Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Katchi!!

Katchi turned 10 years old today!!! So, I baked him a horse cake! I've never thought of actually baking for my horse, but when I saw Abby's amazing baked Christmas treats for her pony, well, I felt like a terrible mom! I'd never baked for Katchi! So, his birthday seemed like a good excuse to try something out - a cored apple, stuffed with bananas and maple & brown sugar oatmeal - a little water and into the oven! About 30 minutes later, it looked pretty awesome! Unfortunately, by the time Katchi got it this afternoon, it had spent the night in the fridge and the day in a tupperware in my office. When I plopped it out into his dish, the guys at the barn had a good laugh - they said, "uuummm, yummy!" If they didn't think I was weird before, today I definitely became "that weird girl who bakes for her horse." Katchi had to devour his beloved rice bran first, but he eventually made his way to his special treat - and complained that I should have peeled off the apple skin! Apparently baked apple with skin is not worthy of his high class refined tastes!
But, he suffered through and licked his bowl clean!

So today was Katchi's special day - I've had him since he was 5 1/2 - I can hardly believe he's 10! It's like he's supposed to be a grown up now or something! We'll see about that! Happy Birthday Katchi!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2/3 of a Frozen Prelim Pony

3/26/2011: Katchi becomes 2/3 of a Prelim pony in 30 degree temperatures! Seriously, what happened to spring? As I type this, I see a dusting of snow on the holly bush outside my window. So wrong. Arriving at Loch Moy at 7:30 yesterday morning for Katchi's first Prelim combined test - it was FREEZING! The arenas were frozen, and the Loch Moy folks were trying to churn them up like construction workers tear up pavement. Trying to walk SJ, I was stumbling all over frozen chunks of arena footing - I guess the good thing is that I was so focused on the footing and whether I should be doing this at all, that I hardly even took a moment to worry about the Prelim sized jumps!!

Into dressage warm-up - Katchi's feet clicking on the ground like he was walking on cement. Despite the unsettling noise, it was a bit like a running track - very firm, but oddly squishy - so I thought I would just let Katchi tell me what his legs thought of it. One sore step, and I knew I would be outta there. But, he didn't put a foot wrong. I'm sure Katchi felt my misgivings about whether I was doing right by him - he was really tense and spooky in the arena. But, in watching the video - well, it wasn't half bad (putting him in 2nd out of 6)! That's super exciting, because I thought we totally lacked the power, relaxation, and through-ness we've been working so hard to solidify - but, I've learned something I was starting to suspect. With Silva Martin in Aiken all winter, I haven't had eyes on the ground on our dressage work since January 2 - but I've recently been thinking that Katchi might finally be lengthening his stride and that I've been rushing him a bit, looking for a quicker tempo that used to be necessary to get him moving his hocks. Now I have video confirmation! He actually looks like one horse - hind legs connected to the front legs - despite his mile long back!! HOW EXCITING!! And I felt like he only gave me half of what he's capable of! In two weeks, we go to the CDCTA dressage show at Morven Park - watch out you big fancy Warmbloods - my little OTTB has got his hocks swingin' and he's looking pretty fancy himself!!

When I hopped off Katchi after dressage, I found new footing - soft melted footing! Well, shit, guess there's no footing excuses... suck it up Cherie, go jump the Prelim jumps! With only a few minutes for a quick tack change for show jumping - there was no time to get nervous. It was also really lucky that I was surrounded in the parking lot by great eventing friends who keep me humble and make me laugh. As I headed out to SJ warm up, Samantha Allan said - "Remember, you just have to commit! Good or bad, commit!" That word came in handy at Fence #4, the enormous swedish oxer...

