Sunday, September 18, 2011

Miracle at Marlborough

While so many of the East Coast Eventers were at Plantation this weekend, the rest of us were at Marlborough Horse Trials - celebrating their 20th anniversary. And for those who were ringside during my show jumping round, they were in for a special treat. A real miracle - a miracle most didn't even know they had witnessed, but I knew. Mr. Katchi Kapshi jumped like a real show jumper, with hardly a stutter - over a course that was causing havoc left and right with refusals and falls. Thank you Phillip Dutton for making this round possible. I was very nearly in tears coming out of the ring. I think the video speaks for itself.

Thank you Debi for being videographer extraordinaire.

I really like the Marlborough Horse Trials, and not just because it's 15 minutes down the road from Katchi's barn in Harwood, MD. The land is beautiful, the jumps are awesome, and the courses include some super fun galloping through wide wooded paths, open fields, and big hills. Despite the serious flooding only 10 days ago, the land recovered fantastically and we all got to enjoy some seriously good galloping! And the homebaked cookies waiting for us at the awards table - AMAZING! If you go for no other reason, go for the cookies!

At the end of the Prelim divisions, the scoreboard looked nothing short of carnage. Funny, because I told Phillip on Wednesday that the XC course was really soft and no big deal - he said I'm never ever allowed to say that to him again, and no joke, because I picked up a stop at an EASY EASY fence almost at the end of the course. Nothing can make you eat your words like a horse. After a tremendous round, including the water combination where someone later told me that if they'd caught it on video, it would have been the perfect example of how to ride it! Ahhh, you're making me blush... and then I picked up a stop by simply coming in on a bad stride and not closing my leg. Lucinda says, "don't think you had it, know you had it." I thought Katchi had it. I was tired, after all. Back to the treadmill.

Me with angry face at the scene of our "20". When Katchi ducked out left, I yelled out "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! AT THAT?!" - and as I spun him around, I caught the eye of the young-teen-ish boy jump judge - lounging in his chair, laughing. Apparently I was hilarious, and he finally got to write something other than "0" on his score sheet. Glad I made your day, chuckles.

But, at the end of the day - the carnage others faced was worse than mine, and we finished in 2nd!!!! Diane said, "you don't have to be faster than the bear, you only have to be faster than the other guy." Yep, that was my day! Of 9 starters in my division, only 6 finished, and only the winner finished without xc jump penalties. sheesh. I'm never calling a course "soft" again.

Saturday afternoon, Kerry and Atticus were up on the Novice course. After a stellar day and rockin' xc round, Kerry discovered a big fat E next to her name! WHAT?! An inquiry revealed that some numbers were transposed and she was credited with taking about an hour to complete the xc course, thereby exceeding the time limit - um, could we get a sanity check here folks?! Luckily - and let this be a lesson to everyone - Kerry caught the error withing the protest period and was able to save herself from Elimination and claim her very pretty 5th place ribbon! Congrats to Kerry and Atticus!

Saturday night, a whole gang of us headed to the annual BBQ for the Maryland Horse Council, at Larking Hills, just across the road from Katchi's barn. I thought it would be fun to get some good food and listen to a fun band at the end of a horse trial day, but I have a new appreciation for this organization now. If you live in Maryland, have anything to do with horses, and are not a member - become a member! I didn't appreciate how much the MHC has the power to influence - especially city, county, and state government - in ways that seriously affect the horse industry. I spoke briefly with a county councilman who is putting in legislative changes for Anne Arundel county that will hopefully stop the persecution of building anything on horse farms (indoor arena, shavings shed, covered round pen...) - he said Anne Arundel is the least horse-friendly county in Maryland! And for anyone who has visited the area, that's just criminal, because it has some of the best land for horses!

Sunday, it was back to Marlborough to help Diane & Lincoln on the Training course. Lincoln continues to impress me with his businessman-like approach to this whole eventing thing. Every day, he puts on his suit and tie, and shows up for work. And whatever work throws at him, he just gets down to it, and finishes it all in time to clock-out at 5:00, and head home for dinner with the wife and kids. Diane had 3 really solid phases (including 1 of only 2 double clear xc rounds) and was well rewarded with a 2nd place ribbon! Way to go Diane & Lincoln!!!

