no letterman jackets - so what do you think their intention is that we do with these patches? Maybe put them on my dressage coat bag? On Katchi's cooler? On a saddle pad??

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Ride for Life - Please support this great event!

On June 25-26, Katchi and I will be at PVDA's Ride for Life (R4L) for the 5th consecutive year. Ride for Life - what's that?? It's a dressage show! But not just any dressage show! It's a silent auction, gala dinner, and dancing horse challenge - and it's one of the 2 most special days of the year for me. R4L is a benefit for the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Center, and each year I collect donations and ride in memory of Joy Court - my first dressage instructor who lost her battle against breast cancer in 1997. I am certain that my love for dressage - the harmony, unity, and perfection - is all because of Joy. She taught me to try-try-and try again. And she taught me to get off, walk to the end of the field and back, and then try again - I guess they call that patience?! Or persistent humility. Anyhow, she taught me to love the sport and love my horse. Her horses gave her hope through years of chemotherapy, recurring cancer, and a bone marrow transplant - her tremendous strength and optimism inspire me still today. And it's such a wonderful feeling, over 10 years since Joy's passing, to still be up on a horse, thinking about all the things I learned from her!

Joy with Monty & Allie

So, in Joy's honor, I ask you to support this year's Ride for Life! Come to the show - not just to see me and Katchi - come experience the event! See the smiles of survivors and current victims as they compete with the horses that give them motivation! Watch all the "scrappy" eventers go elegant and kick some DQ tail! Donate something or (even more fun!) buy something at the silent auction! Submit a tribute for the show program ($25 minimum donation). Eat and drink at the Gala dinner (limited tickets, $100 each). Watch the Dancing Horse Challenge ($20 general admission) - cheer on my instructor, Silva Martin and her Grand Prix OTTB! Welcome Ann Romney, Debbie McDonald, and Courtney King-Dye as the event's special guests! Donate online - Cash/check donations are welcome too (please be sure to write "Cherie Chauvin" as the rider you are donating for). Email me at if you have any questions or want to get involved!

Last year, I won a high pledge award, and this year I'm hoping to make donations in my name (and in Joy's memory) even more bountiful! This year, I'm trying to branch out my donation efforts to include some of my favorite horse products in the silent auction and rider raffle - and I've already had some success! I'd like to thank The Sport House for donating a bunch of WEG DVDs (Dressage highlights and day tapes) and The National Academies for donating a copy of the 6th edition beautiful hard copy book - Nutrient Requirements of Horses.

Katchi & me at the 2010 Ride for Life

However you can - please support this wonderful event!

Event Details:

PVDA Ride for Life
June 25-26, 2011
Prince George's Equestrian Center
Upper Marlboro, MD

** Donate Online Here **

R4L Links:
My R4L page on my website
Official R4L website
Silent Auction donations
Show Program Tribute Form (due by June 1)
Cash/Check Donation Form

Show, Show, and Show!

If you thought Mother's Day weekend is meant for rest - it is not. At least not if you're a horse mom. As the two ladies parked next to me at Shawan Downs on Sunday got into their truck to leave (the rider had fallen off one horse and I don't think the second horse was fabulous) - the woman getting into the passenger side said, "That's it, next year, for Mother's Day, it's breakfast in bed!" Yea, right! They'll be back next year - no doubt! Eventing is an addiction, and you know it!

So, this Mother's Day weekend, I made it to 3 different shows in 3 days! Friday was the SMHA hunter show where I met 2 students to school the jumps before the weekend show. It cracks me up that in hunter land, everyone must school the fences the day before (really folks, did you not notice it's like the same freaking pattern and same freaking flowers, wall, and pole at every single show?!?!). But, anyhow, I've got one student's horse who is terrified of flowers and walls and one that's still learning about related distances, so we thought it would be a great opportunity. And it would have been, had the EMTs shown up and had we been allowed to ride. Instead, the 3 of us got to bond with the 2 horses for 1.5 hours, sitting in the ring, all tacked up - until we finally got word that there really was no expectation when the EMT would show up. So, I was done with show number one - not a good day. I was off to Phase I of show #3 - Shawan Downs - where I literally ran around the XC course, fighting the meter wheel in the mowed grass, and willing the massive lightening not to strike me dead. By the grace of mother nature, I managed to get all my minute markers noted on the map and have enough general sense of the course to not miss a jump - all before the heavens opened up. A small vitory in life.

