Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Weekend Update

The weekend update: mostly good... but still looking for better and best!

To start with the almost-weekend, on Thursday, Katchi and I headed up to An Otherwise Perfect Farm for a gymnastics clinic with Jim Wofford. I've done about 100 of these clinics, and they're always excellent. They always make Katchi jump smarter and more careful. And they take the pressure off me, as the lines just sort out the horses - so I can think more about fine-tuning myself. At the beginning of the lesson, I offered that Jimmy might want to wrap my reins around like the last lesson. He thought for a moment, and said, "well, let's see how it goes and decide later." And he never made me wrap up my reins! Woo hoo! We also talked more about my "self-critiquing" issue mid-ride. Jimmy said that I have enough knowledge and skill to know what's going on - so when I come into a fence "wrong" instead of freezing and saying in my head "oh dear! it isn't perfect!" - I should be saying - "oh goodie! Now I get to show what I know and DO SOMETHING to fix this!" I hear ya Jimmy. I hear ya.

Next up was Debi riding Roxanne at her first recognized HT - Difficult Run. In the past year, Frying Pan Park has really put an amazing effort into that facility. The footing was excellent with many new jumps. Debi & I walked her XC course before dressage, and we were both in high spirits for her debut performance! Dressage was good - Debi is used to competing First Level dressage, so we talked a bit about how a BN test can actually be harder because it's too simple for a horse who is used to tougher questions. But, she finished dressage with a very respectable 30.0 putting her tied for 3rd. Off to show jumping - always Debi's biggest concern. After an absolutely beautiful warm-up, she pulled 2 rails on course, but it doesn't matter - Roxanne jumped everything without question and Debi RODE her every time she started to be a little naughty. Next up - the fun part - XC! After watching 2 horses have "brain farts" at the first jump - Debi started off in fine form with no brain farts in sight! Into the woods, and back out - over fences 6, 7 and 8 - then back into the woods. Half way done and looking stellar! I was all ready with the video camera to catch her at the last 3 fences - I could already see her big grin in my mind! BUT WAIT - something catches my eye - it's Roxanne walking with Debi WALKING behind her! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? WHERE DID THAT HAPPEN? Between fences. ugh. Apparently Roxanne came out of the woods into the cow field near the old bank/mounds, and hopped left - hopped right - and hopped left again. 2 hops were good - 3 hops were too much and Debi ate grass. The officials were quite wonderful though and made it clear to Debi that she had the option to continue (so happy they knew the rules that a fall is only elimination if it happens related to a jump!) - but Debi decided she was done for the day. The grass stains on her white breaches told me she was probably right. But, darn. Darn. She was so close to a great day, until...

Today was Kerry and Atticus at the BEST jumper show at PG Equestrian Center. What progress these 2 have made in just a few months! When I first started working with Kerry, Atticus was crooked - to say the least. He is now straight - or at least straight-ish! And, gee, what a difference it's making in his jumping! Too bad for the few rails they pulled - but never mind. They were the most polished team out there, and that makes me grin from ear to ear! A happy horse and safe rider who are balanced, straight, and talking to each other - now that has future success written all over it - ribbon or not in today's rodeo.

And my final note for the weekend update is to my mom. When you retire and buy that horse farm, turns out you don't need to buy a truck. Just have the towing package installed on your Toyota Solara! Seriously... apparently! (See photo below). As Kerry said, "Better not be on any hills. It may pull it, but it won't stop it." Oh my. Aren't horses the most wonderfully trusting things in the world. Can you imagine what this one must think every time his "limo" arrives?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fair Hill Video

Video by Patrick took some great videos of XC at Fair Hill on August 7 - if you see them at one of your shows, it's definitely worth the price for a great video and online posting! I have lots of dressage and show jumping videos, but this is a real treat to feel a bit like a 'Rolex rider' and have a jump-by-jump close-up shot of our performance. They missed a couple of jumps, including my "SHIT!" moment at the ditch, which I'm okay with. Video is such a learning opportunity - it's interesting to see the gallop quality degrade as Katchi and I got tired. Also to realize just how early I trotted before the steps (AH HA - so that's where my 30 seconds in time penalties went!!). And to see my little bobble forward between the steps. But overall, it's great to see a happy horse and happy rider galloping confidently across country. You always sort of wonder whether you look as good as you feel - and I'm relieved to say that for the most part, yep, we look pretty darn good. Enjoy the video!

