Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 PVDA Ride for Life

Team April

This weekend was packed with dressage and pink!!!  Pink shirts, hats, ribbons, flowers - and even pink glitter on horses!  Because this wasn't just any dressage show - this was the PVDA Ride for Life, to benefit the Johns Hopkins Avon Breast Center.  This was my 6th year participating in the event, and it was bigger and better than ever before.  And this year was extra special, as I joined up with 3 great friends - Kimber, Kerry, and Erica - to form Team April, riding and collecting donations in the spirit of "The Fierce Cancer Slayer, April" - a 35 year old friend-of-a-friend in California who is fighting stage 3 breast cancer.  Our team (horses and riders!) were out in full force all weekend wearing our very very lovely Team April sashes - which, begged several questions of whether we were Team Aprils or Miss Aprils!!!! Certainly wasn't expecting that one!

Katchi & me sporting our Team April gear

Erica, Monty & Me

Even Kerry's Atticus and Kimber's Eise got into the Team April sash wearing spirit!

High Pledge

On Saturday afternoon, I received the very exciting news that I had won the high pledge award for the "open division" (which means that I was competing in "open" classes, rather than as a junior/young rider or amateur).  Every year, I am just stunned by the generosity of my friends, students, colleagues, and family in supporting this event - THANK YOU!  I don't have a final amount raised yet, but it was over $2,000.  And for my work, Katchi took home the most beautiful Ride for Life embroidered gear - a stunning wool cooler, saddle pad, polo wraps (which, as Erica pointed out, I will need to mark "this side up" on the end where you start wrapping - otherwise, Katchi might look pretty silly sporting up-side-down and backwards R4L logos on all four legs!).  THANK YOU - THANK YOU - THANK YOU to everyone who made a donation in my name!

The Dressage Show 

Not to be overlooked is that Ride for Life is also a dressage show and Katchi and I, along with a couple of students, were not only sporting pink all weekend - but we were also sporting our game faces! I rode Katchi in Second Level test 1 on Saturday and Test 2 on Sunday - these tests are still quite hard for both of us, but I think we're really making progress in understanding what is needed to perform at this level.  I was super thrilled that Katchi kept his counter canter through both serpentines in Test 1 - for the very first time in competition!  He also got a 7 on his backing, which was quite a bit stiffer than the reinback we did just before entering the ring - so that's a huge improvement from the 4 or so he earned the first time competing at this level!!!  Unfortunately, even with some very high marks the first day, the judge issued harsh penalties for the lack of crispness in every one of our walk-to-canter and canter-to-walk transitions, and there are a lot in that test.  It was one of those days that I just couldn't seem to get Katchi to come through, and without his hind end attached to his front end - those transitions were impossible.  But, day two was a new day with the same judge - I changed my warm up quite a bit (including going to a different arena with more space and better footing) and I really got him put together for a much improved test, scoring just over 60%.  The judge still nailed us for a few tiny mistakes, but I could not have been more thrilled with my pony!

Katchi showing off his new R4L saddle pad.

I'm also thrilled to report that Kerry and Atticus had a stellar weekend riding First Level 1 and First Level 2 (for the first time) scoring mid- and high- 60s on both tests!  Kerry even scored 7s on her leg yields!  AND I'd like to announce Erica and Monty as the undefeated winners of Intro test B (walk-trot!) on both days of Ride for Life!!!  Erica, my hunter rider friend from Baywood, took the plunge into Dressage land last year at Ride for Life - while she had a good show, she did not win.  So, the game face came out this year and we did some serious practicing the last few weeks - she put her stirrups down many holes, learned to keep her butt in the saddle in the canter, and even restrained herself (almost completely) from clucking at her horse!  Erica improved her scores by more than 10 points and won 3 out of 4 classes - finishing 2nd in the 4th class!  All on her 22 year old off the track thoroughbred - The Full Monty!!!  You just gotta love it!  Watch out next year, I'm pretty sure she's already set her eyes on earning an 80% in the walk-trot intro class!

Katchi had pink ribbon spirit.