2010 Training trakehner. Evil. Scary. Airy. Deep.

2011 Training trakehner. Ah, lovin' that groundline!!

Lincoln & Diane - pay no attention to that ditch behind the groundline!

Diane, Lincoln, and his grooms waiting for their reward smoothies from the Smoothie Lady!

I hate groundhogs. My last note about Marlborough is about groundhogs. Katchi found a groundhog tunnel during the walk in his dressage test. Apparently, with all this rain, the ground had softened up enough, that he fell right into a tunnel (not an entrance hole!). I alerted the judge and stewards after my test that it might need some attention - apparently it took 2 buckets of gravel to fill! And another tunnel opened up later, just outside the ring, and a trotting horse when down to its knees. SCARY! I'm a vegetarian. I really like animals - especially cute cuddly looking ones. I officially hate groundhogs. And I'm seriously starting to feel like Bill Murray in Caddyshack - these little bastards are everywhere and they will not go away! And if they destroy Rosaryville Park for the horses, I may become a hunter.

Photo from

Today also brought a very cool surprise - I finally arranged to collect the MCTA perpetual trophy that Katchi and I won earlier this spring for the lowest dressage score of all MCTA members competing at Shawan Downs. I was actually struck at what an honor it was to receive the trophy and see all the past winner's names engraved on it (including Phillip Dutton)! It sort of made me feel like a part of eventing history! Pretty cool!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

(Wet) Ducks in a Row

Getting your ducks in a row. I love that saying! It's like the type-A, obsessive compulsive version of herding cats (or kittens!) - not good enough to just herd them, you gotta get them in a row! This week, I've gotten quite a few of my ducks in a row - despite the ridiculous rain and flooding - which I've spent way too much time driving in!

First up... Katchi update. We've been doing some remedial training on oxer-one stride-oxer combinations, and I have full intentions of making it to XC at Marlborough next weekend! We also got our collective butts kicked by Silva Martin on Wednesday. We've missed far too many lessons with her this summer, but this lesson covered some serious ground - mostly in counter canter! And on Thursday, Katchi and I braved the flooded beltway back and forth to The Plains where Katchi had his full check-up with Dr. Allen at Virginia Equine Imaging. All systems go! And, so, exciting news... I've submitted my entry for a Training Three Day... at the Kentucky Horse Park!! I cannot tell you how excited I am! At Loch Moy this summer, an old friend, Erin, from Phillip Dutton's 2009 camp put the idea into my head - why not do the 3-day at the Horse Park?!?! She's doing the Prelim Three Day, so we could help each other out! I couldn't stop thinking about doing roads and tracks around the Horse Park, meandering around the Rolex fences! I love Waredaca, but I just couldn't resist Kentucky! And the really fun part is that Kerry is going to take Atticus to run the Novice horse trial, and my old student, Amanda (who now lives in Tenessee) will also be there with her new horse. PARTY!

So, the three day preparation begins! I can do the dressage, I can get Katchi fit for the endurance day, we "can" do the show jumping - but, what about the jogs? Shit, that means fashion?!?! To help me out, my mom went through every Burghley jog outfit and gave me the following rules:
1. My outfit must work with Katchi's color. I may not clash with him!
2. No grey.
3. No yellow.
4. Only Mary King looked good in white pants. I'm not Mary King.
5. The shorter the skirt, the lamer the horse (my mom didn't discover this - it's just an eventing truth). Katchi better be sound, because I'm not wearing a short skirt!

Okay, great. Off to the mall. Ugh. Guess I better change out of my riding clothes and take a shower before I venture to the land of teeney-boppers and normal people. I can't remember the last time I was at a mall.

Just to prove why I'm so stressed about this fashion thing - check me out in 1994 at my CCN*...

Okay, mid-90's, floral thing (understandable, if not acceptable), hair a bit blond but not big (remember, I come from Texas - not big was a huge achievement!), shoulder pads (let me repeat, mid-90's), hum...

And then you see it - white socks and penny loafers?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?! Shoes. I will win in the shoe department in 2011!

