Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!!
It really is impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't have one -- just what it means to have a horse show mom.  But for those lucky girls who have a true horse show mom -- we couldn't ask for any better mom.  It goes far beyond driving you to the barn, helping you clean tack before a pony club rating or rally (oh wait, no, not that, that would be cheating), reading every horse book she could find just to explain it to you -- because you were only 5 and hadn't learned to read yet!  Videoing you at every show.  Videoing you at every lesson.  Videoing you riding at home just for a little extra help.  It's crying together when you tried as hard as you could and gave it every bit of your heart and soul and strength, but your horse still wouldn't jump into that damn water.  And when it finally all comes together, she's the first person you see, with a huge smile watching you cross the finish line. She's your biggest fan, your confidant, and your partner.  Sometimes she's your coach -- and then you remind her she can't ride and she gives you the evil eye.  She strategizes and analyzes with you.  She talks through your goals and how to get there.  She's the one who has secret talks with your horse and tells him to take good care of her little girl on that scary as sh#$! cross country course. Horse show moms do it for all the right reasons. It's shared passion and determination and perseverance. It's for the love of horses and everything they bring into our lives. It's for the love of the sport.  And it's for the love of her daughter.
Thank you mom for everything you've been and everything you continue to be. Happy Birthday!!
Love from a lifetime of ponies and me.  

Mom, me on Hoppy, with our neighbor Cindy (nope, not my sister!) 

Mom & Me showing together in the "Produce of Dam" class

Circa 1983: Me, on Cheval with my mom's mom (Granny)

Mom 2008 on Punky - the best horse in the world who rules the barn at Thoroughbred Placement Resources

2012 Aiken -- Katchi LOVES his glamma!

2013: Dressage Drinks at Rolex!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

More news from the farm...

Winter life on the farm: seems like every day has become a battle against daylight -- literally, from sun up to sun down, it's a mad panic to get through the day's list of "activities."  I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I seriously need more minutes in an hour, more hours in a day, and more days in a week!  And while lots of things are coming together, we remain stuck, painfully close, to the start of the arena and barn construction.  There are still a few final pieces that have to fall into place with the county before we can break ground, and meanwhile the days just seem to fly by and we are getting more and more into winter weather which may prevent us from starting until spring  -- as I type this, the grass I have worked so hard to cultivate all year is smushed under a solid layer of ice.  Winter.

The farm sign post is up!  Just waiting for the sign to arrive.

A 3-D mock up of the barn - LOVE IT!!! 

We've made a few minor changes to the final plans from the image above -- little adjustments to windows, overhangs, and color scheme.  But, pretty much - this is the dream in virtual reality!  Six stalls are on the right side of the barn - 5 with double dutch doors (we've designed 1 as a "separation" stall for any horse needing a bit more security or isolation pre-FEI competition).  Two grooming stalls and the feed room are contained in the center extension area, with a wash stall, large tack room, and other storage areas on the left side of the barn (main hay storage will be in a separate building).  I'm sure it isn't perfect for everyone, but we are so very excited with the plans and layout -- they feel absolutely perfect for how we will use the barn and I'm certain the horses are going to believe it's a little piece of heaven!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trevi Manor Progress Update

As everyone keeps asking me "how's the farm coming along" -- I thought I might give an update!  If you come by to visit, it looks like almost nothing has happened in months, but actually loads of things have been happening... mostly in paperwork.  Jeeze, there's a lot of paperwork involved in building a barn.  Seriously, a lot of paperwork.

To start, I took the better part of 4 months, give or take a month (or two!), to create just the perfect layout.  I must have asked 20 horsey friends to review the drawings, and my mom and I have (seriously!) considered every detail of the layout -- for the horses, I was determined to maximize light and fresh air and give them a quiet and calm home with all their friends nearby. For my mom and me, I wanted to minimize every step possible to not add a single extra second to our daily routine!  I'm sure we'll have some things that don't come out quite right, but at the moment, I can't think of a single detail that isn't just perfect for how I want my barn to flow!  Katchi and Mi are going to be living in the Ritz Carlton come next year!!  I keep calling it my "6 million dollar 6 stall barn" -- thankfully, we're not at that point, but if anyone wants go that route, I have some pretty awesome ideas that could put you well on the way to that price tag!