Katchi is enjoying a few weeks off from competition until the fall season officially kicks off on Labor Day weekend. That's also nice because it gives me a little extra time to focus on my students. Next weekend, I'm at Difficult Run HT coaching a student on Saturday and then at the BEST Jumper Show on Sunday coaching another student. Meanwhile, Katchi and I have lots of homework to do over the next few weeks - including a potential bit change in both dressage and jumping. More to come as we try out several ideas to get his input on the matter - he's already cast one "No" vote. But I think I have a "yes" vote on another option that we'll try at our gymnastics clinic with Jimmy on Thursday to see if it's still a winner. One thing I've learned - never think you've found a bit for life. As a horse's education, training and confidence increase, always be willing to re-evaluate the best bit solution. Which could mean more bit - it could mean less bit. In Katchi's case, right now, it's not more or less - just different and better.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fair Hill - not exactly to plan

I better tell my side of the Fair Hill story quick, because if anyone looks at the scores - well, pretty much all you can do is laugh! And I know everyone will be asking, "how the hell did you manage that?!". Let me tell ya - it wasn't in the plan!

I went to Fair Hill full of ambition for 3 solid phases and a top place finish - if not the top place.

Phase 1: Dressage - sorted. We led our class with almost a rail in hand. I really tried to put Katchi together in the warm-up just as we've been doing in my lessons with Silva Martin, and he felt pretty darn fantastic. We have yet to break into the 20's in a Training test, so that's definitely a future goal, but I was really pleased to have such a good start to the day.

Phase 2: Show Jumping - have you ever met anyone who racked up 63 penalties in show jumping and still completed the course?!?! MEET ME!!!! My show jumping points were 2x my dressage score! Even if you knock down every rail on a 12 jump course - that's only 48 points!! So, how did I do it??? We had an "incident." The funny thing is - our round wasn't actually half bad, except... The first jump on course was an oxer with white rails and a dark green carpeted roll-top underneath. Back at the trailers, rumor had it that the show jumping course was pretty much total carnage. I heard Karen O'Connor very nearly fell off at the first fence. Bruce Davidson Sr came crashing through the last line on Cruise Lion. Charlie Plumb had an equally disastrous demise. Great. But I didn't actually feel that concerned about the course. Silly me.

Coming round the corner and straightening to the first fence - the stupid green roll top - Katchi sucked back a little and started to think left. I corrected him straight and figured we'd just get a sticky hop over it and be on our way - and then he ducked hard left! Using all my Lucinda Green skills, I stopped him from running past, gave him a good wack, and walked him back across the front of the nasty little roll top. He walked past it saying "that thing... it cannot be trusted!". But I thought I'd made my point, so we started to canter around to come at it again. Just as we got straight - a good 4 strides away or so, Katchi said, "oh hell no - that thing is evil and you hit me up there." Stop and spin. At this point it hits me - I spent 5 hours in the car on Friday to walk my XC course, which I was dying to ride, and I wasn't even going to see it! We went from leading the dressage with almost rail in hand to only have one stop 'in hand' to even carry on!!! I stopped Katchi and I explained this to him - it was time to get his head together and jump the jump (luckily, as my groom Kerry verified, I did not add any colorful language - like F*bombs - to this conversation that everyone on the side of the arena could hear!). Well, apparently the conversation worked, because Katchi went back to the first jump and jumped it almost like a hunter. Ass. The rest of the course went pretty well - we pulled one rail, but over all the quality of our jumps were pretty okay. I almost missed fence #8, and Katchi was a real trooper in jumping it from about as steep an angle as physically possible (I was well aware that if I circled, that would have been our strikes your out, so I didn't care if all the rails came down, we just had to get through those standards! Actually, he jumped it about perfect, and saved my butt!) If we could have just had a "do-over" at the first fence, I'd be on cloud nine right now!!! But instead we left the arena with 12 jump penalties and 51 time penalties - 51!!!! sheesh.

Phase 3: Cross Country - Katchi's becoming a machine! This was a perfect course for us because there were a lot of good questions, but it was very fair and very ridable. Katchi took a good look at the drop into the water, but other than that he was bold and fabulous! I came home with 15.6 time penalties, which is frustrating because I really thought we were moving along out there. But this is the longest and fastest course we've done - 470 mpm for 5:32 minutes. My pace is definitely something I need to sort out before a move-up to Prelim - 520 is a long ways off 470! Which also means my fitness has got to be a heck of a lot better - I was just about outta air by the time we came through the finish flags - and I'm getting so sick of that feeling!

Below are a couple of pictures from the XC course - we had steps down at fence 13, and fence 17 was a super fun little bank up, over a mound, and a little skinny at the base. Katchi and I thought that one was good fun!! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Out and About in Maryland

Original text deleted - now a real post...

The Golightly Gang has been all over Maryland the past 10 days - working hard and kickin' butt! As I mentioned in my last post, I had 2 students entered in the combined test at Equilibrium Horse Center. Again this year, it kills me that they run a 2' jumping course paired with the Novice dressage test - HELLO?! Do they not realize there is a Beginner Novice level to eventing? That being said, they always run a really nice and friendly day - and we love Aviva Nebesky as a dressage judge - she is so helpful and takes the time to speak (at length!) with every rider. Just what a schooling show is supposed to be.

