Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get your GRRR face on!

While Katchi is in his 2nd week of vacation - I've been enjoying the extra time to re-evaluate and motivate! My private lessons with P Dutty over the past weeks have afforded us extra time to not only work on making me right in the saddle, but right in the head too. When I started taking regular lessons with PD this summer, I enjoyed quite a few good chuckles at myself as I looked around the ring. I would sing (in my head, I hope) "One of these things is not like the others" - ME! Who here doesn't have an Olympic medal (or if I felt more generous... a pinque coat!) - OH OH, ME AGAIN! But the great thing about riding in these small "elite" group lessons is we all have the same level horse and PD expects all of us (uhem, me) to give my prelim horse just as fair a chance to succeed as all those Olympic medalists give their prelim horses. Now, it takes him a bit more work with me (which usually starts something like... "Cherie, stop, stop, stop. Come here."), but he never lowers his performance expectations.

Okay, there might be more than one difference between me and those Olympians, but one big difference is confidence. They reek of confidence. And I'm the other kid in the lesson. It really struck me when PD said to me - after I flubbed a line and then came back around to do it just about perfectly - "the only difference between that good ride and last time's mess, was your confidence." Huh. Same technical skills, same take-off spot - totally different ride. In one I surrendered. In the other I fought with effective aggression. Determination. Commitment. Relentless. Willpower. Purpose. Grit. Go Big or Go Home. That's what Olympians are made of.

Okay, fair enough, the Olympics aren't on my short-term goal list. They're not even on my long-term goal list. But each and every one of us wants to succeed - whether success is the tadpole jumper class or Rolex Kentucky! And we all have the same freakin' mental battles to fight in high pressure situations - and don't tell me that tadpole class isn't high pressure! Have you seen people's faces going into the ring? That's no fun and games.

I watched the 2011 Rolex highlights DVD again last weekend - and there's Jimmy saying it over and over again. The difference between the riders that survive that course and those who don't is their determined focus. They all have the skill to be 4* riders. But its the ones with relentless focus on the ball (or next fence), despite all sorts of craziness (stumbles, over jumps, splashing water, lost reins...) those are the ones who get it done. The rest are stunned and surprised when it falls apart in an instant (don't I know that feeling). Gee, I just heard a repeat of my last talk with PD about upping my game to the next level. I have the skill, feeling, and awareness - and bursts of confidence when I ride damn good. But bursts are only bursts. Consistency is key.

I have to get my "GRRR" face on. When I rode with Mike Huber as a young rider, we used to make good fun of his GRRR face - teeth barred and evil eyes - over every fence... from the biggest World Championship fences to a 12" cross rail, Mike brought his GRRR face to every fence. This is what I need. A GRRR face so intense it scares show jumps into submission and makes trakehners shake in their boots (strike that - shake in their ditch!).

Mike Huber's GRRR face - over a novice fence at the 2010 AECs
(photo from the 9/11/10 USEA Blog, photos by Emily Daily and Leslie Threlkeld).

Interestingly, just recently my office work has taken a venture into looking at some cutting-edge human performance research - including sports psychology. Why do some of the best athletes "choke" under pressure? Why do others nail the most important game in their lives? What can we do to make sure we perform our best when it really counts? Performance is only partially about the trained skill. It's also a whole lot about what's going on (or not going on) in your head. And I have way too much in my head.

I'm sure I'll be writing much more about this in the coming months - I am ridiculously analytical and I'm only just beginning to sort through the research and my thoughts. But, I'll leave you with something to ponder from research out of the University of Hong Kong (Dr. Richard Masters and colleagues).

Think about your riding (you might even replace "movement" with "riding"), and rate the following questions with "strongly agree" or "strongly disagree":

  1. I rarely forget the times when my movements have failed me, however slight the failure.

  2. I'm always trying to figure out why my actions failed.

  3. I reflect about my movement a lot.

  4. I am always trying to think about my movements when I carry them out.

  5. I'm self-conscious about the way I look when I am moving.

  6. I sometimes have the feeling that I'm watching myself move.

  7. I'm aware of the way my mind and body works when I am carrying out a movement.

  8. I'm concerned about my style of moving.

  9. If I see my reflection in a shop window, I will examine my movements [okay, this is a bit unfair to those lucky enough to be riding this winter in an indoor with mirrors!]

  10. I am concerned about what people think about me when I am moving.

If (like me) you strongly agree with most of these questions - you are more likely to be the athlete who will "choke under pressure" rather than be the "go-to player" in high-stakes games. Research shows that, in sports (an athlete with well-trained or developed skills - not beginners), excessive performance self-monitoring is one cause of severely disrupted movements (performance failure). Ah, I hear Jimmy saying, "Cherie, stop critiquing your ride in the middle of it!" Stop considering and start committing. Why is it the harder I try to monitor every little thing to perfection - the worse I get? Psychologists are calling it "Paralysis by Analysis". And I'll call the antedote - "Get your GRRR face on!"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Festivus!

To all our friends and family spread around the world who are celebrating so many things this holiday season - Katchi and I wish you all a "Happy Festivus" (for those who are Seinfeld fans, this should make you smile - to all the rest, we'll just say instead, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas too!).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Katchi & the Colored Poles

It's been a while since I've given a Katchi update, so this post is all about himi! His big news today is that he's been on vacation for 24 hours and hasn't hurt himself yet!

