Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jumps not Jumped in Aiken

As we've been home a week tomorrow, I guess this will have to be my last Aiken post. The pain of leaving Eventing Disneyland definitely eased this weekend when I reconnected with so many of my fabulous students! It was so great to be back to my own teaching, and to see how well everyone did their homework! It made me feel a lot less guilty for leaving them in Maryland winter while I went off to play!

As Katchi was pretty much relagated to walking, there were a lot of jumps in Aiken we had planned to jump, but didn't. So here are a few snapshots of jumps not jumped in Aiken. Don't they just make you want to go?! It's not too soon - start planning for 2013 now!!!

Full Gallop Farm:

Full Gallop Farm - Preliminary water. Run through the water, up the mound, over the boat, back down the mound, and through the water again - Katchi would have loved this!

Okay, this one I'm glad we didn't have to jump! In the woods, off a turn, through a house, into the dark, and over... HUGE table! Shared by Prelim and Intermediate courses. Wow.

Sandy Hills Farm:

Here is the incredible schooling cross country course just across the street from where Silva was located. Talk about a playground!

Phillip Dutton's farm in Bridle Creek has the most lovely huge jumping field - here is video of Mara Dean schooling a young horse with Phillip.

I didn't catch the name of this farm, but it's about 5 miles down the road from Bridle Creek - talk about the perfect galloping track for event horses! This video shows several of the True Prospect horses doing their conditioning work. Just looks like heaven!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Katchi's Aiken "Adventures"

Late Monday night, we made it safely back home to Maryland. Aiken a fading memory, like a dream. I cannot believe it's come and gone, and now I have to wait until next year to make my Aiken training and competing dreams come true. But the trip was good. It was Katchi's rehab visit to the Betty Ford Center, like the Hollywood star he thinks he is! My mom was his personal nurse (and chef!). And, he was (almost) a perfect patient. No photos of blue ribbons won or videos of awesome training sessions, but here are a few photos of Katchi's Aiken "Adventures" (or non-adventures!).

Katchi spent hours walking and halting in front of mirrors - perfecting every step, which warranted much a huff and puff from the tortured pony!

When he wasn't having the living S*&! scared out of him by ... wait for it... teeny tiny birds (that clearly were prepared to turn into horse eating savages at any moment!) - Katchi quite enjoyed walking the hills of Aiken. He huffed and puffed out there too - apparently hills work a pony's butt!

And then he ate hay. A lot of hay.

And he ate some grass too. Well, a lot of grass actually.

And while Katchi ate grass, my mom and I enjoyed many a beautiful Aiken sunrise and sunset.

And, still Katchi ate grass. Hours and hours worth of hand grazing. Katchi really does have the best grandma in the whole world!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Watching Paradise from the sidelines

Instead of riding at Paradise Farm HT this weekend, my mom and I headed over this morning to check out the XC course that was supposed to be Katchi's first prelim of 2012. Last fall, before I sent in my entries, I asked Phillip about it - he said, "It's a tough XC" - and then he realized what he'd done, and he quickly followed it up with "but, that's okay, it will be good for you - we'll have you ready". So, of course, I spent the next 2 months wondering what PD considered a tough prelim and whether we could in fact do it - and then I had to scratch. So, instead of getting to ride the course today, my mom and I walked it while prelim was running so I could see how it rode. It had some good questions and lots of places to make mistakes - but it looked like great fun and very do-able! I tried to get video of at least 1 horse at each fence, but I unfortunately missed a few. Everything seemed to ride quite well over all - out of 38 prelim horses: 1 retired (after 3 stops - 2 being at the A of the water), 2 rider falls, and 2 with 1 stop - and a lot with time penalties. We saw one of the rider falls and it was a heart breaker. The poor girl just popped out of the tack when her horse took a peek at a ledge with a double row of barrels sitting on it - he took a peek and ended up scrambling on the ledge, and she just popped off. And then had to wait about 10 minutes, with her poor horse wondering what the hell had happened - while the EMTs drove all the way over from the far side of the course to ask her what jump she fell off at and send her on her way. ANNOYING. Interestingly, the 2 horses after her very nearly did the same thing. My theory is that what seemed like a very straightforward galloping fence with a solid/protruding groundline, became a very different jump when placed right after the trakehner. The horses seemed to be really unsure of that groundline. I got video of the 2 after the fall, but unfortunately not of the fall.

