Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Gag Bit: Some Assembly Required

10:00 last night. Standing in my kitchen in my pajamas. Blinds drawn tightly. A glass of wine waiting on the counter for inspiration and consolation. Lathered up to my elbows in cheap olive oil (I'm an olive oil snob and this was a job for cheap olive oil!). Twisting and turning, and pulling and pushing - metal, rope, leather - and a can opener (lets just say that my horse trailer comes prepared for any emergency; my house does not). The not often disclosed life of a rider.

Last night I learned why the sum is greater than the parts when you buy an already assembled gag bit. Some time ago, at a local tack shop's going out of business sale, I found a $5 beautiful snaffle gag bit in the bargain bit bin. Oh how exciting! Something new to add to my bit box collection!! But, wait, no cheekpieces - not to worry, I'll just pick those up on sale someplace else later. This weekend, I'm taking a few students to Win Green (my FAVORITE!) for some XC schooling. One horse is in need of some bit experimentation, and I think a mild snaffle gag may be just the trick for him. Time to slip those cheekpieces in and give it a try. Easy enough.

Some assembly required, my ass. It was an all out war in my kitchen last night. And I might be losing. I called a truce for Red Cross treatment of the injured when my right pec muscle seized up so bad my arm stopped moving (you might even say my armpit and right boob had a seizure - now that's a first!). I have the cheekpieces pinned down and greased up. They'll sit there and think about what they've done while I'm at work today. The war will begin again at sundown.

This is NOT my gag bit. This is an assembled gag. It's worth the money. Picture source here.

Monday, July 18, 2011


WE DID IT! And it was amazing - absolutely amazing! But before I tell yesterday's story, I want to say a bit about how far Katchi has come. Sometimes it's easy to feel like things are moving so slowly, and feel like you're just not getting any better - but looking back over time, you realize how far you've come!

In April 2006, I returned from 6 months in Afghanistan working for the Department of Defense. I finally had enough money in my bank account to make owning a horse possible again after 10 years of riding whatever I could find available. It took me another 6 months to get the guts to start the search. Katchi was the first horse I looked at. Under the name "Sportin' Merle" he had raced 12 times with 2 wins totalling $11,783. His current owner had taken him off the backstretch and spent a couple of months showing him what a ring and jumps looked like. He spent the next year or so in a field, and that's where I found him - a fat and dirty 5 year old!

Katchi - picture taken the first time I saw him!

The day after I signed the papers to purchase my very own pony, I left to spend a month in Asia for work. I spent the entire month trying to come up with a new name for him - Merle had to go! I was in the De-Militarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea, when I saw a military coin that said "Katchi Kapshi" on it. I quickly pulled out my notebook and added it to the list of about 100 other possibilities - later I discovered it's English translation - "We go together". And that was it. Katchi had his new name.

Katchi and I have been together since the fall of 2006 - it's been a roller coaster of a ride for us as we've both had to overcome demons we didn't even know we had! During DC's "Snowmageddon" in 2010, while I was trapped in my house, I put together this video of "bad Katchi clips". When I made the video, I promised myself that I would share it when I had successfully moved Katchi up to Prelim - so here we are... Bad Katchi!

And, on July 17, 2011, my little bad Katchi officially became a Prelim event horse! We started off with a solid dressage test that I thought was a little stiff, but very respectable. It wasn't until the day was over that I learned Katchi's 31.5 led the OP-C division of 18 horses! WOW! High Noon - it was me against the show jumping course. When I walked the course, I almost got down on my knees and kissed the ground! The footing was ENTIRELY different than the week before - it was a bit deep in places, but I could walk on solid ground! And the course had long flowing lines with choices for wider turns if you got into trouble! I thought I might just have a fighting chance. For those who have looked at the scoreboard, you might say I had a rough go of it. 12 jumping faults, 20 time penalties. But OH NO! It was by far the very best show jumping round I've ever had!!!! When I came out of the ring, Kitty from L'Appogee Saddles (who I bought my amazing dressage saddle from) said - "YOU RIDE THAT BEAST!" - and that's just what I did! Oh, how I wish Phillip could have seen it. I rode just how I promised him that I would. Katchi was in a bit of shock at how powerful I was riding him, but he jumped those 3'7" jumps better than any course he's ever done! We pulled one rail at #2 when I got him in a little deep and pulled a second rail at the oxer in the triple - that's okay - triples are a big question for him, but he's just about to figure it all out! We also grabbed a stop at the oxer after the bending line from the liverpool (hence the time penalties too). That's the one part Phillip would have not been pleased with - I jumped too big over the liverpool and couldn't land, turn, and keep going - the oxer was just too big and Katchi admitted he couldn't do it. But, let me tell you, he SOARED over it when we came back around. So, 32 points added to my score - doubled our dressage score - and I must have been the happiest girl at the show!!!