Katchi took a few days off after Kentucky in October, and has been back in work since then. While I've dropped gallops off his schedule, we've been doing quite a few trot set days on the hills trying to keep on a solid fitness base before the ground goes all horrid. But, why does that matter when I have months before the first event of 2012?? Because I only have 1 1/2 months!!! Katchi and I are headed to Aiken for 17 days in February!! Honestly, I never ever thought I'd be able to swing that. But, my work agreed to let me work part days from there, and my mom is flying out from California to go with me, and the new truck is just begging for a road trip, so I couldn't resist!

So, our early winter training has been far from a let-up. In fact, it's been pretty intense, and I think we're both ready for our 2 week vacation. Sometimes the stars align and opportunities you could hardly dream of come along, and when you have a dream and a passion, you have to do everything you can to jump on those opportunities. For the past 5 weeks, I've made the 2 hour drive (each way) up to Phillip Dutton's place for a weekend private (or semi-private) lesson (typically scheduled just before his daughter Olivia gets a PD lesson on her pony!). The first lesson - which consisted of about 45 minutes of cantering "properly" over 12"-18" jumps, with about 1.5 minutes of a walk break - left me in pain for 3 days. Can you imagine the look of shock (horror?) when I (why??) admitted this to perhaps the fittest man in eventing? One day, I'll learn to keep my mouth shut. Smile and fake it, right?

Katchi at his weekend home - True Prospect Farm. Notice the NEW truck in the background?!

So, what have I learned from PD the past few weeks? A lot. Number one is to keep Katchi in front of my leg. But not just in front of my leg - he has to have quick hind legs, sending his energy through his body, and stay malleable throughout. 2 big things we've been working on is for me to soften him between fences (especially straight lines when he tends to lock onto the next fence and check out) by pushing him forward into the bridle rather than trying to soften him with my hands (which, duh, of course, makes him argumentative and drop behind my leg). I think I've only been really successful with it a few times, but wow what a feeling. From there it's amazingly easy to either compress for more strides or lengthen for longer strides - with upward balance and snappy hind legs. The second thing we've been working on is to turn (and when I say turn, these are PD 90-degree in 1.5-2 strides turns) by compressing Katchi back onto his haunches and pushing him around the turn with my inside leg to outside rein (rather than letting him drop his inside should and drag me around the turn, which buries us at the base of the fence).

As hard as these lessons have been, I keep reminding myself that the point of suffering through all this really hard stuff and insisting on absolute perfection is so that the tests in the show ring don't seem nearly so hard any more! And the reality is, it is getting easier. My body knows that, but my mind is still trying to catch on. The "unacceptable" jumps would have been considered "acceptable" just a few months ago. Even when we get there "off", it works out okay if I stay determined. But as we get more proficient, PD raises his expectations. We are not yet satisfied. My skill and Katchi's understanding have developed tons in the past few weeks - and the more those 2 come together, the better prepared mentally I will be to tackle the challenges of 2012. As Jimmy says, "the best defense against nerves is preparation."

This past Sunday, Phillip hosted a mini-clinic. I went up for it, but as most of the riders were lower level, Phillip had me ride in a semi-private lesson with a woman who I've ridden with a few times before in regular lessons. As I've been making all these trips by myself, I don't have any videos of our work, but with the mini-clinic day, I was able to capture video of some other riders working through the various exercises. I'm really sorry I didn't catch any of their names! Katchi and I worked through the same (and more) lines in the video below, with higher fences and higher expectations for a forward, active, malleable pony. The expectations of the lower group was pretty much to stay in canter and find a way to make the turns - which was hard enough!

In the video, you saw the sharp serpentine line with the vertical, oxer (with liverpool), and skinny - we also jumped it as a straight line both directions - I tried to take a picture to show the severity of the angles, but the lighting makes it hard to see. But maybe just seeing the angle at the skinny gives enough of the story.

So, for now, it's 2 weeks off to sleep (making progress), clean my house (done), wash saddle pads and polo wraps (done), organize and sort my life (hum...), and reinvigorate for 2012 (I'm almost very nearly excited, but back to that sleep thing...).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Wofford Gymnastics Clinic


Jimmy Returns for Leap Year Wednesday! Just what we all need to dust off the snow before the spring season starts - bounces, and bounces, and bounces, and a few "low-wide's" too! GYMNASTICS WITH JIM WOFFORD - you can't go wrong!!

Jim is having ankle surgery this month, so he will be out for a few weeks and FRESH when he comes back to us. As he just posted on his own site, "When I do start again, you can expect a superfluity of cavaletti and gymnastics, and an unrelenting emphasis on correct fundamentals. I am firmly convinced that the events we win later in the season have their existence because of the work we will do in Janurary and early Feburary." I predict this will be a VERY GOOD CLINIC with a VERY INSPIRED WOFFORD.

Mark your calendars:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

JIM WOFFORD gymnastics clinic at Baywood Farms in Harwood, MD.

To see what this clinic was like last year - check out my blog entry, White Winter Wofford Wednesday.

Contact me with questions and to save your spot - the clinic is already filling fast!

All information, entry forms, and releases are posted on my webpage calendar.

Auditors welcome ($20 fee, pay at the door).

