Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Fever!

 I can hardly stand it!!!  I feel like a kid at Christmas time, just dying to know what's under the tree!  Anything could happen in the next 4 days - and oh wouldn't it just be grand if our Team USA Eventers could bring home a medal on Tuesday!!!  While I've been suffering for the past 6 weeks with Phillip gone and Silva devoted to fine-tuning Boyd (and his horses!), and I cannot wait for them to return - more than anything, I want them to come home having put in the performance of a lifetime!  So, to wish Boyd and Phillip, and all of Team USA good luck - I asked my mom to dig up some old photos from 1984.  In 1984, the Olympics were in Los Angeles, and Team USA won the gold in Eventing, with Karen Stives winning the individual Silver (and my own childhood hero Ginny Leng winning Bronze for Great Britain - and oh, by the way, Mark Todd won Gold - amazing that he's back for yet another go in 2012!).  And in 1984, I was touring the country winning trophy after trophy - in the costume class!!!!  With our miniature horse stallion - all 27 1/4 inches of him!!!!  My mom put together THE costume of the 1984 miniature horse world - Cardin was an Olympic runner, sporting infant tennis shoes (that he would try to shake off with each step - to roars of laughter from fair-goers and costume class competitors alike, not to mention the judge!).  And I was the lovely (svelte, luscious, voluptuous) gold medal presenter!  Apparently such medal presenters were quite the thing... until 1984... I guess women's lib finally kicked in.  Oh well, how were we to know?!  1984 was quite the lucky year for Team USA Eventing and for me and my little track runner mini - may London 2012 be as lucky for Team USA!! Go Phillip!  Go Boyd!!  Go USA!

Monday, July 9, 2012

RED Boots - Are they hot???

GRC posted photos from this weekend in record speed, so now it's time to decide...  do we love the RED boots???  I'm certain I love them, and I was so happy to learn this morning that EN/HN's Wylie loves them - yay! For those who don't remember the story, at this year's Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, I was the lucky raffle winner of a pair of "Dare to be Dublin" boots in RED - they're actually paddock boots and half chaps.  And I love them!!!  Turns out, they're super comfortable and oh so fun!  You just can't help but smile when you're wearing fire engine red boots!  I got them broken in, and have been venturing out more and more in them - becoming "that girl in those red boots."  At the Eric Smiley clinic, Kate Chadderton (Australian) told me red boots are all the rage in Australia right now - AH HA!  See, I'm on the cutting edge of North American fashion!!  This past weekend, at Maryland Horse Trials I at Loch Moy - the RED boots debuted in competition.  Take a look at GRC's photos - do we love the boots??

Side View

Show Jumping

Show Jumping II

Cross Country

What do ya think?!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

MDHT Loch Moy- RED Hot and Happy!!

WE DID IT!  Katchi's an event horse again!  Despite the wicked heat, we had the most wonderful day at Maryland Horse Trials I at Loch Moy yesterday - Katchi got to run XC for the first time since October and he's never been so happy!!!  Ears pricked and full of running the entire way around XC!  I went out of the start box with the plan to let Katchi go the pace he chose, and if it wasn't enough for the jumps, then we'd walk home.  When Katchi flew out of the start box, I knew we were golden!  I don't think I put my leg on him once, and he came home 45 seconds under optimum time, and I even convinced him to slow down a bit at the end of the course.  Katchi just took me everywhere I pointed him, and I didn't see any point in fighting him to slow down if he felt great.  With the help of Kerry at the finish line, we had him cool and back to normal in about 5 minutes.  Love that thoroughbred blood!  And at the end of it all, Katchi came home with a very well deserved first place ribbon!  What a great way to finally make our return to eventing in 2012! AND -  my RED boots made their competitive debut too!!!! If you were at the event - you might have thought I was having a seriously patriotic weekend (my normal XC colors are royal blue and white, so I was an extreme American flag!)  CANNOT wait to see how the photos came out - the red boots may have to become part of my regular XC attire!  I got lots of compliments on them - or comments at least, hummmm, maybe they weren't really compliments!  Either way, I made some new friends thanks to my RED boots, so it's all good.

A huge thank you to everyone at Loch Moy who were so helpful to all the horses and riders!  They had water troughs everywhere (which Katchi wisely made good use of) with ice bags floating inside to keep the water cool.  Loch Moy's owner, Carolyn, was everywhere holding buckets of water for drinking horses, refilling water troughs, and checking in on the volunteers to be sure everyone was hanging in there okay.  The worst part of the day was actually dressage - between the warm up, circling the ring, and a 4 minute test in the Sun, Katchi and I were about done for - that was the one point in the day I wasn't sure if we'd make it all 3 phases.  But as our show jumping time got closer, I was feeling pretty okay.  Two jumps in warm up, and it was straight into the ring for 1 minute.  Nothing like a little heat to keep you moving!  The XC course ran great with the first 2 fences in the Sun, then a long stretch in the woods, through the water and 2 more fences in the Sun, followed by another long stretch in the shade - 3 more fences, through the second water - and one final fence, across the finish, and pulling up straight into the cooling tent with fans, shade, and ice!  They also had a couple of vets on hand just to be sure everyone was doing okay.  Some of the horses took quite a bit of time to recover, but it seemed like all the riders were very sensible in what they asked them to do considering their body type and fitness level - and everyone looked to come home in good shape.