Silent Auction 

This year, I had the best idea - I volunteered for a few hours on Friday afternoon during the silent auction set-up.  Brilliant!  Double use of my time - help the show AND scope out all the auction items!  This year was the biggest auction yet - with almost 250 donated items ranging in estimated values from $3 - $6,500.  There was something for everyone!  At the end of the night, I came home with two bracelets and Katchi won a massage with the love of his life, Courtney, from Hands on Horses.

A huge thank you to Cavalor Feeds and the National Research Council who donated items to the auction on my behalf.

Dancing Horse Challenge

Of course, after last year's Lady Gaga performance, everyone was waiting to see what Bent Jensen would pull off this year!  It was really a treat to see him riding in leopard print spandex and an Afro wig - but I admit, I was a bit disappointed that his routine was a repeat of one he did in Florida earlier this year which has been quite a youtube sensation for months.  Even still, to see the spectacle up close and personal - Bent Jensen did not disappoint!

But my personal favorite of the night had to be my own dressage trainer, Silva Martin, riding the beautiful Aesthete (Stately), fully decked out in War Horse costume.  Stately took to all the show's pizzazz and seemed to really be showing off - until he seemed to take a bit of exception to his blanket straps and let out a serious buck.  Silva, of course, was unphased.  She must have had some practice riding a good buck on Neville!  And Silva looked the model of dressage history in her military uniform - absolutely stunning.

Here are some more clips of several of my favorite rides in the Dancing Horse Challenge

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two days until 2012 PVDA Ride for Life

It's officially summer and the heat is in full power - which means it's time for the 2012 PVDA Ride for Life to benefit the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Center!!!  This weekend always seems to fall on one of the hottest this year - a few years ago, my poor San Diego mom nearly died when I sent her running back to the barns for emergency retrieval of forgotten fly spray.  She will never ever let me forget that.  But I think we're getting lucky this year - yesterday and today are brutal (I really liked when my car said 102 yesterday, while I was driving out to collect Katchi to go to a jumper show), but Saturday is supposed to be a mere 85.  WOO HOO!

This is the sixth year I am participating in Ride for Life, and it gets bigger and better each year.  While I am riding in memory of and collecting donations to honor my first dressage instructor, Joy Court, who we lost to breast cancer in 1997 - this year, I am also riding in support of a current breast cancer fighter.  One of the things that always strikes me about competing in Ride for Life is that it gets people talking about breast cancer.  In telling people about the event and asking for donations, you learn that breast cancer has effected everyone in some way.  This year, a wonderful friend from college, Sylvia, who is an faithful annual supporter of the event asked me to do her a favor at the show... take a picture for her friend April, a 35 year old woman diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer this spring.  April has an honest and inspirational blog here you might enjoy reading. And so, I have put together a team of riders - Kerry, Erica, Kimber, and myself - who are "Team April".  While we each have special people in our own lives for whom we are riding in memory or honor of, April's fight is the sort of unfathomable devastation of this disease that we are all unified against and so it made perfect sense for the name of our team.  If you make it out to the event this weekend, keep watch for us in our (ummm, tacky) bright hot pink sashes that say "Team April"!
Joy Court, my first dressage instructor, was lost to breast cancer in 1997

And the event details:

Saturday & Sunday June 23-24 at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, Upper Marlboro, MD

Katchi ride times: 8:24 am Saturday; 11:28 Sunday (both in ring 5, just East and up the hill from the new large covered ring).

Dancing Horse Challenge Saturday night 6:30p-8:30p in the air conditioned coliseum.  $25 admission at the door. Silent auction, wine, shopping, and dancing horses = FUN!

If you would like to make a donation to the event, please be sure to include my name "Cherie Chauvin" to apply to my high pledge goals. THANK YOU!

Katchi & Ribbons - R4L 2011

And 2010 - sensing a theme here??

Hope to see you all this weekend in pink celebrating this amazing event!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rider # 55. My Hero.