Directions to Baywood Farms at http://www.baywoodfarms.com/

For more information about Jim and his calendar of other clinics: http://jimwofford.blogspot.com/

Lets hope for a warm and sunny clinic day! See you there!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

War Horse

By now, I'm pretty sure every horse person in America has heard about the Steven Spielberg movie, War Horse, coming out later this month. On Thursday, I was able to go to an advance screening. I cried. A lot. It was awesome. Go see it.

So, while I'm tremendously grateful for the free advance screening passes - I must say that whoever came up with the brilliant idea to invite a bunch of horse people into a downtown Washington DC movie theatre - not brilliant. There is no way I can possibly put into words the experience. Gave my spare ticket to a horse friend, also coming from city job, so we were clean and presentable. We chatted with some great ladies waiting in line. We took our seats. All good. Until the seat next to me was selected by a woman who proceeded to spray me down with "herbal germicide." Now you think I'm kidding, and I thought she was kidding, until she sprayed me down for the 3rd time. I realized this was no joke. She assured me it was "legal" - according to the ATF or the theatre, I'm not sure which. I struggled to remember my work's policy on random drug testing!! Shit. Funny how she felt compelled to spray me down - over and over again - but not her nasty straight-from-the-barn Ariat paddock boots. Horse people.

Now, I already covered that the movie was pretty fantastic. I seriously started crying within the first 5 minutes. You know, the first time the horse and boy met. I'm that easy. As horse movies go, it was wonderful to enjoy a film and not spend the entire time critiquing it over this that and the other thing a horse would NEVER do. But, I have 3 little things that only crazy horse people would notice. Let me see if I can poison you enough to make you a little crazy watching the movie!
1. Wow, what a clean shaven nose you have... always... even after years of war! (Sort of like Lawrence of Arabia with his perfect hair during his entire trek across the desert!)
2. The ventriloquist nose blower. That amazing Hollywood horse could blow his nose without even a flutter of a nostril! Good trick! I definitely need to teach that one to Katchi!
3. Another fun audio trick mis-matched the sound of the hoof-steps to the movement of the horse. As I think about it, I can imagine this would be pretty hard for Hollywood audio folks to do, but it sure stuck out to me! Luckily, I think it only happened a few times, so I didn't have to freak out and run out of the theatre screaming or anything!

On principle, I really hate when people over-relate their own lives to movies. But, I have to say that War Horse, aside from being a great story and tremendous movie, renewed my love for the heart of eventing. While we've all heard how eventing has its roots in the military cavalry - to test the precision, training, and bravery of a cavalry officer and his mount. I guess I've imagined I knew, but never really knew the full spectrum of what that meant. Watching the detail of the war horses attack, I have a new appreciation for eventing and our amazing event horses and riders...
Down into a trench, across, and back up the other side (can you say Sunken Road?)
Over a berm, leap over a narrow trench, out over another berm (can you say Coffin?)
Over a tent, and another and another (bounce, one stride, bounce...)
Huge leaps, quick turns, skinnies... all while galloping at top speed under perfect control.
Sound familiar?
The bravery, honestly, and trust those horses demonstrated is unlike anything I can ever express in words. Yea, I cried in the war scenes too - watching these horses, these flight animals, carry their riders into war... wow. It was amazing. And while it breaks my heart to think of the suffering and loss of horses in so many wars, it makes me love and respect them that much more. I gave Katchi a few extra hugs Friday morning. And I thanked him for all that he does for me. And he said, "ah that's sweet, now where's my damn peppermint?" Some war horse.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Truck For Sale... to good home only!


I have to admit a twinge of sadness writing this post. My old faithful truck is officially for sale. I'm pretty much in love with my new truck. And I mean seriously in love with it. But, this old truck will always have a special place in my heart. I bought it almost 5 years ago, when I just couldn't take on another car loan, and I was desperate for a way to restart my eventing career after so many years away. It just wasn't going to happen without a Katchi mobile. I bought the truck through an ad in the Maryland Equiery. When I went to test drive her, I learned her name was "Nelly" - on account of her sensitive and strong breaks "Whoe Nelly!" And last year, at Marlborough Horse Trials, her old owner was doing dressage bit checks and came by on a break to say hi to Nelly. Damn, she's been a good truck. Unexpectedly, she took on the challenge of getting me safely to Kentucky this fall - and back home again. She's never left me stranded. Slowly but surely, point A to point B, every time. I can't be more thankful. But, I can't ask more from her. She's a local gal - she deserves to be retired from long mountainous road trips. Sadly, her rider has outgrown her. And, so, with a twinge of sadness, I offer her to her next home. She has plenty more years to show new riders the ropes - taking them to lessons, clinics and shows. If you or anyone you know might be interested, send me an email at cheriechauvin@hotmail.com She deserves a good home!

