Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Perpetual Trophy & A Pirate Ship

A Perpetual Trophy

Perpetual trophies are an interesting thing. You see them on display in award cabinets and at big headquarters - the names and years etched on them are testament to the history of sport and passion. But, I have to admit, I didn't appreciate how special it would feel to be entrusted with one for a year, to place my name next to 30 years of special names, and now to return it so it may be shared with yet another rider. I also didn't appreciate the logistical nightmare of keeping track of perpetual trophies until I read the recent article in the Chronicle of the Horse (which I can't find the link to because I seem to never be able to find articles online that I read in print!) - awarding, tracking, retrieving, polishing, awarding again... every year. It's no small order! So, this weekend, I will return the MCTA perpetual trophy that displayed proudly in my house for the past year - for Katchi's 27.3 dressage score last May. Returning the trophy comes with a twinge of defeat as I have no hope of winning it again in 2012. While Katchi is coming back into full work, he won't be ready to compete in time for this year's MCTA horse trials, one of my favorites! So, I'll just have to say good luck to everyone, and I hope the winner this year enjoys the history of this award as much as I have.

MCTA Perpetual Trophy for Dressage Proficiency
In Memory of John Thomas Barthel (Donor and Sculptress F. Leigh Aldrick, her daughter)
1982 - Peter Green
1983 - Peter Green
1984 - Holly Mitten
1985 - Barbara Foose
1986 - Holly Mitten
1987 - Chris Wadman
1988 - Chris Wadman
1989 - Linda Dean
1990 - Lisa Evans
1991 - Debbie Bearsch
1991 - Jean Prescott
1992 - Tiffany Hill
1993 - Gayle Molander
1994 - Patricia Smith
1995 - Gayle Molander
1996 - Phillip Dutton
1997 - Jessica Heard & Steuart Pittman
1998 - Barbara Foose
1999 - Sherlock Gillet
2000 - Lisa Reid
2001 - Michael Hillman
2002 - Alison Haase
2003 -Elizabeth Ricklefs
2004 - Catherine Frederick
2005 - Jamie Striley
2006 - Jamie Striley
2007 - Jamie Furtado
2008 - Elizabeth Green
2010 - Lauren Drenning
2011 - Cherie Chauvin

To everyone who was with me when I picked up this award, who might have feared that I went ahead with the plan to place a large stall plate with my name across the entire blank area of the award - I behaved and opted for the traditional matching name plate. But if I ever win this thing again...!

A Pirate Ship

I've often had the conversation with friends and students... how can it be that we walk our horses' fields regularly checking for trash, broken boards, sharp edges; we time their gallops perfectly and moderate their speed exactly; we practically house them in padded cells; if we could bubble wrap them, we would. Yet they still find something (never discovered) to cut their frog in half, all the way to the bone. They come in from the field 3 legged lame after taunting their friends all afternoon (their friends are fine, by the way). They go into the padded stall healthy and come out with a knot on their face which requires $1,000 of head x-rays to determine they have not actually cracked their skull in half. And yet, you have the horse down the road that lives with a pirate ship (and various other brightly painted playground treasures) that is probably the soundest, most uninjured, sanest horse in the world. How? Can I have one of those please (the sound sane horse, not the pirate ship).

I have several lessons I teach which take me past this horse regularly. And I always look at him in wonder. Why do I have a horse that needs a padded cell? Seeing this horse today was especially traumatizing, so I stopped to take a few pictures. For today was the day I TRIED to let Katchi quietly back into his big SAFE field, all booted up, all drugged up - exhausted from JUMPING (yeah! Katchi's second day back to jumping!)... but, apparently I under-did the Ace significantly. CAN YOU IMAGINE IF I RELEASED HIM WITH A PIRATE SHIP? He'd be in the pirate ship. Tap dancing on the deck. Until he fell through. And wouldn't that be fun. Next time I try to put Katchi in the field, I think I'll Ace myself too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

XC, Dressage, and XC in Dressage!