An added benefit of being a spectator is having plenty of time to say hi to horse show corgis!!!! I'm so totally a cat person, but I love corgis - probably because they're about the size of my cat!!!! This is Margaret Thatcher. A 9 year old cute as could be corgi that apparently herds the cat she lives with! When the cat does something bad, they tell it "the enforcer" is coming! I can only imagine what my cat, Schmoe, would think about a corgi trying to herd him in his own house!!

The kind of horse show scenes I'm always too busy to enjoy - porta potty dogs!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aiken Dream Farms

Does anyone want to buy a condo in Maryland? I think I'm going to be a squatter in Aiken! One good thing about Katchi being on limited work - my mom and I have been driving all over looking at the most amazing farms! It's like equestrian heaven. I mean, seriously, this is the stuff dreams are made of! And not just my dreams, Katchi's dreams too!

Here are some photos of farms in Three Runs Plantation - an equestrian community with bridle paths, jumping and dressage rings, community pool, and...

If I don't show up in Maryland next week, come look for me here. It's vacant and for sale. And possession is 9/10ths of the law, right??

The most striking thing to me about the Aiken farms are the variety of designs that attach the house to the barn, but not just in the same ol' house in the loft design.

This one is a bit of a mystery to me - hole in the middle, barn in the back, house in the front??

4 stall barn - tiny house attached at the side - perfect!

4 stall barn, car port.

Let me guess - Dressage barn??

Not in Three Runs Plantation, but not far down the road, this adorable house overlooks a gallop track, cross country schooling field, and lake!

This barn is at Full Gallop Farm - I LOVE the pull down doors on the left side of the walkway - close for cold and wind, open for fresh air!

Here is the barn Silva is based out of this year - it's still under a bit of construction, but it's absolutely beautiful and will be stunning when it's all finished.

Who needs cross ties when you have a tack up cart (at Silva's barn)!

This weekend, we didn't get Maryland's snow, but we sure got the cold! Was down to 20 at night, and my poor mom from San Diego was totally under-dressed. But, a trip to Tractor Supply, and mom got "all rugged up"!

Yesterday was quite a treat for me when I got to introduce my fabulous old friend, Erica Fica, to Katchi! I met Erica many years ago in Texas when she was a pony club instructor/volunteer/mentor. Erica helped me to get to my very first recognized horse trials, and while my mom and I saw her at WEG, it was so wonderful for her to meet Katchi. And Katchi was even allowed to trot for 3 minutes yesterday! He sighed a lot, but I think he was super happy to do something other than WALK!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hanging out at the High Performance Training Sessions!

Day 4 in Aiken. Still lovin' it! Sunday was nearly 80 degrees; Monday didn't hit 50! Katchi has been thoroughly enjoying his quality time with his "glamma" - and has been super well behaved despite his mandatory rest. Until yesterday - when he was making all sorts of faces at us. I finally put my face down near his mouth to see if he had a stick in there or something - and wouldn't you know it - he had a big old chunk of his lip detached and flapping around. Fantastic. Silva called her vet for me, who decided it couldn't be stitched and would have to be cut off. Luckily it was only the size of about 10 m&m's, and it's on the very under/tip of his lips, so it won't be noticeable to anyone except me - and Katchi! Feeding him carrots later on, he was dropping little pieces all over - so I said (through my tears), "what, you got a hole in your lip or something?" Then I laughed and cried. Un-freakin-believable.

My mom at the entrance to Bridle Creek - the equestrian development that houses Phillip Dutton, Kevin Keane, Boyd Martin, Doug Payne... and the USET Training sessions!

Phillip Dutton's Barn

On Sunday afternoon, Kevin Keane was so kind to take about an hour to give us the whole tour of his barn and house!! We learned all sorts of excellent tidbits about barn design. My mom and I are dying to sit down and start making sketches for our (MY) dream barn! :)