Here's the "official" data:
1989 Ford F-250 XLT Lariat. V8 5.8L, Automatic, gasoline engine, 4x2, regular cab, grey cloth interior, bench seat, long bed (8 foot), 2 gas tanks (holds about 35 gallons total). 151,000 miles (engine “re-built” at 100,000 miles by previous owner). AM/FM radio and cassette. Tekonsha trailer brake controller. $500 Atwood folding ball gooseneck hitch installed October 2009. Passed Maryland emissions test Sept 2011 (valid through June 2013). 8 pin electrical plugs located at bumper pull and gooseneck. 25,000 miles on tires. Exterior paint chipping and minor rust. A/C has identified leak which requires repair. Heater works excellent! Minimal mileage last 5 years pulling horse trailer. It’s slower up hills with a loaded horse trailer, but runs fine on the level and has never left me stranded!
My mechanic says “it’s a work horse and will run forever!” $2,800 OBO

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Physics 101: The Dressage Rider... Really???

When I took physics in high school and college - I may have had visions of dressage horses in my head but I certainly wasn't applying the laws of physics - angles, torque, power, acceleration, resistance - to the dressage rider! I might have gotten a better grade if I'd figured out its relevance to the important stuff in life - riding horses!

To backtrack a bit - in case you are new to my blog - in February, I had a physical therapist work with me in the saddle. It was a pretty enlightening experience that you can read about here. Shortly after that post I received a comment from someone (maybe it was an email!) - I'm so sorry I can't find their name - anyhow, this very kind follower of my blog suggested I take a look at the books of Mary Wanless. It took me a few months to get around to making a purchase and another few weeks before I sat down with a glass of wine and a Mary Wanless book, Ride With Your Mind (turns out, there are quite a few, all with the same-ish title) - ready to see what I could learn. I was less than a page in and I was ready to scream out 'Mary! Where have you been all my life?!' I have to admit that I haven't finished the book. But its already filled with sticky notes, dog earned pages, high lighted text, and notes in the margins. Reading is slow going when you're this into what you're reading!

But hang on - didn't I open this post talking about physics? What does 'riding with your mind' have to do with physics? Apparently, everything.

A few weeks ago I found an ad for a RWYM (as those who are 'in' the club refer to it) clinic here in Maryland at Great Strides. Clear the calendar! Sign me up! Although I was too late to get a riding spot in the 3 day clinic, I was able to clear my calendar to audit the clinic's first day (and drag Kerry along with me). It was everything I hoped it would be and more! And Kerry... she didn't really know what she was getting into, but she went on blind faith - and by the end, she was pretty much giggling over the enormity of what we had stumbled into!

Right, so what is this whole RWYM physics thing? Let me see if I can say it without appearing too ignorant, should Mary herself read this post some day (?!) ... its the awareness that every force (or lack of force) of the rider effects the horse in either a positive or negative way. Nothing exists in a vacuum. To influence your horse positively you must be an equal creator and master of the energy forces acting in all directions on horse and rider. Ok so what the hell does that mean?

Go buy a RYWM book. Or two or three. Or the videos. Series I, DVD #3 is "The Sitting Trot" - my Christmas wish list just got a whole lot longer.

I can't even begin to recount everything I learned in the 8 hours I spent on Saturday enthralled by Mary. There wasn't a dull moment - and this was 8 hours of dressage lessons. And, oh by the way, very few riders even graduated past the walk. 8 hours of dressage walk lessons. Not for the faint of heart. Actually, everyone graduated to the trot - for a few circles. One cantered. And almost every lesson ended with the riders nearly collapsing from exhaustion! Did I mention they were mostly walking?!

Mary's philosophy is that a trainer's job is to clone "perfect" riders. To assess each student by detecting how they deviate from the "perfect" rider. And, to guide them to alter their angles and forces until they become the "perfect" rider - whereby, they will also allow their horse to move to its full potential. Okay, simple enough.

At the clinic, we had a tremendous opportunity to watch all shapes, sizes, and experiences of riders - from beginners to FEI. The horses were just as diverse. One thing that really struck me was, with very limited exception, Mary never said a word about the horse. She taught the rider. So many lessons I've watched and dressage show warm-ups are all about demanding this and that of the horse - while ignoring blatant and gross defects in the rider. I feel like hitting my head up against the wall watching instructors talk "fancy" about asking the horse and his hind leg, and his vertebrae, and ... when the rider is so blatantly falling apart that its a wonder the horse hasn't just stopped and laughed at the instructor out of sheer pity! One of the things I enjoy about my lessons with Silva is that I feel they are a good balance between fixing the rider and fixing the horse - simultaneously moving us together toward a goal. But, never have I ever witnessed lessons that so excluded the horse (NOT counting group school horse lessons - that just ain't it). The most amazing thing was, when Mary got the rider's angles right, and their forces right, and the energy moving in the right direction - holy crap! You should have seen the horses! Pokey, ground bound, sway backed nothing horses suddenly floated on air, rounded their backs, connected to the bit, and looked stunning!!! I looked around to check for smoke and mirrors - but this was real!

Mary stressed that there is no single mantra for all riders (sit up, sit back, sit tall...) - it's about detecting the deviations from perfect. And about developing words, feelings, visual/mental associations that make sense for the individual. But, in watching all the clinic riders, I came away with 4 basic things that applied to almost everyone:

1) Foot back, foot light. Having your leg and foot under your hip and shoulder is a necessary angle for stability. Without this, you will not be able to rise to the top of the posting trot. If you cannot be responsible for your own body weight, your horse will either 1) slow down to match you (i.e., pokey school horses) or 2) speed up exuberantly to make up for your dead weight (drag you along). Transfer your weight to 80% on the length of your thigh and 20% to your foot. This gives you power. One rider said that to get to the right position, he had to move his foot back 7 inches from where he felt it was "right" (it was actually only about 2 inches, but as Mary said, it's all about perception!).