But Katchi wasn't the only star of the day - Kerry and Atticus came home with a pretty red second place ribbon in their Training level class - WOO HOO!   It's taken Atticus a bit of time to adjust to the demands of Training level, so it was very exciting to see all 3 phases come together for him - as we all know, that ain't easy!

Katchi and Atticus were stars - but the smartest horse of the day award goes to the horse who dumped his rider between fences and then headed straight to the pond!  I guess he'd just had enough.  He caused about a 10 minute hold on course while they literally fished him out.  He went in the pond and was having no part of coming back out.  I had a good laugh this morning when I saw Eventing Nation linked to a blog post with photographic evidence of the incident.  EEEWWWW!!!!  Check out that slime they had to wade into to get the pony out - I'm sure swimming in the water had its cooling off appeal - but the winner of that prize got to be sweaty, hot, pond water wet, and slimy.  I hope they didn't have any passengers in their car on the way home!!!  EEEEWWWW!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Five Reasons to Love Eric Smiley

Sometimes you just get lucky.  You happen to cross paths with the right person at the right time.  That's how I felt two years ago when I went against my hard-and-fast policy of only riding with clinicians after auditing - on a whim, I signed up for a clinic with Eric Smiley.  Luck of the Irish!  Eric must be one of the most under-rated clinicians in the U.S.  Bet you haven't even heard of him, have you?!  Eric's an FEI international dressage judge - been around Badminton and Burghley more than a few times - took home a few medals to Ireland from a couple European Championships - made the fighting Irish proud at a few World Championships and Olympics - and he's now coaching the Belgium event team.  He's got a resume that most people only dream of.  And, oh by the way, he's incredibly kind, has a discriminating eye, is absolutely adamant about precision, and is a tremendously fantastic instructor!

So, when I heard there were still a few spaces available at last week's Eric Smiley clinic at Waredaca - and with Phillip being sort of unavailable for lessons what with that Olympic team prep thing - I jumped on the chance to ride with Eric again.  He was just as fabulous as I remembered. So here are 5 reasons to love Eric Smiley:

1. Eric is a discriminating dressage judge and everything about his jumping teaching is grounded in solid dressage basics.  His most used phrase... "Is the canter good enough?  Good enough for what?  To jump that over there?  What about that over there?"  If the canter is right, the jump will be too (gee, sounds an awful lot like Phillip!).

2. If you know you have the right canter for what you're approaching, believe it.  Stay still and be ready to support him if he needs it.  Don't chase the horse down to a jump, just hold the right canter every step of the way.  Eric also commented that when riders raise their hands on the take off, it's their way of trying to protect the horse from the poles.  Don't protect him!  Let him learn to come in deep and round up to take care of himself - or hit a pole - so what!  He'll learn to take better care of himself next time!

3. Treat every XC jump like it's just a log in the middle of a field.  If you tell your horse it has ghosts and goblins under it - he'll believe you!

4. When you warm up over small XC jumps, keep your leg soft and quiet.  It's tempting to over-ride everything, but the horses must learn to jump anything you point them at.  Save the strong aids for a time you really need it - in general, keep it quiet and expect the horse to do it himself.

5.  If you're putting in an effort of 7, and your horse is giving you back an effort of 3, that's just bad economics.  It's a bad investment and a terrible return on your money.  The horse must always give you back at least as much effort as you give him.

If you ever have the chance to ride with Eric, jump on it!  You won't be disappointed!  And if you happen to have any red boots laying around, be sure to wear those in your lesson! He'll think you're very funny!  :)

As for the rest of the past week... Katchi I have been on the road and on the road and on the road!  We picked up one more quick XC school last weekend, giving Katchi some more time walking ditches, while I coached 3 super cool ponies over some big boy fences.  July 4, Katchi and I celebrated American style by partaking in Colbert's Sport of the Summer - Dressage show!! I was so thrilled with Katchi for picking up two more scores over 60% at Second Level - which finished all my scores for the USDF Performance Award at Second Level - THANK YOU my wonderful OTTB!!!!  And tomorrow... tomorrow... hello 100 degrees and Loch Moy tomorrow.  I walked the course this afternoon, and they've done a great job of keeping it short with lots of time in the shade.  It was also 8 degrees cooler there than at my house, so I'm very hopeful we will make it through all three phases!  But it's definitely a day to take one step at a time - with lots of ice!