Monday morning was the start of four days of High Performance Training sessions! With Katchi limited to walking, this was one of the big motivators for me to go ahead with this trip. And I cannot say enough about the opportunity to watch and learn from such high caliber horses, riders, and eyes on the ground. Over the past 15 years or so, I've had the priviledge of watching quite a few of these training sessions with Captain Mark Phillips - and yet again, from an auditor's perspective, he did not disappoint. Monday was all dressage, and although the audio system was a bit troubled by static, we still learned an amazing amount! One of my favorite things I heard Mark Phillips say over and over again (which I fully intend to plagiarize for my own students) - "I'm after a feeling, not a frame. If you get the feeling, you can make the frame where you want it." Mark was adamant about making the horses push through and seek the contact forward - rather then holding themselves up, stiff and limited in their power. My other favorite thing was a bit of vindication for me - every since I was about 10 years old and read Ginny Leng's book about training event horses, I have taken to absolute heart her insistance that hacking is focused work. It's serious business. And it's an opportunity to be better. The horses can be on a long rein, but they must always accept the contact and move off the leg, and leg yield, and bend, and engage, and be balanced. So, when Boyd got a bit of a lecture from Mark about the way he had been hacking out his horses earlier in the morning - loose rein, letting them wander about and look wherever - I thought, Ginny would be happy to hear this lecture! Mark explained that hacking is the ideal time to show the horses "the rules of life" - so that when they come into the sandbox to focus on dressage, it's not tragic and terrible for them. Because any time they are ridden they are to focus and work. Period.

Mark riding Boyd's Ying Yang Yo.

Mark with Jennie Brannigan

There was only one jumping lesson this morning - Will Faudre on Powlow. I have to admit that after all my lessons with Phillip, I was 1) disappointed in the simplicity of the lines (NOTHING like what PD has thrown at me the past few months), and 2) thrilled to see a horse with such similar issues to Katchi. As Will said, the horse is super careful, but he struggles with the quality of the canter. It was such an education for me to watch the "wrong" canter and the resulting jump versus the "right" canter and the resulting jump. It was Katchi in so many ways. So, it was great for me to see the tact and skill with which Will was able to work through Mark's directions. Although, I essentially couldn't hear much of anything (no audio hook up to Mark at all) - by body language and the few words I did catch, it was clear - it's all about the "right" canter.

And then I saw him. Katchi, I love you dearly, but I WANT THIS HORSE. Not only was he stunning in his work, but he's one cool pony too! At the end of his lesson, as Will and Mark were discussing some issues, Twizzel just hung out (not even being held onto) and made faces at the crowd. We were all enamored with him. I was seriously tempted to just walk in the ring and take him. I have room in the trailer to bring home another horse! I think Katchi wants a big brother!


The weather was so much warmer today that I was able to make my fingers work the video camera for a few minutes of several rides. Luckily, the audio system was working really well too, so hopefully you can pick up on a bit of Mark's comments.

Boyd & Otis (the French horse)

Will & Twizzle (MY horse!)

Boyd & Neville (the People's horse!)

Susan & ("look at that trot") Wolf

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reporting in from Aiken!

24 hours in Aiken. Already in love. Only cried about 10 times over my poor horse whose still limited to walking. Actually, Katchi and I both had a cry when our hand grazing exploration took us out to behind the turn out fields where we discovered the most beautiful open field, just begging to be galloped across. Katchi gazed across it with longing eyes, and sighed. I shed a few tears. But here we are - and we love it. And I guess, mandated to walking and strolling, we may not cover as much ground, but we'll have more time to enjoy all the details of the scenery.

Was able to watch Silva teach and ride a bit yesterday afternoon - I actually think Katchi was pretty sad to know Silva was there, but not for him. He really loves her! AND her dog! In the picture is Barbara (our Maryland dressage travelling partner), Silva's dog, Silva's mom (visiting from Germany), Silva, my mom (from California), me & Katchi.

The trails we will be walking, walking, and walking. Katchi met his first pine cone yesterday! Katchi said, "oh, what's that, food? OUCH! Prickley!" It was too cute!

Uh, can you say French castle??? This is the main barn on the property where we're staying. I'd love to say Katchi is loving his chateau, but our stabling is tucked around the corner, behind a "privacy wall" shielding the shantytown stalls from the castle. Oh well, it's all good!

And then we found downtown Aiken. OH MY! Here is Barbara heading into "Equine Divine" - it's an equestrian's fantasy shop. Every cute little everything you could ever want with a horse on it. Not to mention some amazing art work, stunning custom boots - and Dubarrys (complete with champagne!!). I'm not sure if it's an every Saturday thing, but they had quite a spread of self-serve beer, wine, appetizers, and cup cakes!!! Did I mention I love Aiken?!