2) Rotate your thigh over your knee (like a windshield wiper), knee-cap facing down. Again, it's all about angles and power forces. Mary describes the posting trot as feeling like you are kneeling at the alter. The knee moves in two ways - it kicks out below the knee (which moves the foot but does not lift the body) or it rotates above the knee (lifting the body). If your lower leg is kicking out, you are not lifting your body.

3) Keep the water in your bucket. If you imagine a bucket of water as the pelvis, hips, and waist line. Don't let the water spill out. Keep the bucket (pelvis) level. For some riders (who rotate the pelvis under), that means thinking "tail out". For others (who rotate the pelvis down and forward), it means thinking "stomach short".

4) Push against me. To place the upper body and chest in the proper alignment, almost all riders had to think of pushing against Mary's hand placed at their collar bone. It's not about leaning forward, but rather about creating a back to front power inside you that matches the power of the horse.

I have about 20 pages of notes, so be impressed that I was able to pick out just 4 things to say. It was all so important and absolutely fascinating.

But perhaps the most fun part of the day was the hour-long discussion over lunch. Mary pulled out a bag of balloons and led us through breathing exercises - to learn how to create a box out of our body whereby we push all the contents inside solidly against the walls - not letting any edges crumple. Learning not just that "core" strength is important, but how to use it. Now if I can only apply that to my sitting trot!

Now go buy a Mary Wanless 'Riding With Your Mind' book!!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Super Size Me!

Today's post is all about Super Size upgrades - as quite a few of the Golightly Gang have said "Super Size Me" this past week! For mid-November, when the competition season is supposed to be over, and rest and relaxation have taken over, we sure have been shakin' things up!

On Saturday, Susan and Eeyore Super Sized it at Kelly's Ford Horse Trial (the final Area II recognized event for the year) - successfully moving up to NOVICE!! They had a great first run, and despite a reportedly very challenging course, they came home without jump penalties and full of pride! These two have really come a long ways in the short time I've known them, and I can't wait to see where they go next year!

On Sunday, my very first serious eventing student in Maryland, Anna, who I have recently started working with again - boldly spun her OTTB, Abe, around Training level at Loch Moy's starter horse trials. Anna and Abe have been out of the eventing circuit for a few years as Anna has been doing the college and hunter/equitation collegiate team thing, so it was pretty cool to get a very excited email report from her that her return to Training level was one heck of a rush! I rode Abe around his first XC pipe opener at Full Moon Farm several years ago, just to be sure he was safe for Anna - who then rode him around right afterwards, better than I had - he was safe and they were off to great things. After such a break, what fun to see these back in action - and what fun to think towards 2012 with them!

Meanwhile, Kerry and Atticus were having their own adventure at Phillip Dutton's clinic in Pennsylvania. These two have made such great strides at novice the past few months, Kerry went to the clinic with the objective of testing out her skills and identifying any holes for considering a move-up to Training level in the spring. At the end of the clinic, when Kerry asked Phillip his opinion about a move-up, he said "more than ready." SUPER SIZE ME!

But, perhaps the biggest Golightly Super Size upgrade is my own! Yes folks, my old truck has made its last Golightly trip. It was the hero of the year, getting Katchi and me safely to Kentucky and back. But, it has been replaced. By a huge white monster truck! This truck is real. It would make men jealous. But it's a girl's toy!! And oh how I do love it! I can't back it; I can barely turn it; changing lanes is a little frightening; but it is SWEET! And if I do say so myself, Katchi and I are lookin' good in it!

I can't seem to find any "good" pictures of the old truck - funny that! But here is the old truck and trailer 2 years ago, just before the old trailer went to the trailer graveyard.


P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested... the old truck will be for sale just as soon as I can give it a good washing! It sells for cheap!! And it's one heck of a faithful old truck!! :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Memories of Kentucky...and visions of spring!

If you've been reading Eventing Nation this week - I've got so much Eventing Nation karma going on, I'm just about swimming in it! Even the "Chauvin DOG" (a fluffy maltese/poodle mix who lives with my mom in San Diego) made it on EN this week - seriously, that's good EN Karma! So how did the California dog make it on there?? My mom made a visit to Galway Downs to watch Friday's dressage, and she took "Muffin" along to meet a horse (first time ever!) and instead (it was raining and muddy, so her precious white fur had to stay away from the ponies) she met Samantha Clark, EN reporter and photographer extraordinaire. And she managed to get my name pasted next to her photo on EN. Wow. (See last photo on this EN post to see Muffin.)

Right, so back to the title of this post... just as the memories of Kentucky were starting to fade, the video from rnsvideomedia.com arrived! I realized that I never gave a full report of our show jumping round, so it's with great pleasure that I provide video! And I'm thrilled to say that it looks as good in film as it felt in person!