And then it was XC time!! I really can't say much more than brilliant! That damn trakehner was on the course and I was terrified. I rode to it like I don't think I've ever ridden to anything in my life - and it's a damn good thing because Katchi couldn't believe his eyes when I turned him at that THING! He actually jumped okay from the front side, but he went so high up, he didn't cover enough ground on the back side. His back legs landed just on the edge of the ditch. It never ceases to amaze me how horses can take care of themselves, because I'm certain his hind end was headed back into the ditch when he somehow extracted himself. If I was Phillip Dutton, I would have recovered seamlessly and kicked on. But, I had to stop for a moment, and tell Katchi that he was the best horse in the world because he didn't want to do that jump at all - and he did it for me - he went because I asked him to. He got a huge pat, I think I said thank you 10 times, and we were off. I didn't quite get him going again enough before the steps up, so we crawled up those. But, then the course just absolutely fell into place for us. I don't think he took a wrong step the entire rest of the course (I discovered at the end of the course that he'd pulled his hind boots down around his fetlocks at the Trakehner, so he jumped fences 6-19 with galloping boots smushed around his ankles! Guess he's over his hind boot phobia!). Katchi was cautious in the second water - trotted over the water-to-water rolltop (he's only jumped one teeny tiny water-to-water schooling about a year ago!) - but he was never not going. He jumped the huge tables on the back side of the course like they were little cross rails! The 1-stride brush combination was a walk in the park. And he was an absolute cat through the turning ravine rolltop combination. Coming back up the hill to the last fence, I kept saying in my head "Don't fall off Ronnie!" - my mom and I watched Secretariat Saturday night, and that's what the trainer was yelling at Ron Turicott as he was just about to win the Belmont by 31 lengths!!! When I pulled Katchi up at the finish line, he blew his nose twice and shook his head a little. I laughed out loud! I'm sure Katchi was saying "Holy cats mom!! That was AMAZING!"

Evil in Wood.

Second water complex: tiki house, into water, water-to-water rolltop, out water, skinnier tiki house = FUN!

Now it's time to regroup and figure out what's next! Katchi won't compete in August, but I'm thinking big for September and October. When I woke up this morning, my phone was already notifying me of opening dates for Seneca and Loudon in September. Time to sort out the fall schedule for my big Prelim horse! :)

AND - I have to give a huge shout out to Diane and Susan who I coached at Loch Moy on Saturday - they were absolute stars! Diane moved her awesome big boy Lincoln up to Training - and they WON!!! After winning the dressage and adding nothing to their score in SJ or XC, they came home with the blue ribbon! Not too bad for a move-up event! I think Diane was most thrilled that her Percheron-Thoroughbred-Paint cross made XC time - and he pulled up in good form! Hot, but recovered quickly and looked oh so pleased with himself! Susan and her green-bean Eeyore completed their first BN, with just one stop at the water. Eeyore reminds me a lot of Katchi, and I'm so excited to see how he develops. Susan definitely had her hands full out there, but she rode very sensibly and gave Eeyore a great confidence boosting trip. Just what every horse deserves at their first event!

I cannot thank everyone enough for all your support and encouragement the past couple of weeks! Jimmy always says that preparation is your best defense against nerves, but I have to admit, I was pretty sick Sunday morning. I knew we could do this - but the question was would we?! The jump from Training to Prelim is huge - I've done it twice before, but to do it again, 15 years after the last time I ran around a Prelim course, wow - I'm gonna be on the top of the world for a while! Thank you so much to everyone who cheered us on and who was there to give me a hug at the end! To Kerry who woke Katchi up from his traditional nap before jumping and who ran the video camera. And especially a huge thanks to my mom who has always been my #1 fan. She was groom extraordinaire this weekend - and chief treat giver when it was all over! We wouldn't be where we are today without her support. What a lucky girl I am indeed.