We are also going through the obligatory paperwork of a site plan, nutrient management plan, demolition permit (for one perfectly lovely shed that is in the exact perfect location for my barn), soil and erosion plan, storm water management, and and and.  Like I said, there's a lot of paperwork.  The great news is, the end of paperwork is in sight, and I am really hopeful construction will start before the end of the year!  I'm meeting with our builder (Quality Buildings out of Pennsylvania) tomorrow to hash out the final details -- I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas to arrive tomorrow!  And then, I think past the initial excitement, and I realize when all this is really done and the barn is finished, I get to PICK OUT BARN CATS!!!!  Seriously, I may be just as excited about the barn cats as I am about the barn and having my fabulous horses just feet from my home!

And, as if I couldn't already feel the anticipation exploding inside me, then this arrives--

Golightly Sport Horses has a sign - in technicolor!!!!  A huge and overflowing thank you to Maureen Carr-York (Kerry's mom) for her bid at the 2013 Ride for Life silent auction that got me this hand crafted farm sign by David Tingley.  What a fabulous and amazing gift and what great memories I will cherish every time I come home to it! THANK YOU! It really is an incredible feeling to know that I am so very close to making this dream a reality, and having a sign ready to hang at the entrance is just about the final straw for me -- I can't take it any more - I'm going to burst!!!  


Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Mums of Marlborough Horse Trials

As submitted to and published by Eventing Nation (with a few different pictures)  -- The Mums of Marlborough Horse Trials!

Show Jumping ring steward Jen Amber holds a pot of mums for Intro Event competitor Kathleen Coyle’s horse, Rock N' Bid, who went on to jump a clear round. Photo credit to GRC Photo. Permission for use granted to MHT.

Last weekend, amidst the thrill of Plantation and the anticipation of the AECs, Marlborough Horse Trials hosted their 22nd annual event in Upper Marlboro, Md., on the beautiful grounds of the Rosaryville State Park. Upon moving to Maryland a few years ago, Marlborough quickly became one of my favorite events, and when I think about why, all I see are mums. Yellow mums and purple mums, and even red and orange mums. Mums everywhere — at dressage at A; mingled in with the pretty painted poles; and stuffed under, beside and on top of cross-country jumps all over the place. Marlborough Horse Trials has mums!
Marlborough is a hidden Maryland gem of an event. But perhaps I’m biased; as a rider, I’ve ridden around novice, training and prelim, always bringing home a ribbon and awesome prizes. And now, for the second year, I’ve been involved on the organizing side of the event. As a friend said to me this past weekend, “I have a whole new appreciation.” As cross-country chair — and now as this year’s co-organizer — I will never again look at a properly placed cross-country jump flag without awe and admiration. Apparently flags do not appear at their respective jumps on their own. I know — shocking. This year, we flagged five courses in about four hours with almost 20 volunteers — a huge improvement on our stats last year.  And I’d like to know why Buffy the Vampire Slayer never seemed to get a splinter in her hands. We could use her for flagging next year!
This year, Marlborough ran as a one-day event — running almost 150 horses through Beginner Novice to Preliminary on Sept. 21 — and running an Intro event the next day, followed by an afternoon of cross-country schooling. We are so fortunate to have the vision of Roger Haller behind our cross-country course, and I think Roger really had fun this year running the course over some new routes and playing with the addition of several new fences. Another amazing revelation being on the organizing side of the event is learning that Roger has a detailed plan for each level’s course all the way through 2018. That’s long-term vision! And who will make this vision a reality? None other than course builder extraordinaire Tyson Rementer. Marlborough Horse Trials is one lucky event.
Tyson, a chainsaw, and a beer bottle (in the rain) -- how do you think this ended??
Perhaps one of the neatest things about our event is that it runs on a state park, and this comes with certain special attributes. This year, our early morning dressage riders were joined by a large group of military service members out for a Saturday morning PT session in the park. Our sport has its origins in the military, so I choose to look at this as bringing us just a little bit closer to our heritage. We also have the flow of unsuspecting bikers, hikers and others who think they are heading to the park to enjoy a beautiful fall day only to stumble upon 100 horses prancing and jumping and running. Can you imagine their surprise? And what a great thing for our sport — snag the unsuspecting public and make them new fans of eventing.
To top off this year’s event, we hosted a Jim Wofford clinic over the competition course on Wednesday, Sept. 25. With 16 riders and five full courses to play with, Jim found himself in an eventing playground. We cannot thank him enough for spending such a beautiful day with us, and we hope to make this sort of schooling opportunity a permanent feature of Marlborough Horse Trials if the future. We wish to extend a huge thank you to all the riders, grooms, family, friend, and support teams who contributed to the success of each of our riders this weekend. We love hosting you all and look forward to 22 more years.
Jimmy demonstrating how to gather your reins after a drop fence.