I've been thinking a lot about the Three-Day experience - whether I'd do it again; how it was different from my one-star long format in 1994; whether I'd recommend it to students; whether it was everything I thought it would be. And I think the answer is yes. On Sunday night - when the Horse Park turned into a sudden ghost town - I was so relieved to see that the horses stabled across the aisle didn't seem to be getting packed up. When I inquired whether they would be staying the night so Katchi would have a few friends, I was offered a cocktail, which I promptly accepted! Turns out, I was enjoying a cocktail with the T3D winner (THAT woman who just edged me out of the win!), her 2 sisters (ALSO competing in KY that weekend!), mother, and a whole gang of a support crew! And they got me so laughing so hard I was almost crying! Not only did we talk about the highs-and-lows and general craziness of the entire competition process, but also the process of getting there. The process of horse and rider getting fit together especially: getting out of the ring and off the groomed XC course, and into the "wild" of trot sets and sustained gallops for what felt like hours at a time! For a horse like Katchi, and Lela's winning OTTB, whose fear of mushrooms, sticks, and leaf piles is serious business - just going through that fitness process and arriving at the first jog with out a broken anything was a serious accomplishment. It made me push out of my comfort zone - just me and Katchi, off on our own, with a plan. It's so easy to say, "oh, well, he's a little spooky today, so we better stay in the safety of the ring" - but when you're faced with Phases A, B, C, and D just weeks away - you have to suck it up and get your butt out there. You can't show up at the 10 minute box and tell the vets that your horse hasn't recovered enough to run XC because you missed 4 conditioning days because he was a little spooky. That just doesn't cut it. So, as I enjoyed my cocktail and laughed with these lovely ladies (and gentlemen!), I thought - yea, this is what the long format is all about! It's not what it used to be, but it's still priceless, and I'm so thankful to have enjoyed it once again!

With Kentucky behind us, Katchi enjoyed a few days off, and is now back to work until Phillip and Silva head south (when he'll get a proper 3-4 week vacation). So, yesterday, it was back to work with Silva, and wow did we work! I always find this time of year hard for motivation - show season is over and Katchi's vacation is on the horizon. It would be so nice to just go for a lazy walk (in the ring - safety zone!!) and pat my good pony over and over again. But, we've got work to do if we're going to come out in the spring in the shape I have planned for us! So, I spoke with Silva yesterday about filling in some holes in Katchi's Second Level dressage work and even looking towards the Intermediate dressage tests. Flying lead changes being one thing that we've just never been able to tackle. Katchi's canter was such a disaster for the first 3 years I was riding him that I could barely sit in the saddle - he just towed me along and it was horrid! His canter is my favorite gait now, and while it's still reminiscent of his OTTB past, it's getting pretty darn good and he's even earned a few dressage judge's comments this past year of "the canter was the highlight of this test" - Really, Seriously?? When I mentioned the lead changes to Silva, she basically grimaced and said something along the lines of, "well, it's gonna be ugly." I knew that was coming, but I was still a little heartbroken. But, we went to work - with Silva drilling me with 20m, 15 m, and 10 m canter circles - to walk - to canter - to counter canter - to 10 m circle - etc etc. Relentlessly followed by the horrid sitting trot for leg yields, shoulder ins, and renvers (which thankfully I read about on wikipedia last week - and translated into the English "haunches-in" [CORRECTION: Thanks to my readers' comments for setting me straight as I STILL had this wrong. Yes, okay, got it - "renvers = haunches-out"... "travers = haunches-in" - now to figure out how to remember that!]). Just at the point when I was pretty sure I was going to die (has anyone actually died in the middle of a dressage lesson? It must have happened.)... Silva said she'd get on Katchi and give his lead changes a try. She thought she might be able to get something close in at least one direction. And wouldn't you know it - it was sort of okay! When she got off, she said "well, I thought that was going to be a total disaster, but that was pretty good!" OH KATCHI! GOOD BOY! I never really saw a flying change, but after the scuffle of dirt, Katchi came out on the other side on the other lead, and Silva was singing "good boy!" and patting his neck profusely, so something worked! We ride with Silva again next weekend, and we already agreed that we have the same lesson plan. Now I remember why I love winter training - it's the time to throw caution to the wind and see where you can get! No worries about making a mistake this week that costs you a point in the show ring next weekend - it's all about pushing yourself to the next level without all those worries of being perfect.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In The News!!

Wow - I almost feel famous today!

Last week, Susan Salk at Off-Track Thoroughbreds.com interviewed me, as Katchi's spokesperson! She wrote up such a lovely article that I could hardly belive the story belonged to me and my awesome pony! The article is titled: "A Day in Kabul leads to racehorse, joyous life"

And, as if this wasn't enough excitement for my day - as I was heading home tonight, I pulled up Eventing Nation to see what was up - and it was me and Katchi again! Months ago, I sent in my eventing profile to win a copy of Jim Wofford's latest book (didn't win, had to buy it), and wouldn't you know it, they picked today to publish my profile!

I kind of feel like I'm all over the internet today! It's very cool but a very odd feeling to keep discovering my name and photo on sites that aren't me writing about me! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hagyard MidSouth Kentucky: More Photos and Quotes!

Katchi and I made it home safe and sound Monday night - the old truck and I managed to shave off 45 minutes on our return trip, so it only took us just under 12 hours! And that included a stop at a West Virginia gas station where I had an interesting conversation with a man with 3 teeth about whether Katchi had any "Morgan horse" in him - yep, I'm sure, not a Morgan. That was just one of many moments when I really wished Katchi wasn't my sole travel companion! But, the good news is that Katchi and I successfully completed a 12 hour road trip, and we're still speaking. I guess that says something about the strength of our relationship!

