This weekend was packed with dressage and pink!!! Pink shirts, hats, ribbons, flowers - and even pink glitter on horses! Because this wasn't just any dressage show - this was the PVDA Ride for Life, to benefit the Johns Hopkins Avon Breast Center. This was my 6th year participating in the event, and it was bigger and better than ever before. And this year was extra special, as I joined up with 3 great friends - Kimber, Kerry, and Erica - to form Team April, riding and collecting donations in the spirit of "The Fierce Cancer Slayer, April" - a 35 year old friend-of-a-friend in California who is fighting stage 3 breast cancer. Our team (horses and riders!) were out in full force all weekend wearing our very very lovely Team April sashes - which, begged several questions of whether we were Team Aprils or Miss Aprils!!!! Certainly wasn't expecting that one!
|Katchi & me sporting our Team April gear|
|Erica, Monty & Me|
On Saturday afternoon, I received the very exciting news that I had won the high pledge award for the "open division" (which means that I was competing in "open" classes, rather than as a junior/young rider or amateur). Every year, I am just stunned by the generosity of my friends, students, colleagues, and family in supporting this event - THANK YOU! I don't have a final amount raised yet, but it was over $2,000. And for my work, Katchi took home the most beautiful Ride for Life embroidered gear - a stunning wool cooler, saddle pad, polo wraps (which, as Erica pointed out, I will need to mark "this side up" on the end where you start wrapping - otherwise, Katchi might look pretty silly sporting up-side-down and backwards R4L logos on all four legs!). THANK YOU - THANK YOU - THANK YOU to everyone who made a donation in my name!
The Dressage ShowNot to be overlooked is that Ride for Life is also a dressage show and Katchi and I, along with a couple of students, were not only sporting pink all weekend - but we were also sporting our game faces! I rode Katchi in Second Level test 1 on Saturday and Test 2 on Sunday - these tests are still quite hard for both of us, but I think we're really making progress in understanding what is needed to perform at this level. I was super thrilled that Katchi kept his counter canter through both serpentines in Test 1 - for the very first time in competition! He also got a 7 on his backing, which was quite a bit stiffer than the reinback we did just before entering the ring - so that's a huge improvement from the 4 or so he earned the first time competing at this level!!! Unfortunately, even with some very high marks the first day, the judge issued harsh penalties for the lack of crispness in every one of our walk-to-canter and canter-to-walk transitions, and there are a lot in that test. It was one of those days that I just couldn't seem to get Katchi to come through, and without his hind end attached to his front end - those transitions were impossible. But, day two was a new day with the same judge - I changed my warm up quite a bit (including going to a different arena with more space and better footing) and I really got him put together for a much improved test, scoring just over 60%. The judge still nailed us for a few tiny mistakes, but I could not have been more thrilled with my pony!
|Katchi showing off his new R4L saddle pad.|
I'm also thrilled to report that Kerry and Atticus had a stellar weekend riding First Level 1 and First Level 2 (for the first time) scoring mid- and high- 60s on both tests! Kerry even scored 7s on her leg yields! AND I'd like to announce Erica and Monty as the undefeated winners of Intro test B (walk-trot!) on both days of Ride for Life!!! Erica, my hunter rider friend from Baywood, took the plunge into Dressage land last year at Ride for Life - while she had a good show, she did not win. So, the game face came out this year and we did some serious practicing the last few weeks - she put her stirrups down many holes, learned to keep her butt in the saddle in the canter, and even restrained herself (almost completely) from clucking at her horse! Erica improved her scores by more than 10 points and won 3 out of 4 classes - finishing 2nd in the 4th class! All on her 22 year old off the track thoroughbred - The Full Monty!!! You just gotta love it! Watch out next year, I'm pretty sure she's already set her eyes on earning an 80% in the walk-trot intro class!
|Katchi had pink ribbon spirit.|
Silent AuctionThis year, I had the best idea - I volunteered for a few hours on Friday afternoon during the silent auction set-up. Brilliant! Double use of my time - help the show AND scope out all the auction items! This year was the biggest auction yet - with almost 250 donated items ranging in estimated values from $3 - $6,500. There was something for everyone! At the end of the night, I came home with two bracelets and Katchi won a massage with the love of his life, Courtney, from Hands on Horses.
|A huge thank you to Cavalor Feeds and the National Research Council who donated items to the auction on my behalf.|
Dancing Horse ChallengeOf course, after last year's Lady Gaga performance, everyone was waiting to see what Bent Jensen would pull off this year! It was really a treat to see him riding in leopard print spandex and an Afro wig - but I admit, I was a bit disappointed that his routine was a repeat of one he did in Florida earlier this year which has been quite a youtube sensation for months. Even still, to see the spectacle up close and personal - Bent Jensen did not disappoint!
But my personal favorite of the night had to be my own dressage trainer, Silva Martin, riding the beautiful Aesthete (Stately), fully decked out in War Horse costume. Stately took to all the show's pizzazz and seemed to really be showing off - until he seemed to take a bit of exception to his blanket straps and let out a serious buck. Silva, of course, was unphased. She must have had some practice riding a good buck on Neville! And Silva looked the model of dressage history in her military uniform - absolutely stunning.
Here are some more clips of several of my favorite rides in the Dancing Horse Challenge