Katchi warmed up beautifully - and thanks to Kerry who set down the vertical for us so we didn't have to go from trotting the X to cantering a 3'7" vertical! That aint' me and Katchi's idea of a warm-up! And off we went to the ring... and we survived! 3 rails down (actually 4 if you count both poles of the swedish oxer, plus a standard - but who's counting?!). But what I'm most thrilled with is our ability to recover. I did not lose my focus once - whatever went wrong, I fixed the issue before the next fence so things did not keep deteriorating. Katchi kept a malleable and active canter, and I didn't let him sprawl at the base of a fence once (Jimmy would be so proud!). Yesterday was a huge step in Katchi's training - I did feel a little bad for him as he jumped the first two fences so beautifully (verticals, probably just slightly higher than Training height), and then came off a rollback turn to a Prelim oxer (I think he was coming around the corner singing in his head, "I'm so cute, look at me, cute cute cute - OH SHIT!" as he saw the width of the oxer and came down on the back rail with his hind legs) then he got *&!@! slapped by both rails of the enormous swedish oxer 4 strides later. But what I'm most proud of is what happened next - we got it back together and jumped into the 1 stride, vertical to oxer, perfectly - unfortunately poor Katchi saw that oxer coming out of the 1 stride - and after his last two oxer experiences - he took off like a helicopter (photo below - I lost the neck strap and clearly was not an example of hunter equitation!) - but wouldn't you know it, we landed, I sat up, and said "get with me on this Katchi!" and 4 strides later we had a beautiful jump over another vertical. It wasn't perfect, Jimmy would not be satisfied - but we had the most wonderful conversation and it WORKED!! That gives me great hope that we can and will work through all this, and hopefully my little helicopter will drop it down 3 feet, so we can just jump "normally" and oh, won't that be lovely?!

My helicopter.

So, that's it - Katchi made it through 2/3 of the way to being a Prelim event horse! He had big eyes and a HUGE heart - his eyes will get smaller over time, so long as I do my job and keep his huge heart right where it is! Don't I just love that crazy helicopter horse of mine?!?! And, I learned two wonderful things myself yesterday: 1) It wasn't as hard as I thought it might be - in fact, it wasn't even as hard as some of our Training level courses have been. Katchi is listening and I'm staying with him mentally and physically - it's a wonderful thing. 2) It felt absolutely wonderful to be back jumping big fences! The last time I competed at this height was doing my CCN* in 1994 - shit, that's 15 years ago - can I really be that old?!?! It's been a huge goal of mine to get back to that level - the road has been long, with a ton of freakin' potholes, but we're very nearly there and I'm loving it!! And I think Katchi is too!

Atticus licking "snow condition pretreatment" road salt from my trailer - yummy!

Katchi & Atticus enjoying the cross country course grass while waiting for scores and ribbons.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Golightly Goes Jumping

Dare I say it - spring is here! And what a perfect weekend to go jumping!

I spent all day Saturday at the Marlborough Jumper Derby - and even got a little sunburn on my left cheek! I'm loving that sunburn - but, I know, I know, it's so bad - don't worry, I've pulled my sunscreen out from the back of the closet. Time to get back into the daily sunscreen routine! Isn't it a wonderful thing?!

I had several students riding in the Jumper Derby yesterday - one in each of the 4 groups, which made for a very long day, but also gave me a great excuse to hang out and chat with many friends that I haven't seen since the fall season ended. And it's always a great learning experience to watch so many different horse and rider combinations - many at their first outing - to see how things work and don't work! And there was the return of the devil pony! For those who were reading this blog last fall, you might remember the devil pony at Full Moon Farm's starter horse trials. Okay, it wasn't actually the same little pony that showed up at Marlborough yesterday, but maybe it was his brother or cousin who took over the reign of terror! I was just getting my first student settled in the warm up when the devil pony was let loose - apparently, literally, his child just sort of let him go. And the terror began - back and forth that little pony ran as fast as his 4 little legs could carry him - through the warm up area, back through the crowd - 4 times he raced back and forth leaving a trail of fire behind him! Finally, 3 of us pinned him in the warm up area and Beth Wheeler collected the reins and freed them from his legs - when she returned him to the said small child she so kindly said "now, don't let your pony go again, okay?" - I probably would have sat down and laughed if there weren't so many bolting and spinning horses, riders jumping off in all directions, and general mayhem to keep clear of! Despite growing up watching our miniature horses terrorize everything from police horses to the Budweiser Clydesdales - it still never ceases to amaze me how much "real horses" freak out over tiny terrors!!