Today, I got even more ducks in a row, by finally doing something I've been trying to fit into my schedule for years. After a very full day of teaching yesterday, I managed to keep my Sunday schedule open enough to do a little pre-event help at Rosaryville Park! I broke a rake. Ooops. But, I also identified a few trees that might poke my eye out next Saturday, and I would like to assure all Prelim riders that those pokey limbs have been appropriately dealt with! At the end of our work session, I told Diane, "well, the footing is good, except where it isn't." She laughed at me. But, really - considering the massive flooding just down the road, the park is in pretty good shape. And with the exception of the still running river that the (slightly) Prelim and (mostly) Training courses have to cross, the footing isn't so bad. And I hear gravel is on order. Please, please, no more rain this week. And I also have it on good authority that the scary as hell Training Trakehner from last year is going to be gentled a bit! See, pre-event volunteering has its perks! They're also still looking for some help on competition weekend, so be sure to contact them if you can help out.

And the last bit of this week's ducks in a row... oh, my crystal ball... let me wipe today's rain drops off you, so I can see... is there something long, white, powerful, and beautiful in my future? Does his name begin with an F??

Will you be mine? Maybe...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heroes and Almost Heroes

The thing about having a blog is that you have to report the bad along with the good. It's called honesty, or something. Luckily, thanks to my super student Kerry, I have some good to report along with my own bad.

First, Kerry's good. She ran around Seneca Valley's Novice cross country course with mad determination - and she was well rewarded with a 3rd place finish! This year has had its ups and downs for Kerry, who only competed at her first recognized event this spring - ticking off success at Beginner Novice and promptly moving up to Novice. It was all a little too easy at first, and then, as happens to most of us, Kerry came upon a few bumps - or puddles! Atticus started to think he might be smarter than Kerry, and maybe this whole "into the water" thing needed some extra thinking. And coming from hunter land, Kerry wasn't prepared for how to deal with the little princess fretting over getting his twinkle toes wet! A couple of weeks ago, we did some XC schooling at Loch Moy, and we pinned down Kerry's placement and timing of the bat to Mr. Twinkle Toes rump. Let me just tell you that Mr. Twinkle Toes did a full on cannon ball into Seneca's water this weekend, and he had a smile on his face! Problem sorted.

While Kerry was a hero, I was almost a hero - and almost isn't good enough. Seneca was death by a thousand paper cuts for me. But there were glimmers of glory - 2 fantastic warm ups and a hell of a jumping horse! And I was almost having fun in show jumping! So what the heck happened - why the big E??? I jacked it up with just 2 jumps left. We hit some difficult distances, we cross-cantered the triplebar - but it was working out and Katchi was jumping fantastically!! Except for the combinations. Those damn combinations. We survived the first one - vertical to vertical, one stride. It was ugly, but we survived. The triple was not as forgiving. Oxer-one stride-oxer-2 strides-vertical. With a stop at the vertical and then, on our second try, we picked up a stop at the second oxer, and our day was done. What a terrible end to one of our very best rounds. So, what went wrong?? I went wrong. I've gone over it and over it in my head, and watched the video 1,000 times (THANK YOU DIANE!), and I totally jacked it up - twice. I keep suckering myself into riding into combinations with full determination to collect, prepare, balance, pick, pick, pick - but that's all wrong. Katchi needs to gallop a triple like a triple bar. When will I figure that out and make it happen on course?!?! S...L...O...W ...learner. At best, it was ugly and embarrassing. At worst, it was almost dangerous. I have to get over myself and GALLOP those damn combinations. No more pussy footing around. Problem sorted??

Next time, I'm gonna be the hero Katchi knows I can be and needs me to be!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Another Change in Plans!

Katchi and I had probably the best jump school we've ever had yesterday - over the biggest fences Katchi's ever jumped! Phillip said run him. So, routine vet appointment is moved to next week, and Seneca is on!! I was absolutely stunned at how well Katchi jumped - his best ever! Is it possible that he grew up a bit running around his first Prelim? I feel good. I feel prepared. And Phillip thought Katchi looked great. I heard more "good"s come out of Phillip's mouth than ever before, and when the man says the horse is good to go, it's hard to argue! So, it's off to Seneca on Saturday. At least those prelim fences will look a bit smaller after the fences Phillip set for us yesterday! YIKES! :)

Hope to see y'all out there!