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 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 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 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! :)