But back to the Golightly Gang - what a great day! I was working with a very diversified set of goals for the day - one was there to survive her first outing of this kind ever (and she did so with great success and valuable lessons learned); one was there to beat the demons of 2 years ago when she fell off twice at that horrid fake ditch that apparently has "HORSE EATER" written all over it (and she did - even finishing 4th in the equitation judging of probably 30 or more riders!); and one to raise the bar 5 inches to complete the Novice division (and she did - with just one rail down!). All goals accomplished! If you're local and haven't been to this event before - mark your 2012 calendar now! It is a wonderful day and everyone is so encouraging - and there was even quite a crowd that provided big cheers when horses finally decided to go down the bank or over the mini-tires!

While Katchi sat out the Jumper Derby this year, he had his own big jumping day with Sharon White today at Allan Sport Horses. Katchi really rose to the challenges Sharon set today, and I was really pleased with our ability to work through some issues and make Katchi jump better and better. He only "barfed" once - which definitely gave the spectators their money's worth (free to audit, by the way!). We came around to a vertical, one stride, oxer, 2 long strides, oxer - and barfed all over it - the lesson learned was that Sharon thought Katchi was listening to me so intently through the corner that he didn't even see the jump until we got there. It still amazes me how we can barf all over a triple and leave every pole in the cup - one thing I can never fault Katchi for - no matter what he does, he always takes care of me. Thankfully, Katchi and I both had our eyes on the jump the second time around, and had a great jump through - adding a triple to our show jumping courses for Prelim will be a big test for us!

I often wonder (and worry!) about what I should and shouldn't share about other people on my blog - but this one is just too good not to share, and Sam Allan already suggested she should feature it on her website (I totally think she should!), so... the quote of the month is... I LOVE THAT STICK IN YOUR PANTS! Sharon made a spot-on assessment that one of the horses in our lesson was rushing away from the fences because her rider was making too much of a move over the top of the fence. So, Sharon said - put your whip in your pants and lets see if that will fix you. After much debate over the proper whip to stick down her pants, the very brave Jennifer Clover, started the course with a bat stuck down the front of her pants with the whip end ready to bat her in the nose for bending over too much. AND IT WAS AMAZING - her horse looked almost like a hunter going around the course - maybe we should all ride with a stick in our pants! :)

Katchi's first 2011 horse trial entry went in the mail this week. WOO HOO! Our first event will be Fair Hill April 22-24. I thought it would be really fun to start off the season with one phase a day and lots of time to watch the CIC horses compete - nothing like a little inspiration to start off the season. Hopefully if I watch enough 3* horses before my Training level cross country, I'll be fully inspired for NO TIME PENALTIES!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Windy Wofford Wednesday

In January, we had White Winter Wofford Wednesday - today we had Windy Wofford Wednesday! Jimmy returned to Baywood Farms today for our second gymnastics clinic, with a bit of course work. As we prepare for the show season, Jimmy craft-fully combined gymnastics exercises with cantering single fences and lines, always looking to train the horses for better balance and quick responses. Jimmy definitely had his work cut out for him as he polished off our winter rust!

Jimmy demonstrating for "the professor" - Percy spent his 21st pony birthday in his first Jimmy clinic!

I always tell people that every time I ride with Jimmy, he never ceases to teach me something amazing! Today, he once again, saw something that astounded me (HOW DOES HE SEE THESE THINGS!). He noticed that I was looking at my fences, but I was tending to look down the right side of Katchi's neck to the fence, rather than straight through his ears. Jim said that could effect my distance judgment. Wow. Okay, so I've recently noticed an occasional tendency to jump just slightly left of center of my fences - I wonder if that's why (I mean, that, combined with my weak left leg and general crookedness toe to head!). Something new to contemplate!

Overall, I was really pleased with our work today. Katchi was a bit riled up on his home turf in the wind, watching his pasture buddies frolic without him. But, as Jim said - oh too bad! While we had our share of icky fences and Katchi got told he was a "so wrong" a few times - Jim was definitely looking for disciplined accuracy today (I won't say perfection - if there's one thing I've learned from Jim it's not to think I'll be perfect!) and I appreciated the chance to show that we could meet his demands!

Katchi & me getting an earful of Wofford Wisdom

So, here are a few clips of Katchi's very good moments.

(Thanks to Shane & Laura for their photgraphy and videography skills!)

