Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jumpin' Irish Style - Marlborough Jumper Derby!

A full house and lots of sun at the Marlborough Jumper Derby!

Yeah! It's spring and event season is gearing up! With the first big day of the season successfully under our belts, I am reminded of three eternal truths of competing horses:
1) double your time estimate for anything that involves a horse. If it should reasonably take 2 hours to pack the trailer, clean tack, bathe the horse... it will be 4 hours. Or more.
2) There is never free time at a show. Ever. Seriously, why do I pack 2 COTHs, the USEA Magazine, and a book for every show - every time, I convince myself that this time it's going to be an easy day with lots of time to relax and get caught up on my reading. No.
3) So much for that picnic. All your packed food will always be just beyond your reach. All. Day. Long.

That being said, the first event of the season is always so much fun! Packed with old friends and new horses, and talks of goals and plans to put all that winter hard work to the test! All the wonder and promise of the coming year - packed into one fun filled day to kick it all off!

And as LUCK would have it, yesterday's first big event day for the Golightly gang also happened to fall on St. Patrick's day! And so we went jumping Irish style at the Marlborough Jumper Derby at Rosaryville Park, Upper Marlboro.

I think, at last count, I ended up coaching 7 students yesterday (although it's entirely possible I lost count!) - they kept me busy, but I was absolutely thrilled to see everyone out and about, enjoying the sun, and having very good days with their ponies!

The day started with the 12"-18" class with 3 from the Golightly gang making their Jumper Derby debuts - Sky, Jessica & Erica. Sky bravely piloted Judge (who is a TB retired police horse!) as the lead horse on course - without the benefit of seeing how things worked for others, 12 year-old Sky was the day's trailblazer and showed us all that it could be done!
And now for an update on a cunning plan... remember the "hunter rider" that I mentioned who did quite a feat of acrobatics during the Jim Wofford clinic? Well, my cunning plan to convert her to eventing may be taking hold! I convinced her to go on a little foray into cross country schooling land last weekend, and she had so much fun - I next dangled a carrot of an idea that she might want to check out the jumper derby too. So Jessica, along with her sister Erica, and their two OTTBs took the Derby by storm and brought all their St. Patty's day luck! When they called me to ask if it was okay if their horses wore their St. Patty's day hats - I said YES! This ain't no hunter show!! And, oh, check out those hats - which both horses wore around the ENTIRE jumper derby course too!!! Honestly, I really think those horses love those hats!

And that big hat really brought Percy some good luck - in his debut as an "eventer" - he won the class!!! Not only did Jessica have a big smile (after she started breathing again!) over her success in dominating hills and logs - she came home with a blue ribbon too. And what hunter rider doesn't love prizes?! Yep, that girl is coming to the dark side (she says with a glimmer in her eye!).

Debi, Jenna, and Fran also had great days - with Fran successfully subduing the monster pony and bravely jumping all those horse eating jumps; Jenna had another great day on her brand new horse; and Debi turning in a stellar performance, catching the judge's eye to earn a 2nd place ribbon in the huge class of 2'-2'3" jumpers (no joke, there must have been well over 30 entries - I know because the ring was never empty and it took over 2 hours to get through all the rides). And did I mention how my food was just out of reach all day long? All day long.

Patrick (it was HIS day!), Debi & Roxanne, me and Kerry

Kerry also made the Golightly team proud, taking home a yellow ribbon in the 3' class. But, I protested her entry and refused to coach her. I tried to tell her the jumps would be too easy and she'd wait for hours for her division to start. Yet, she had to be stubborn and entered anyhow. So, her round was my favorite of the day. I sat back, enjoyed a beer - ATE MY FOOD - and had a good laugh as she asked again and again, "how much longer until the 3' division will start?" And I couldn't have been more proud of her for jumping that round and winning that ribbon - all on her own. Cheers, Kerry!

And what St. Patrick's day post would be complete without a picture of my cat in a holiday hat?! THANK YOU SO MUCH to Erica & Monty for kindly donating Monty's little leprechaun hat to my cause. The cat loves it almost as much as I do! But not as much as Monty did!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Video Break: Jim Wofford!

Thanks again to everyone who came out on Tuesday to ride, watch, and be jump crew for Jim Wofford. Several of you have asked what Katchi was up to during the clinic - Katchi did his walking before the clinic started, and he got to say hi to everyone as the first group was piling in. He really enjoyed all the activity and extra treats, but I didn't let him see the gymnastics set-up. I knew he'd cry.

I was running around too much during the first group to get any video clips, but I was able to get quite a lot of the second group - which we called Preliminary, but included a hodge podge of super talented horses and riders from Training to Advanced. Jimmy really brought his A game with this group - and the horses ate it up!

I managed a few video clips of the final group too - Novice/Training - clips are of Jenna (on a horse she has on trial, which from the looks of it, is going to be her horse very soon!) and the final clip shows Kathy (on Tippy who came out of a kill pen several years ago.