Plantation Field was almost fabulous.  But it wasn't.  Katchi had a "moment" and pulled a shoe in show jumping. And I think it was the first time in my life that I neither felt or heard the shoe go.  I was headed to the XC start box. And that's why rider # 55 is my hero.  She saw it.  Despite her own impending face-off with the colored poles, she left the in-gate waiting area, trotted around the entire length of the very large jumping ring - to yell at me, "Number 47! I think you pulled a shoe!"  And sure enough I had.  While # 55 probably thinks it was no big deal - I'm quite certain she saved Katchi and I from the very serious threat of, at best, being back to months of walking with lots more vet bills - and at worst, well, worse I don't even want to think about. So shoeless Katchi and I were faced with two options:
1) Trek down the huge mountain of very hard ground about 1/2 mile to the barn where I saw the farrier; hope Katchi wouldn't hurt the foot on the journey; hope the show farrier could reattach Katchi's custom made bar shoe and leather pad just perfectly (my farrier calls him a Princess for a reason!); trek back up the mountain; and hope the starters could squeeze me in out of order to run around a XC course whose desperately-wanting-rain ground I was already fretting about.
2) Withdraw.
I chose option 2.  No XC for us today. I meant to grab a program so I could thank # 55 by name, but I forgot.  So, I'll always be ever so grateful to # 55 who went out of her way, despite her own competitive schedule, to pull me off the primrose path to hell.  Eventers really are a special kind of people. Thank you # 55.

Katchi, very proud of his lovely dressage test, digging for peppermints! 
Up until the shoe incident, Katchi and I were enjoying a wonderful day.  He was simply lovely in dressage - the most forward, relaxed, and obedient he's ever been.  I was all smiles!   I headed up the mountain to show jumping plenty early to watch a few rounds, which turned out to be a very good plan as riders were having all kinds of issues with the final jump - 8AB, a one-stride vertical to oxer combination.  The vertical was all poles, and the oxer had 2 grey aqueduct walls at the base.  Horses were jumping it horrendously - if at all!  I seem to recall something Denny Emerson wrote about aqueduct shapes - horses think they look like small animals.  Well, whatever they thought they saw - it was clear the horses hated them!

Katchi warmed up great and headed into the ring with power and focus.  He tried to snowplow a bit at the base of the first fence which earned him a good wack - I swear I heard him say "I KNOW - okay, okay - I'll jump good now - I promise!" - and good he was!  7 more fences.  7 perfect jumps.  No stutters or awkwardness at all - a little dramatic over the oxers, but relaxed and forward (and finally not frantic) - a huge improvement even from the jumper show last weekend!  Just the final combination remained.  3 strides out, I know Katchi saw those evil walls.  I rode hard and he jumped in beautifully - and then he got a clear view of those walls and said, "I don't jump small animals!"  Refusal.  I kept his nose right near that wall while he got a good wack - then galloped a huge loop around the ring (so he could have ample time to pull off his shoe).  31 time penalties later, Katchi jumped through the final combination perfectly.  And that was the end of Plantation for us.

I admit, I'm ready for the "perfect" show jumping round.  But it's hard to be too frustrated when things are improving so much.  And the reality is, I'd rather be the rider with 9 perfect jumps and 1 mistake that hits the scoreboard hard - than the rider who miraculously gets over all 10 fences adding nothing to the scoreboard, but with the audience not knowing whether to scream or laugh.  So, we push ahead...

Katchi says, "I have to wear these stinking ice boots and we didn't even run XC?! You suck."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Katchi Power! And a star sighting...

I think it's high time for a Katchi update!  But first, a RED BOOT update!  They are broken in, and I love them!  You just can't help but have a good ride when you're sporting red boots!  And, they are honestly the most comfortable paddock boots.  Dublin Boots, I am impressed.  They only made 500 pairs in red, but I saw Dover Saddlery has a few on hand, so you too can have a pair of fire engine red boots!  LOVE THEM!

Check out those RED BOOTS!
It has been just over 3 weeks since Katchi got approval from Dr. Allen to "return to play."  And this Saturday, he will officially be eventing again.  We're headed up to Plantation Field to run training level.  I didn't feel like I could get him Preliminary fit and polished in 4 weeks. But, we have really made great progress in 3 short weeks, and I am super excited to be back on the eventing scoreboard on Saturday!!!