Spring is here (but where is the rain???) and it has been a busy week with lots to report - but I'll save the best news for last, so keep on reading...

Last Tuesday, I headed out to Morven Park with a whole gang of riders to knock off some winter dust - the horses definitely reminded us how important it is to take a spin around XC before hitting the first shows of the season - amazing how everything looks a little bigger and scarier after 5 months of riding in the ring!

Friday was my big debut as a "course designer" ... sort of! Over the winter, I joined the board of the Marlborough Horse Trials (I may or may not have been conned into this over a free beer after a long day or riding and teaching!) and as such, I somehow ended up the "responsible party" for the April 7 Jumper Derby course. It actually was a lot of fun, but more work than I expected! Thankfully Diane, and several others from the Board and MHT volunteers, were on hand to help with all the details - I couldn't have done it without them and the TRACTOR! Key lesson learned - moving cross country jumps definitely requires a tractor! So, 5 hours later, Diane and I declared the course ready (see picture above)... and I raced back to the barn to polish up Katchi into a dressage horse.

Saturday morning, Kerry and I were off to play dressage queens at the VADA/NoVA dressage show at Morven Park. Now, recall that Katchi hasn't been properly turned out since January. I haven't had a dressage lesson since early December. And since January, Katchi and I have been walking and walking and walking - with only about 10-15 minutes of trot and canter each day. And there I was, warming up for Second Level Test 1 ... walking and walking and walking. And wouldn't you know it, Katchi pulled off a 60.571 on Saturday!!!! I couldn't have been more thrilled with him! We made a big mistake in the first counter canter, and 3 smaller mistakes - yet still just squeaked into the 60's. Not too shabby for an OTTB. Makes me very excited for what we will do later in the year when we actually have the right preparation!

Unfortunately, late Saturday afternoon, walking Katchi around to eat grass, we ventured a bit too close to the cross country field. And that was it. He saw those jumps. And apparently he hadn't forgotten about them on Sunday morning. When I didn't take Katchi to those jumps, he decided to bring XC to the dressage show. So, there we were, all fancy and polished, standing at the top of the hill overlooking 5 dressage rings, with Katchi threatening to do his best impression of the Lone Ranger's Silver - just what you want to see in the distance of a dressage show - a horse standing on his back legs pawing the air! Luckily, I kept his enthusiasm just in check and we made it down the hill without becoming a full spectacle. He settled down a bit after walking in the warm-up ring for an hour!!!!! And then it was into the ring... with turbo power enthusiasm. Katchi earned a 6 on his first Medium Trot (uuummm, wow! I don't think he's ever gotten above a 5 on a trot lengthening... he was covering some serious ground!). Unfortunatley, his enthusiasm got the best of him in the canter-walk-canter transitions when Katchi channelled his inner Easter Bunny and started bunny hopping across the ring. Fun. And the judge said 3. And the test said coefficient of 2. Ugh. Score sucked. Totally embarrassing. But, really, all things considered, it could have been a whole lot worse! And he pulled out quite a few 6's and even a 7 mixed in with those 3's, so it wasn't all bad!

Meanwhile, Kerry and Atticus had quite a fabulous weekend finishing out their last Training Level tests and endeavoring to take on First Level - coming home with 3 ribbons and some great scores! It was a great set-up for their Training level eventing debut at Fair Hill in just one week!

And now for the best news of the week... Katchi returned to Dr. Allen's on Wednesday for a re-check and Dr. Allen told Katchi to update his facebook status to "sound"!!!! We got permission to progress to more work, including jumping and increasing fitness work. Yeah! It's still a long road until we hit our first horse trial for 2012, but this was a huge step in the right direction! Fingers crossed that he takes well to increased work... we go back in 30 days for another re-check and hopefully approval to RUN KATCHI RUN!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cavalor Champagne & Chocolates in California!