Also, a comment on my last post requested a description of the "ol' whip under the chin routine" - basically, if a rider is jumping 4'6" or 2'6" (folding their upper body over way too much and throwing themselves at the jump), Jim will often have the rider put both reins in one hand. They will hold their bat in the other hand, about in the middle of the bat. And place the handle of the bat just under their chin. And then jump the jumps! It makes quite a remarkable and immediate change in the amount the rider moves their upper body - they stay much taller and still. It's sort of hard to throw your upper body onto your horse's neck when you have a bat stuck to your chin. Make sense?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We Love Jimmy!

Yay for Jimmy! We love Jimmy! We want more!

Thank you so much to Jim Wofford and to everyone who came out to play today - what a fantastic time we had!!! Jim is always so wonderful, but today especially, he did not disappoint. He had the whole arena laughing over and over again - and oh did he have the horses on their toes! Starting with just a pole on the ground, Jim would say to rider after rider "oh, stick around"... and sure enough, the transformation in the horses was fantastic.

The first group - gymnastics beginners - gave Jim a full range of horses to mold into perfection. The crazy one. The lazy one. The 'I so scared' one. And the two - who said, bring it on, Mr. Wofford. Jim explained that from America to New Zealand and back to Ireland - 9 feet is 2 steps. Not one step. Not four steps. 2 steps. And achieving a proper two steps is critical to set you up for success through everything else.

Jim claimed to be channelling Linda Zang when he started the exercises with one goal: forward. He'd compress them later, but first the horses must learn to be in front of the leg.

Quite a few folks were subjected to Jim's tricks of the trade - the ol' bicycle grip and the bat under the chin. Those of us who have, ourselves, been subjected to these had a good chuckle at the looks of horror as they exclaimed in disbelief, "you want me to jump like this?!" - and we loved when the horses miraculously changed for the better - we knew it would happen, but that didn't make it any less miraculous!

I especially enjoyed listening to Jim speak about some differences between teaching eventers versus hunters, which I haven't heard him explain before. For one, Jim said an eventer can never be punished for punching forward and leaving long at a fence. Eventers must learn that no matter how they get to a fence, they must jump. Their life may depend on it some day. Whereas hunters must be told, oh no, no, you do not punch out in that last step because everything for them is about not ever disturbing that perfect approach.

If you want to know what a "low-wide oxer" is to Jim Wofford - this is it. The Prelim group got up to 4'6" wide, and maybe 10" high. The Novice/Training group got up to about 3'6" wide. One of my favorite moments in the clinic was when there was a little mis-communication with the jump crew and they began to set the "low-wide oxer" at 3'6" high. It was about 3' wide at the time, and just 18' (one stride) from a small bounce. As the jump crew was working behind Jim to set the oxer to 3'6" high, Jim was having a talk with the riders (who were watching the oxer go up to what seemed an incredible height so close to the tiny bounce). When Jim turned around and saw the mistake, he realized while all 6 riders had turned white as ghosts while he was talking! Oh the relief when he said, "no no - 10" high, 3'6" wide!" I thought a couple riders might just pass out right there, overcome by relief!


While every rider was a super star today, I have to say that I was extra proud of my students who rode today - Kerry, Debi, Holly, and Jenna. As an instructor, it's fantastic to see these guys work hard, improve, and get to have FUN in clinics like this. It's also a tremendous learning opportunity for me to get feedback from a keen eye like Jimmy - are we on track? are we working on the right things? have we assessed the horse/rider right? where do we go from here? I read something a while ago by, I think, Courtney King-Dye, who said Lendon Gray didn't have her teach the younger more inexperienced riders. Nope! She had to teach the riders who were older and better and more experienced! JEEZE - what a concept! Learn to teach by teaching someone who actually knows if you're right or wrong! For me, watching my students ride with a master like Jimmy is a little bit of that kind of teaching practice.

But the hero of the day goes to my Baywood friend and hunter rider, Jessica. I wouldn't want to embarrass her by telling the whole sequence of events, but lets just say that it ended with THE Jim Wofford exclaiming that she could give many of his event riders a real lesson in stickability! No matter what Jessica ever does or doesn't do for the rest of her life, the girl has got some serious street cred with me for surviving over not one, not two, but three oxers while things were going horribly wrong! Now... to begin making my plots to convert her to eventing!!

I took quite a bit of video, but it's going to take me a couple of days to get everything edited and posted - check back soon!

Thank you so much to Sharon Boyle who took almost all the awesome photos in this post! Check out more of them at the Baywood Facebook page!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 6 Jim Wofford Clinic Ride Times

It's finally time for Jimmy! On Tuesday, March 6, I'm again hosting Jim Wofford for a gymnastics clinic at Baywood Farms in Harwood, MD. All riding spots are filled (and have been for months!), but auditors are welcome ($20 fee). We will be riding in the indoor arena, and plenty of coffee and bagels will be available to keep everyone warm on (hopefully!) our last chilly winter morning! Start times may be adjusted slightly as horses tire early or need more work - but things should pretty much run like this:

8:00 Beginners

9:30 Preliminary

11:00 Novice/Training

Unfortunately, Katchi hasn't received the "all clear" from Dr. Allen to start jumping again yet - it will likely be another month of flat work. So, I've sadly given up my riding spot and will be chief of jump crew this year - I hope we have plenty of auditors to help me with this job!

Check back here for videos after the clinic! See y'all on Tuesday!