Anyhow, Debi won her class which is a fantastic lead-up to her FIRST recognized USEA event in a couple of weeks at Difficult Run. Last winter, Debi and I spent hours (in the cold!) completely fixated on fixing her jumping. We went over-and-over-and-over the basics and Debi suffered through jumping without reins, jumping on the lunge, posting without stirrups, eyes closed over cavelletti... that takes a lot of guts for someone who is, well, she's not a teenager! And for all her hard work, she is a new rider with a new horse. Debi came out of her jumping round and said, "well, wow, that was nice - that was almost, um, hunterish?!". No more bolting at the jumps, flailing about, a quick run-out and Debi on the ground!! Nope, it was "hunterish" and we loved it!

Meanwhile, Kerry, who I've only been working with a couple of months - took home a pretty red ribbon at her first combined test ever - which included her first dressage test ever! The first time I worked with Kerry, we went out XC schooling. She has a beautiful big moving horse, who pretty much went sideways the entire XC outing. As I'd never seen them in the ring, I assumed this was an 'excited to be out in the open and jumping weird logs' thing. Nope, it was a dressage thing. As fate comes at you in weird ways sometimes - Kerry got a bit banged up when her horse fell down FOR THE SECOND TIME in a week. I wasn't there for either fall, but I know one thing - horses do not just fall down (with the exception, apparently, of Katchi when he has a tantrum in the field). So, we started with the simplest answer first - feet. A change in farrier seems to be all that was needed. Meanwhile, as Kerry recovered, I spent some time sorting our her horse's dressage work. Sometimes a mandatory dressage focus and walking lessons are the best thing that can happen to you - but one that isn't on the top of most people's list of "great fun with a horse." Since I turned the reins back over to Kerry, she and her horse have improved more than many people do in a lifetime! I predict her red ribbon is the first of many more ribbons to come for this pair!

And then it was a Golightly getaway to a Jimmy clinic! I had 3 students ride in the Beginner Novice group, so we all took a vacation day from work and made a holiday of it! I was so proud of the girls' riding - and it was a tremendous opportunity for me to hear what Jim Wofford had to say to MY students! We learned a few things - Adrianne forgets to breathe (hum, isn't that a basic survival instinct?!); Debi gets nervous and looks anywhere but the jump (jumping works much better if you know where the jump is!); and Kerry, a former hunter rider, never knew to look at anything but the treetops (but at least her horse doesn't come at jumps sideways anymore)! As these 3 rode in the first group, they spent the afternoon in the shade enjoying a picnic (with Sangria!). I decided against turning up for my ride time with Sangria on my breath. I wonder what Jimmy would have said to that!?

And as for my ride with Jimmy - I think the video below speaks for itself. It was excellent. I had to suffer through one of Jimmy's clever little tricks though. At the start of the lesson, we were speaking about my continued struggle in staying up over my knees in the air over fences. It's not a weakness in my lower leg; because my leg is right where it needs to be. I just don't get up in the air. So Jimmy fixed me. He's done this to me before, but it has been a few years. Hard to describe, but he wrapped my reins around Katchi's neck like a figure eight. So I had to hold onto two pieces of the rein with each hand - it basically creates a neckstrap with the reins. I do wonder who came up with that idea the very first time - "hey, schmuckatello, let me try something!" But I stayed with the motion over every jump - and Katchi was so grateful! Even when he did one of his humungo jumps over an oxer - I was right there with him. I was stunned.

And then it was Olney HT. I had planned on giving Katchi a week or two off in August and not competing at all this month, but he's given himself so much time off already this year, I cancelled his vacation. Olney and Fair Hill (which we head to on Saturday) were also my last 2 chances to decide whether AECs should be on the calendar for this year. I knew when I sent in my entries that there was a good chance I would scratch or withdraw at some point due to heat or footing or both. But, August is turning out to be a better month for eventing than May, June or July!! The weather was beautiful at Olney, and it rained so well the night before that the footing turned from horrendously hard to pretty acceptable. I didn't decide whether I was going to run XC, however, until after SJ. After a clear SJ round - which was not perfect, but much better - Katchi felt really good and seemed to be okay with the footing. So, I figured I'd head out on XC - I could pull up if he didn't feel right. I just let him cruise around at about 400 mpm, so we racked up some time penalties, but he was brilliant. It was "easy peasy." The course was pretty simple, with the exception of one combination which he almost drug me down to - the coffin complex (pictured below) . Katchi skipped through it like he'd been doing coffins his entire life - and this was the first one he'd seen with all 3 elements and a dip (even if they were quite small - it's still a significant question!).

And, finally, yesterday was a Silva lesson day. We are really pushing Katchi into a new level of his work, and I'm so pleased with his progress! I, however, almost died! I know it was humid, but really?! Is dressage that hard?! We're not exactly doing Grand Prix movements, ya know?! When I went for my run today, I was determined to run longer and faster than normal - I never want another dressage lesson that hard again!!! I come off the XC course in better shape than I was at the end of my dressage lesson yesterday!

So, it's off to Fair Hill on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to a solid 3 phases - Katchi is stronger than ever, and he's ready to kick butt!