And for one final note and image, THANK YOU so much to Sharon, Sarah Bratton's mom - who gave me the coolest thank you gift. I thought she had given me a beautiful butterfly in a jar, and I was trying to figure what I was supposed to do with this poor trapped creature - when she showed me it's a delicate faux butterfly attached to a tiny wire with a battery that makes it flutter around. I was stunned! It is SO real looking! And the cat - oh the cat - he has a new play toy! Thank You Sharon!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rehearsing for Badminton 2030

Every time I have to compete in the rain, I try to imagine myself, drenched, in top hat and tails with the Badminton House in the distance. Every year, someone gets drenched in pouring rain during Badminton dressage. So I figure every show where I get wet is one more opportunity to practice in case I ever find myself wet at Badminton! I think I've had enough rehearsals now that I might even be ahead of the 2030 timeline - I might be ready for Badminton rain by 2028!!

William Fox-Pitt and Sea Cookie - getting drenched in dressage warm-up - Badminton 2010 (photo from

I had another chance to rehearse for Badminton yesterday.

I am sticking to the plan I made last year after a rough start to the horse trial season - only dressage shows, combined tests, and cross country schooling until our annual Lucinda Green boot camp mid-April. So, Katchi and I (along with students Kerry & Atticus) headed off to the River Bend Pony Club Combined Test at Frying Pan Park yesterday - as a side note I think Katchi has something about giving me a little humility check before this show each year. Last year, he gave me a black eye (and I'm pretty convinced he fractured my cheek bone) the day before the show - and went on to win his division. This year, two days before, he just about dumped me on account of a very frightening bird 40 feet away - I somehow managed to get myself back into the saddle but not without taking all my PT progress and throwing it straight out the window. Ass.

But Katchi remains undefeated at RBPC combined test, bringing home the blue ribbon again this year! I couldn't have been more proud of my boy! He closed his eyes and charged through the rain straight to a 21.8 dressage score - WOW WOW! He got a 9 for both his center lines! I'm pretty sure I've never ever gotten a 9 on anything before! Okay, I get it, schooling combined test - scores generous. But this judge was not afraid to score in the high 50's either, so it wasn't like everyone was getting low 20's! At the end of my test, she even got out of the "judge's car" to stand in the rain and tell me how lovely it was! That's just gotta put a smile on your face!

But, we weren't there for dresssage. We were there for show jumping. Despite the rain, emerging lakes in the warm-up, very small warm-up area with too many horses (and seriously, coaches, can you teach your kids to learn how to judge where horses are going in the warm-up and where they should go to get out of other's way when they're just walking or STANDING!) - anyhow, warm-up was quick and incomplete. So, I decided to look at our round as just part of a jumping lesson - you've gotta jump an oxer and canter a related distance line at some point in your lesson - just so happened mine were on a judged course.

So, see for yourself - are we getting better?! Here's a clip from the middle of the course (we spent a lot of time going around the ring for the first and last jumps, so I cut those out).

I'm pretty sure the rail he knocked hadn't been dropped after prelim - it looked huge! But, that's okay, it was sort of an unlucky rub anyhow. And my boy jumped great! Still lots to keep working on, but no one laughed at the end of this round! :)

As the rain got heavier and heavier, it was time for Kerry & Atticus to make their rehearsal for Badminton 2040 (Kerry is new to eventing, so I've got a few more years of rehearsal on her!). It's funny how as we get better, we get more frustrated. While I was there for SJ, Kerry was there for Dressage (or so we thought!). Kerry had an enormously improved dressage test from her last go in November - but now that she's actually able to survive in the ring, she doesn't want to just survive - she wants to execute with perfection! It's a wonderful thing! And with a score in the low 30's, she's definitely on the right track!

Now completely drenched, Kerry was off to show jumping - her easy phase. Which went fabulously, until the purple cow print roll top (second to last fence!). Atticus said, "oh hell no!" and then he said it again "you didn't hear me the first time, crazy lady!" But one good smack from her bat (probably his first ever!) and Atticus got over his fear of purple cows. It was a disappointing result on the scoreboard, but that's why we take baby horses to these things - it's all about mileage and at the end of the day, Atticus learned a good lesson and Kerry too. And she still came home with a 2nd place ribbon for dressage and 3rd for the combined test - it definitely could have been worse!!

It's gymnastics with Jimmy at Baywood Farms on Wednesday - so watch for videos from that later this week! If you're planning to audit - we're starting at 8AM. Hope to see you there!