Show number two was HUGE success. Saturday was Kerry's first recognized USEA event - Difficult Run Pony Club's Horse Trial. Basically, she nailed it! Best dressage test she's had - and not only did she add no points to her score in either jumping phase, she looked good doing it AND she stuffed her crazy horse right past the purple cow print rolltop that cost her two refusals earlier this year! Atticus still hates the cow rolltop, but that's okay - he can hate it all he wants, so long as his cow-hating butt jumps it! And for Kerry's valiant effort, she was well rewarded with a beautiful red second place ribbon! I started working with Kerry just over a year ago, and it is absolutely amazing how far she and her horse have come! It's almost superhuman the progress they've made! I couldn't have been more proud and excited for her!

Sunday was Phase II of Show 3 - Katchi's day at the MCTA Horse Trials at Shawan Downs. Katchi remains a puzzle I have yet to solve. I got on an hour before dressage, ready for the monster to erupt - but it never did. I actually had to try to fire him up a bit! I finally got the dressage test I've been looking for, and Katchi was well rewarded with his first score in the 20's- a 27.3!!!! I was tickled silly by his score and absolutely thrilled to be sitting in 3rd in a class of 25. I think I also have to thank Kerry for contributing to that score as she spent quite a bit of time working on the knots in Katchi's poll while I was getting tacked up - she had the magic touch!

By the scoreboard, we had a great day. Katchi added just 4 points to his score with one rail in show jumping, ending on a 31.3 - earning a 4th placed ribbon, his first USEA gold medal qualifying score, a second XC round with NO time penalties (WOO HOO!), AND - I got a call later last night saying he'd won an MCTA perpetual trophy - The Joan Barthel Memorial Trophy - presented to the MCTA member who achieves the best dressage score in the entire competition. Wow, pretty cool! Of course, I also have to be responsible for not breaking this trophy which apparently has "more sentimental value than beauty" and I have to figure out how to get (and pay for!) my name to be engraved on it. Then I have to return it next year so it can be given to the next winner. Hum, that's an interesting award. But, at least it's not drugs - you all know my angst over the amount of free drugs Katchi won last year that I can't even use on him!

But, for all that good - Katchi had to beg for his ride home at the end of the day. I won't go into the details, because, frankly, I don't understand. So many things have gotten so much better, but Katchi's jumping was horrendous yesterday. He was stuck to the ground at the base of the fences like never before. On XC too. I have to thank Shane, who said to me at the end of the day - "you always tell me that things feel more frustrating as you get better, because you hold yourself accountable to higher expectations - just think how many things have improved." She was right. I watched our show jumping video from MCTA one year ago - many things are much better - in fact, tremendously better! But, I'm far from satisfied - I was so so angry at Katchi yesterday exactly because I have higher expectations of him now and I should have higher expectations! I just wanted to shake some sense into him (not effective, I realize)! He didn't help me out one single bit. I think if Jimmy had seen the round he would have hung a "for sale" sign on his tail (or maybe "free to any home, please, really, please"). I need a plan - I need an effective plan and a possible plan. I'm working on it. Still. One small shred of optimism is looking forward to our week with Phillip Dutton that's only 1 month away. Maybe Katchi will earn himself a ticket to stay there an extra week all by his little lonesome with the mean little Australian man.

So, today, I'm trying to focus on the things that were wonderful - and developing a definitive plan - specific, regimented, focused, precise, understandable, effective, possible. Katchi has no idea what he signed himself up for after yesterday's performance. He crossed the line. I guess it's like your child coming home with a report card full of all A's and an F in Home Economics - really, seriously?

What a lucky photo shot - a fleeting moment as one new event horse and one old event horse told each other about their fabulous days! With prizes attached!

Congrats to all the Golightly Gang for awesome show results this weekend!

2nd Place - Kerry & Atticus @ Difficult Run Pony Club Horse Trial (Beginner Novice)
4th Place - Cherie & Katchi @ MCTA Shawan Downs Horse Trial (Training)
1st Place - Ilkim & Luna @ SHMA Hunter Show
1st & 2nd Place - Debi & Roxanne @ schooling Dressage Show (First Level)

Also congrats to 2 new students who were at Fair Hill's Starter Horse Trials - Diane & Lincoln (1st place - Novice) and Susan & Eeyore ( A work in progress! - Beginner Novice).

I hope you all gave yourself a big toast last night for a wonderful weekend and for being fabulous horse moms - I know I did! Oh that Heineken tasted so good!