Congratulations to the 2013 Marlborough Horse Trials division winners:
  • Open Preliminary A — Katie Domino/Rush W
  • Open Preliminary B — Lisa Mendell/Hokus Pokus
  • Open Training — Courtney Olmstead/Young Lad
  • Training Horse — Rosa W Lehnig/PL Irish Thunder
  • Training Rider — Amy Boccia/Whisper Lea
  • Novice Rider A — Suzy Gehris/Taking a Taxi
  • Novice Rider B — Sherry Stephenson/Pygmalion Prince
  • Open Novice — Skyeler Voss/MTF Cooley Caliber
  • Beginner Novice Rider A — Wendy Wentorf-Owens/Landrada
  • Beginner Novice Rider B — Kelsey Ann Quinn/Private Benjamin
  • Open Beginner Novice — Michelle Warro/Ave Ravina
  • Intro Rider — Michaline West/Double Exposure
  • Open Intro — Myra McMichael/He’s My Beau
And last but not least, I want to extend a huge thank you for the tremendous efforts of the Marlborough Horse Trials board, officials and army of volunteers.  Thank you for making this event possible for more than 20 years.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mi Does Dressage!

Very happy to report that Mi does dressage!  After his last less than stellar appearance in the rectangular sandbox, Mi earned himself a re-match... a chance to get his S*#@ sorted out.  And that he did!

Mi and I headed up to Loch Moy today for the final PVDA dressage show of the year.  He's really been coming together at home, but as soon as he sees that judge's box, little white fence, and evil letter boxes... well, the training has pretty much gone out the window!  But not today... he really held it together, and I was so very happy to have a relaxed and happy pony in that evil sandbox!

Mi's first test was so relaxed, he was almost too quiet!  I should have pushed for more, but I've never been able to do that!  So I was pretty darn thrilled with his 69.054 score and second place ribbon!! There's more in there, but now we're talking!

Mi and I had a relaxing break before we were up in the evil sandbox again... this time, apparently, in a bit more danger.  When Mi gets tired, he gets nervous.  Funny, because I think we, as riders, always think a second test should be a bit better with the horse a bit more settled - I'm starting to think Mi is a one-shot a day kinda guy.  After a quick watch of the video (THANK YOU KERRY!) of our first ride, I went into the ring determined to push for more in the second test.  But Mi was tired, hot, a little spooky, and a little rude -- so, he's a funny one.  But he pulled of a good test, for a solid 3rd place out of 10 horses, so really, we had a pretty awesome day!

We shall see what the future holds, but I really think today was a huge step forward in our partnership.  Exciting!
Did you see me do that dressage stuff ??? I was brilliant!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

And even more Dressage!