This past weekend was my last big push to get us ready.  The big thing I felt we were missing was speed work.  Katchi doesn't need much, but I needed to make sure he still has his "go" button.  He does.  And I'm not sure who had more fun testing it.  Katchi was the happiest I've seen him in months.  And I was wearing a big fat grin.  We were so fortunate to get access to a local private race track on the most beautiful Saturday afternoon all year.  I wish I could do that day over and over and over again!  Kerry and Atticus came along too - neither of whom had ever been on a track!  Kerry had a grin as big as mine.  Atticus not so much.  He's got thoroughbred in him, and it came out in spurts.  But then his warmblood part would realize how much work he was doing, and he'd just frown.  Katchi and Atticus were like Tigger and Eeyore on the track.  Too funny.

Thanks to Kerry, sitting atop Atticus (stamping at flies, hence the unsteady camera), we got some fun videos.  I realized after I put together this montage that I probably should have cut out the first slow gallops.  It's sort of funny to see Katchi loping around a track set to music that says "he's going for speed".  Well, not really.  Don't worry, he gets faster, eventually.

And the big prep weekend continued on Sunday, the second most beautiful day of the year, when Kerry and I headed out to Middleburg, Virginia for a jumper show at Fox Chase Farm.  I didn't know what to expect of the show, but it certainly wasn't what we got.  We arrived to free croissants and a free espresso bar - with a barista at our service!  This show is awesome! We watched a few rounds, learned the first course, tacked up, and voila - it was time to warm up and ride!  They had a white board with all the rider numbers written down so you knew exactly what was happening, and there was no waiting around for 5 hours!!!  Love this show!

Beautiful Fox Chase Farm in Middleburg, VA

The arena was beautiful, the footing fabulous, the jumps bright, and the landscaping lush (landscaping around the jumps!) - all at a schooling show!  WOW.  Kerry and I both entered the two 3'3" classes.  Neither one of us made it to the jump off in the first class.  We're certain our horses must have heard there were 8 more jumps to do if they didn't screw anything up - so they each picked a "real scary looking" jump to embarrass us right out of the jump off.  Kerry picked up a ridiculous stop at a grey wall.  Katchi walked through a red/black plank fence projecting my butt right onto his neck, which somehow I managed to relocate onto the saddle to finish the course (I definitely won the award of the day for spectator entertainment! Oh, and there were spectators.  Lots of them.).  14 fences on course.  13 lovely jumps.  And 1 jump to humble us right out of Middleburg and back to Maryland.  Thankfully, we had that second class to go - I'm starting to like jumper shows.  They have a built in "do-over" (I do hate having to learn more than one course though!).  Katchi jumped a lovely clear round in our second class and came home with a 3rd place ribbon - his first ribbon of 2012!!!  Atticus is still figuring out how high to lift his toes, but he came home with a 6th place ribbon and a very happy rider!  Awesome day!  

Again, thanks to Kerry, sitting atop Atticus, for getting Katchi's second round on film:   

With our competitive day complete, Kerry and I sat down to enjoy macaroni and cheese from the caterer (this was NOT your average horse show food), and ice cream from the soft serve ice cream truck (did I mention this was a schooling jumper show?! These Middleburg people know how to do horse shows).  There I am, shoveling a hot fudge sundae into my mouth, when who should wander over to his "reserved" table at the front of the gazebo?  Robert Duvall.  Freaking Hollywood movie star Robert Duvall.  We had seen a trophy with his name on it in the show office that was to be awarded later for the "$5,000 Mini Prix" but I didn't expect to see the man there himself!  He was a bit incognito, but Kerry spotted him right away. And then it was all about the camera phone. In between wiping hot fudge off my face, trying to look interested in the horse in the arena and not laugh at Kerry, and appear totally NORMAL - there's me, swiping pictures of Robert Duvall on my cell phone.  Yea, he totally saw me.  He might have been horrified.  

OMG! It's Robert Duvall - at a schooling jumper show!!
But, seriously, did Kerry and I have the coolest weekend ever or what???