My mom working out the knots in Katchi's neck on Saturday morning - while she was working on him, he did his cat stretch, sea horse stretch, and downward dog stretch!!! HE LOVED IT!

Katchi's winning dressage score must have been due to the beautiful button braids I learned to do from Phillip's Emma Ford! He looked smashing!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 days to go - Prelim Entry Stands.

I'm still entered.
Dressage test is memorized
Final jump school is complete.
Jumping tack is clean and trailer is mostly packed.
Ride times are posted.

Maryland Horse Trials II
Cherie Chauvin & Katchi Kapshi: OP-C
Dressage: 9:30
Show Jumping: 12:00
XC: 12:12

Sunday. High Noon. Me and my bat versus 3'7" painted poles.

Had an outstanding lesson with Phillip yesterday. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't easy. It was exactly what we needed. Phillip made his point. Katchi WILL stay in front of my leg at all times. I'll be riding show jumping on Sunday with my reins bridged, ready to activate the bat at a moment's notice. And ready to ride quiet when he's good and steady when he's really there. It will be good - I promised Phillip I'd make it good.

And when it's all over, the champagne is ready too.
See y'all this weekend!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not all stops are created equal

A XC stop is a stop is a stop. Not so.

There are cheeky little baby horse stops that earn you 20.

There are stops and punts that earn you 20.

And there are, apparently, stops 4 or 5 strides out that earn your horse a good wack on the ass, a public announcement of your stop (don't you HATE when you're on course and you actually hear the announcer declare your stop to the world, "and unfortunately for Cherie Chauvin and Katchi Kapshi..."), that then don't appear on the scoreboard at all.

That about sums up XC at the Maryland Horse Trial.

Before I go any further - let me make a public service announcement to please fill out your event evaluation forms if you were at Loch Moy this weekend! CLICK HERE! For the good of all of us, be sure to let them know what you thought about the new show jumping ring! Can you guess my opinion??

I was at Loch Moy on Saturday to help Kerry & Atticus and Sunday to run Katchi Training level. Kerry's day started off with 2 fantastic phases - sitting in 4th going into XC. At his last event, Atticus took a bit of an exception to the water jump - which we hoped was a fluke and result of unique circumstance. But, this weekend, with 2 water jumps, Loch Moy proved an issue. I think it's so interesting how sometimes green horses will just sort of do things the first few times, and then as they start thinking about them, they start thinking, "hum, maybe I should think about this a bit!" Atticus has reached that phase. He hasn't quite mastered the "look AND jump" concept at the water - but I predict he'll be there real soon. In the meantime, he picked up a cheeky little stop and a more cheeky little stop (which Kerry very successfully punted him out of, but not before the official stop ruling) - I really don't think that Atticus even knows he stopped, I think he just thinks he was very careful, which isn't all bad.

Loch Moy was to be Katchi's big show jumping debut! I couldn't believe my good fortune when I asked Phillip on Saturday if he was really coming out on Sunday to ride just one horse. I mentioned that I was to ride SJ an hour after his XC, and if he happened to still be around and not doing anything, I sure would be grateful if he could warm me up. I was fully prepared for "oh, sorry, I've gotta get back to the horses at home" - but he said MAYBE!!! I nearly passed out on the spot! As I headed out of dressage on Sunday, I ran into him again and he announced he'd meet me at SJ warm up in a few hours - I nearly screamed with delight! Actually, I think I did scream! Katchi and I had by far the best jumping warm up we've ever had. Phillip really emphasized small turns, keeping the canter in tight turns immediately after the fence, and staying very quiet in my hands and upper body. It was perfect. And then Phillip even came up to watch my round. Can you believe my luck?!!? I felt so good going into that ring, with Phillip giving me final words of advice - we trotted in, and Katchi changed right under me. I haven't felt him go that absent in well over a year. He didn't know where to look; he was totally overwhelmed. And holy cats that footing was deep. When I came out of the ring, I wanted to just cry out - oh that deep footing, oh those tight turns, oh that stupid wall sitting on the edge of the fence, oh oh oh! I half expected Phillip to just drive away - to disavow all affiliation. But, he didn't abandon me. He said, "okay, so... he really doesn't want to touch the fences, but..." Shoot me now, please. I managed to keep all whining inside and listened carefully to every word. The worst thing you can do is have a round like that and just let it happen without doing anything - especially when PDutty is watching you. Phillip said I should have nailed Katchi after the very first jump with the bat right behind my leg. But, but, but, I wanted to scream out! Doesn't matter. Get the job done. I've never ridden a horse that can feel so forward yet be so far behind my leg - I'm only just starting to realize the full meaning of that. We have a lesson scheduled with Phillip on Wednesday. I'll be wearing my safety vest.