I have a lot of thoughts about the T3D experience that I want to share, but that will have to wait until my lazy weekend. But, for now, thanks to my lovely mom who made a quick call Saturday night to purchase all the T3D photos of me and Katchi - I have photos! And for those looking for a little humor today, I came up with my 5 favorite quotes of the event ...

“I did a one-star long format in 1994.” [Cherie] “Wow, that was 17 years ago! I was born that year!” [P3D rider]

“He’s fine.” [The answer to any and all questions at the 1st horse inspection.]

“He lost a shoe yesterday.” [The answer to any and all questions at the final horse inspection.]

“Do you want a beer?” [Every groom on Saturday night, to every rider with a stop on XC plus a few others.]

“My God. Are you seriously braiding me again?” [Every horse in the 3 day]

And now photos from Xpress Foto - great pics!!

First Horse Inspection


Check out that super cool quarter mark!! I got skiilllzzz!

Both very pleased with ourselves! :)


What steeplechase looks like when a horse doesn't understand to go THROUGH the brush!!

Cross Country!

Yea, still not getting the brush concept.

Picture perfect last fence! GOOD BOY!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2nd place finish in Kentucky!


After a foot perfect double clear show jumping round late this afternoon, Katchi moved up the placings to finish in 2nd!!! What an amazing ending to an amazing experience!

Lots more pictures and stories to come later, but for now, I'm off to bed - Katchi and I start the 12 hour drive back home first thing tomorrow morning.

We got some serious loot for our efforts this week - awesome stuff!!! Saddle pad, tote, hat, fly spray, linament, shampoo, cowboy magic... but no horse treats for Katchi - he was so devastated!!

What a show jumping view - if we couldn't be in the WEG/Rolex arena, at least we could be next to it!

The last fence on course - check out my big fat smile!

Be sure to check out all of Eventing Nation's coverage of this event (especially Samantha's Blog) - I must thank them for all the EN karma this week - it sure came in handy!!

Show Jumping photos by Xpress Foto

XC morning nerves have nothing on jog morning nerves

Last horse inspection is over. We passed. Eventually.

I was nearly headed to the bar for a shot at 9:15 this morning.

Katchi looked great this morning. A little tired, but his legs looked great, and when I jogged him on the pavement for the farrier, he was perfect. Iced again, braided, shined up and ready - we headed to this morning's jog full of confidence. Down the jog path and back, when I hear, "#65 please go to the hold area." WHAT?!?!?! Tendons all checked out perfect. No reaction to the hoof testers. All perfect. And then I got the privilege of running him back and forth for the vets about 6 more times. Accompanied with instructions, "run faster" "hold onto the right rein" "keep his head straight" "run even faster". The jog area footing was pretty well packed, but uneven from horse hoofprints, and let me tell you, this "run faster" crap was sucking quick. Then they asked me if I wanted to represent. HELL YES. I know Katchi, and I know he was good to go. Whatever was going wrong was my inability to jog him properly. So, they tell me again, "run faster and hold the right rein steady." Walking back to represent, I was keenly aware that it all hung on "run faster, Cherie". God I'm not a runner.

We ran back and forth, and I was pretty sure I was going to fall down. I couldn't keep up to save my life, and it all hung on this one run. The ground jury said "thank you." WHAT DOES THANK YOU MEAN??? "Thank you, now go pack up your shit." Or "Thank you, have a wonderful show jumping round" ?!?!?! Moments later, I hear, "Approved." I burst into tears and threw my arms around Katchi's neck. I hugged a steward, and maybe even a vet. I can't remember exactly. I also found Eventing Nation's Samantha and gave her a hug too! I might have been pretty happy. So now we rest until show jumping later this afternoon. What a day.

Jog outfit #2 - thanks so much to Shane for the use of her beautiful velvet coat!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eventing Nation Pictures!

Well, I was 1 foot from bed when I decided to pull up Eventing Nation once more (nope, I'm not obsessed at all) - nothing about Hagyard Three Day yet, so I went to Samantha's Blog on EN to see if it was there yet... and now I have the biggest smile on my face any girl has had all day long!!!! YOU MUST CHECK OUT THE PICTURES OF KATCHI!!!! I'm just tickled to death to see those pictures and read her very kind words. I so hope I can track Samantha down tomorrow to thank her - and, if I don't scare her, maybe I'll even give her a big hug for making my wonderful day have a simply fabulous ending! GOOD BOY KATCHI!!!


Endurance Day!

Well, that was fun!

Today was the big endurance day at the Kentucky Horse Park - it's the reason I made this trip! For the chance to experience the heart of three day eventing at the location of the biggest event in the US - to remember what eventing used to be along the very same paths so many of our greatest American (and international!) event horses have tread. And today did not disappoint! It was absolutely wonderful.

And it was especially wonderful because my pony was just super! He was a little confused, and I think he had a few "ah ha" moments out there - "oh, I get it - this is why we've been doing all that boring trotting, up and down all those big hills - well, okay, yea, this is okay!" Katchi was just a total star in my eyes today. The giraffe stayed back in the barn and he was all business. He couldn't have been more lovely on roads and tracks, and it was just such a wonderful time spent with my very best friend. Amanda even caught some video of us. So, get ready for the excitement, the suspense, the drama, the insanity.... of Roads & Tracks on video!!