Sometimes "real" work gets in the way of horses. Other times, the unexpected happens and they blend wonderfully! Last week, bitter and disgruntled, I boarded a plane to California for a 4-day business trip. When I left my job with the Department of Defense (with lots of travel to some great places!), I just wanted to stay home. I miss the cat. I miss the horse. I miss training, practicing, and teaching. I miss home. This being only my second business trip in almost 4 years, I guess I really can't complain, but ugh, I didn't want to go.

And so when I finished up with work mid-afternoon on Friday, I collected my mom from the hotel (she'd come up from San Diego to enjoy a free resort hotel stay!) - did we head to the beach? to the mall? out on a boat to see dolphins? NOPE! We hit the nearest horse show we could find!! Unfortunately, Galway Downs CIC was just a bit too far away, so we settled on a dressage show. Which turned out to be quite a dressage show... and hunter show... and jumper show... and SHOPPING!

We arrived just a few minutes late to catch the Dressage Olympic Trials, but we got to see the awards ceremony - Steffen Peters, Jan Ebling, and Guenter Siedel - and lets just say those horses were acting more like crazy event horses than dressage horses, so that was fun to watch!

Steffen & Legolas accept the award for winning the first day of the Olympic Trials class.

And then we stumbled upon even more fun - Cavalor Champagne and Chocolates - and a free sample feed bag for Katchi. It just so happened to be his 11th birthday on Friday, so I enjoyed a glass of champagne in his honor! My mom enjoyed the chocolates - imported from Belgium. And I snagged a mini-bag of grain for the birthday boy! Thank you Cavalor - we love you!!!

There must have been at least 7 show rings and shopping that almost rivaled Rolex - what a perfect warm-up for the end of April!! Although the weather was less than California lovely, the grass was green and the mountains beautiful - and the horses stunning! Not a bad business trip after all!

We enjoyed our quick trip to the show on Friday afternoon so much that I made my poor mother get up at the crack of dawn so that we could go back for a few more hours Saturday morning before I had to catch my flight back to the East Coast. If for no other reason, it was worth it to meet this little pink snorting creature in sparkles who belonged to one of the vendors! And, oh by the way, that pink sweater... it has a skull embroidered on the back. Wow.

As a side note, on Saturday morning - March 31 - one day before the new USEF helmet rule went into place on April 1 for all hunter/jumper shows... I was pretty stunned to see so many folks schooling horses without helmets on. Long blond pony tails flapping in the wind above immaculately groomed horses in the schooling rings - it just looked weird. I do wonder how it all went down on April 1. Was there a fuss? Did everyone know about the new rule? Was Saturday a final hurrah to no helmets?!

Anyhow, I'm back home now and the horses are in full swing this week! Tomorrow, I've got 7 riders schooling XC at Morven Park. Friday, I was "voluntold" to design and set the course for the Marlborough Horse Trials 2nd and final Jumper Derby for 2012 on Saturday April 7 - are you going??? And on Saturday and Sunday - Katchi and I are headed to Morven Park for the VADA/NOVA dressage show. I entered with Dr. Allen's blessing, so long as Katchi keeps looking good - and by the way he was bucking and bolting on the lunge today, I'd say he's doing good. Unfortunately, we're still limited to about 15 minutes of trot/canter, and a dressage test is about 5 minutes. So, that leaves 8 minutes for warm-up, 2 minutes outside the ring, and 5 minutes in the test. And I haven't had a lesson since December. Oh yea, and I couldn't bring myself to enter a lower level, so Katchi is making his second attempt at Second Level (after a very successful debut last June!). Perhaps I didn't fully think through this plan when I sent in the entries! If you're in the neighborhood, here are out ride times (Katchi and I will be the ones WALKING AND WALKING AND WALKING in the warm-up ring with all those dressage horses cantering circles around us!):

Saturday 11:37 (Indoor ring) - Second Level 1

Sunday 10:06 (Davis ring) - Second Level 2

Kerry will also be making her First Level debut with Atticus - so wish us both luck this weekend!