XC - Katchi was pretty awesome! Oh, yea, but wait, what about that stop that wasn't a stop??? Those Trakehners suck. The path to the Trakehner was a challenge, coming down a very steep mountain out of the woods, and then turning while galloping back up another mountain meeting the Trakehner just at the top. I gave Katchi a wack at the bottom of the mountain to be sure he was fully in go mode - he said, "woo hoo! Gallop up the hill. Check!" Half way up the hill, when I put my eyes on the Trakehner and tried to tell Katchi to turn, he was not in turn mode - he was in gallop straight up the hill mode. He sort of started turning, but was was still looking off straight up the hill and back to the start box. I think we lost impulsion, and I was still fighting for the turn, I smacked him real hard to get his attention forward, when he suddenly saw BIG EVIL NASTY TRAKEHNER - and that was it - he shot off to the right, back where he wanted to go all along. I had to sit him down and spin him around to the left - big ol' wack on the ass, a circle around, and we slithered over the trakehner on the second approach. Leaving the scene of the crime, I heard the announcer declare our misfortune. Lovely. But, Katchi was really stellar the entire rest of the course! And it was so fun that in several places around the course, I heard folks yell out my name and whoop and holler! Love you guys!!! :)

Katchi jumping the terrible trakehner way back in 2009.

Well, it is what it is, and a stop it is. Or so I thought. I had the great fortune of being parked right next to an old pal, Erin, from Phillip's 2009 camp. I was a bit slow getting packed up as we were chatting and laughing and talking about fall events and... so, by the time I got down to the scoreboard, scores were final, ribbons were out - but wait, there's a 0 next to Katchi's name under XC jump faults?!?! How can that be??? I know in my heart, he stopped. But, maybe just maybe, the judge gave me the benefit of the doubt that he stopped because he wouldn't turn - which isn't untrue. I am so grateful that 4.4 time penalties (I didn't look at my watch at all after our "stop") dropped me to 10th place, because I would feel SO guilty if they had finished me in the ribbons. What a crazy weekend of wacky stops and not-stops!!

COOLEST TRICK OF A PRO LEARNED AT LOCH MOY: While I was [harassing] talking to Phillip on Saturday about helping me on Sunday, he was trying to get suited up for XC. He asked me to put his pinny string through the loop. What loop? Where? I was looking on his air vest. He showed me the loop, and I went nuts - that's the coolest thing ever! When Phillip Dutton puts on his pinny, he uses a trick he learned from snow skiers. The strings on the back side of the pinny are tied into loops, so the strings from the front are laced through the loops, and drawn back to the front, so you make one tie right at your belly button. You'll never have to struggle to find your pinny ties on your sides again (while pony club children attack you to reclaim your pinny at the finish line)! Lesson #835 from Phillip Dutton.

My faithful groom, mom, in her hat that all the horses wanted to eat!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Golightly Goings On

June (and now July!) has been so busy with so many things to write about that I've missed some things, so this is a catch-up post to update on the Golightly Gang! We've got back to back weekends at Loch Moy starting in 2 days, so I better get ahead of the game quick!