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the steeplechase course when I saw it Thursday - only 3 fences (2 the first minute, then 1 minute 15 sec gallop around a tear-drop turn, then one last fence and the finish line - I think we kinda got cheated on that, but anyhow...). When Katchi came out of the start box, I had to laugh at him - how could he have known what was coming? But he practically leaped out of the start box, just how I imagine a racehorse feels coming out of the gate. He galloped strong up to the first, got a little spooky, and leaped 6 feet in the air. That was when I was dead thankful I only had to survive 2 more steeplechase jumps. My cute little pony just doesn't understand the concept of brushing through brush. He jumps over brush, with room to spare. So, onto the second - even bigger jump, but we land running - only trouble is I'm trying to kick my stirrup off my heel where it planted intself on the landing of this enormous leap. A couple of months ago, I took the plunge to modern technology and replaced my old faithful stirrups with a new hi-tech lightweight plastic version. Not a good idea. The stirrup slipped back so far, it was practically stuck on my heel, and because it has no weight of its own, I couldn't get it to come back down to my toe. We're flying, and I'm shaking my leg around like a spaz. I'm just ready to give up, when I decide to give it one more try. SHIT! Came right off my toe. Now we're galloping down the hill into the final turn to the final jump - no stirrup and that left leg aint' holding me. And I can't get my toe into the stirrup because Mr. Lightweight Stirrup isn't hanging where it should be! And there's no way in hell I'm going to survive over that last jump with one stirrup. So, I tell Katchi, I'm so sorry, you have to stop. Now he's really confused. I get him slowed down just enough that I can get the stirrup back where it should be and my toe in it, and I dig my spurs into Katchi and he is flying now!! Damn I don't want time penalties. I look at my watch at the last 30 second marker and we're only down a few seconds - we fly over the last jump and charge at the finish... 1 second over time, 0.8 penalty points, dropped 2 places to 5th. Ugh, heart breaker. But what a tremendously fabulous pony I have - go, stop, go - and he did it all, just as I asked!

XC was great too - just the confidence boost we needed! As I was afraid, the small jumps rode a bit crap - Katchi just couldn't figure out why they were so small and he was a bit spooky at them, adding strides, and jumping like a llama. But, when the jumps finally got bigger and the questions harder - he rode like a charm! Even right through the ditch combination towards the end that I was worried wouldn't quite go to plan. But, he was great! And I'm also super thrilled that neither of us felt all that tired at the end of the course!

Amanda cooling Katchi out after XC

Here's the breakdown in speeds and distances for today's' endurance day:
Roads & Tracks, Phase A: 3520 M @220 MPM 16 minutes
Steeplechase, Phase B: 1300 M @520 MPM 2:30 minutes
Roads & Tracks, Phase C: 4000 M @ 160 MPM 25 minutes
10 minute vet box hold
XC, Phase D: 3009M @ 450 MPM 6:42 minutes

So, tonight Katchi is resting all poulticed, wrapped, and feet packed. He's always a tough one to keep comfortable, so we have our work cut out for us in the morning before the final jog. Please keep fingers, toes, hooves, and paws crossed for us tomorrow morning. And then it's show jumping around 4:00 tomorrow afternoon - another long day! And with that, I am off to bed!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kentucky Dressage!

Today was nearly as exciting as yesterday, but all in a good way this time! When Amanda and I walked out of the hotel this morning, it was 37 degrees (internet said it felt like 31), and it felt almost like summer compared to yesterday's Arctic hell! No rain or wind - we couldn't be any luckier for dressage day! And Katchi sure did me proud today! 40 horses are entered in Kentucky's Training Three Day, and Katchi and I are sitting tied for 3rd after dressage! The scores are very close, so we don't have a point to waste, but I'm thrilled with this great start!

When in tails, do not touch fuzz. Erin Durst gets de-fuzzed by duct tape!

I sas so pleased with my test, that I totally forgot to get pictures of Katchi and me all fancied up! But I did click this picture before heading out - check out those snazzy quarter marks!

Amanda taking out Katchi's braids, while he catches up on his beauty sleep!

As the three day is an "educational" competition, they allowed us to head out on phases A & C for some hacking - here we are before we headed out, before Katchi turned into a giraffe!

This is not Katchi. This is a giraffe. This is what a giraffe looks like when it's trying to poke its rider's eyes out with its ears. I am SO thankful we had a chance to take a "walk" (jig, panic, stop, go, panic, stare...) around out there today. We might have a chance at surviving tomorrow. Or I might well get my ass dumped on Roads & Tracks. That would be fun.

Even from the back of a giraffe, it sure is a pretty view!

And here are a few of tomorrow's XC jumps...

Pretty cool water jump - coop in, left turn to rolltop out, 2 strides, to another rolltop. Should be fun!!

The one thing on the course that has me a little worried - ditch on angle, 2 strides to hedge - but, hello?! Check out that driving marathon practically in the landing! That's one heck of a gymnastic jumping line if you don't make the left turn up the hill!!

The last jump - I hear they've shaved down the back a bit and given us some flowered wings - sort of a tough last jump at 6 min 42 seconds, eh?!