In mid-June, we said 'happy trails' to Adrianne & Tori who relocated to beautiful Colorado!! Adrianne and her husband have been itching to try out life without DC traffic and the pieces finally fell into place for their escape - it was absolutely painful to get an update from her that she's riding her bike from her new home to Tori's new barn, in less time than it would take her to battle DC traffic driving her car from Virginia to Baywood to ride. Adrianne says they're going to try the Colorado life out for a year and then decide whether they'll come back - based on the beautiful pictures I've seen so far, I think Tori has a new permanent life as a Colorado mountain horse! Adrianne is at a primarily dressage barn now, and said the eventing scene is pretty few-and-far-between. She's even invited me to come out to give her a jumping lesson sometime - tempting!! It was such a pleasure to help Adrianne get through her first adventures in eventing, culminating in winning the Novice division at Full Moon Farm last fall. Sad to see her go, but wishing Adrianne and Tori all the best in Colorado- and hoping we might see them back here again some day!

Erik, Vader, Adrianne & Tori at their last cross-country drive stop - Kansas.

Right after I came back from my week at Phillip Dutton's, I headed out to Seneca Valley Pony Club's Horse Trial with two students - Diane & Kerry. My new student Diane, and her super cool BIG pony "Mr. President" aka Lincoln, ate up the Novice cross country course, finishing 2nd in their division! This was the first time I'd seen Diane & Lincoln in action at a competition, and I think it's really so helpful to see how horses and riders perform at home versus a competition. Rarely are we the same rider sitting on the same horse! Kerry & Atticus were also out at Seneca, making their second Novice appearance - Kerry had a bit rougher day with a stop on XC, but she came home having learned some valuable lessons about her partnership with Atticus that I expect will really help her at her next outing.

Me, Lincoln & Diane

And I'd also like to introduce Karrie, another new student who I hope we'll see out and about at some starter stuff this fall. Karrie and her super fabulous Baggio comes to us from the hunter world, and she's conquering all kinds of demons out in fields - grass, hills, trees - oh my! But look at that smile on her face in the picture below - this girl is lovin' it! And I think if horses could smile, Baggio'd have a big old grin on his face too!

Karrie & Baggio (photo by Samantha Daley)

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Loch Moy this weekend and next weekend! My mom flies back in tonight to groom for me at both Loch Moys - she loves Loch Moy (but not quite as much as she loves going to Phillip Dutton's!). I'm pretty lucky to have a mom who will travel all the way from California just to be my groom - she definitely deserves some kind of a prize for that!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pony Ride Birthday Party

Yesterday was my birthday - I turned 34. And like any horse crazy little girl, I wanted to have a birthday party with pony rides - so that's just what I did!

Today, 10 horses plus 1/2 a horse (more on that later!) joined Katchi and me at Rosaryville Park for a pony ride birthday party! Oh, their humans came along too - 15 fabulous friends came along, with loads of food and drink in tow too! What more could any girl ask for to celebrate her birthday?!

To start off the festivities, we headed out for a ride around the park - a little gallop in the open fields (and my lovely new student Karrie successfully didn't die while cantering around the field!), nearly got run over by some speeding bikes which helpfully screamed "BIKE!" as our horses spun and tried to climb trees, trotted the only XC jump we could find not chained off (a 12" log that Katchi was mildly terrified of), checked out the "haunted" Mt. Airy mansion and abandoned green house, weaved through overgrown paths, and safely returned back to the trailers - for food, sangria (Debi's world famous talent at work!), and birthday cake (with candles and a, well pretty sad singing of "happy birthday" - but the thought was there!).

Checking out the Mt. Airy Mansion

In the thick of the woods.

And then it was time to Eat!

Katchi was the life of the party...

Until he passed out! Lightweight.

And then there was Ladybug - the 1/2 a horse!

Ladybug lives with my former student, Anna, and her fantastic parents - Steve and Bridget. Ladybug came along, riding in the front seat of the 2 1/2 horse trailer, to scare all the other horses! Diane's giant Lincoln had the worst of it - he thought that Ladybug was just no good!

And check out this birthday gift from Shane - SHE MADE IT! It's the most beautiful necklace with a tag with Katchi's name cut into it! WOW! She should seriously sell these things - they're beautiful!! And a very special thank you to Kerry who gave me a beautiful collage of photos from our trip to WEG - what great memories! It will make me smile every time I walk past it hanging on the wall at the top of my stairs.

There are days in your life when you just have to sit back and think how wonderful it is to have such amazing people in your life (and horses too!) - today was one of those days! THANK YOU so much to everyone who came out to play at my pony ride birthday party!!!