Dressage, dressage, dressage.
Katchi says - why we still doin' dressage?
And Mi says - dressage-schmodge. Jump!

But, it's dressage, dressage, dressage!

And it ain't even half bad!

Last week, I found out that in Mi's very first recognized dressage test (and our first competitive foray together), Mi earned the Thoroughbred High Score (Open Division) at Ride for Life... which came with prize money! WOW!  I think he was just straight up showing off to win that his first time out.  I bet he said to Katchi, "I'll show you who's getting all the treats today!"

After Ride for Life, I made a last minute decision to enter Mi in PVDA's ATC Summer Showdown to see if I could squeeze out a few more points from the square sandbox.  While Mi was good at R4L, he was tense and then tired and tense, and I knew there was so much more in there.  When I got my ride times for the Showdown and saw both tests would be in the indoor coliseum, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed.  So much for getting rid of that tension.  But, oh well, might as well push the limits.  And that we did.  Little jerk.  Day one was reasonable - judge's platform still scary as heck, but he coped.  And I was hopeful we could get 5 points higher on our return into the coliseum on day 2.  Little jerk. The second I took him out of the warm up arena and pointed him towards the shoot to the coliseum - he said, oh I don't think so...  that's the primrose path to hell!  Little jerk. Technically, he performed the movements.  Technically, his score of 63.378 earned him a pretty 4th place ribbon (out of a class of 9).  And technically, he was border line temper tantrum the entire test.  And when I took him back out to the warm up arena after his test, he had a full on temper tantrum.  Big jerk. You know how little kids scream and kick the floor and roll around?  Yeah, try sitting on 1,000 pounds of that.  I kept thinking of that horse that got eliminated at Rolex (in dressage!) a few years ago for "insubordination."  At least Mi had the "decency" to hold his insubordination until we got out of the ring.  I guess I should be thankful.  So, Mi earned himself an entry to another dressage show - August 31.  Game on.

Meanwhile, I had a super fun opportunity at the same show - for a not-so-fabulous reason.  My long-time student Debi had her beautiful mare, Roxanne, also entered at the Summer Showdown -- but the weekend before she fell very ill and was not going to be able to compete. As I ride Roxanne regularly, I thought it might be a good bit of fun to spin her around the dressage ring, so I picked up the ride in Debi's place - and fun it was!  She kicked butt in all 3 of her classes, winning her mom 3 beautiful blue ribbons and engraved wine glasses!  And our score of 75.172% in First Level Test 1 received an extra award as the show's Reserve High Score!  What good fun!  A huge thanks to Debi for letting me have the ride -- and especially to Debi's Patrick for being my groom extraordinaire for the weekend!

Me & Roxanne - winning First Level Test 1

I guess I was happier about the blue ribbons than Roxanne!
As much fun as we've been having Dressaging-it-up this summer, Mi and I have also been working very hard on putting together our partnership over fences.  I'm learning a lot about him, and he's learning a lot about me!  We have a few more holes to fill and understandings to reach, but I'm getting very excited for the future... and taking the time now to be sure we are ready to do it right soon!

P.S. Katchi wants everyone to know that with all this rain, he's been allowed out of the dressage ring on the nice soft ground a few times this summer!  A huge thanks to Sharon who has been riding him out on the hills for me, accompanying us while Mi does his conditioning work.  Last time out, Katchi was so good and the ground was so soft, that I gave the go-ahead for a little canter spin around the field!  KATCHI LOVED IT!  They both had big smiles on their faces! So fun to watch!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

So much to catch up on! First, RIDE FOR LIFE!

Oh dear, I just looked at the date of my last post.  I knew I was late, but eek.  I'm way overdue - and I'm blaming the grass!  I seem to have found myself in 10 acres of lush grass, needing to be mowed every 5 days!  Between a full time job, 2 horses, plus students and their horses...  there hasn't been a spare second in weeks!

The best thing about being crazy busy, if you love what you're busy doing, is you love every minute of your life!  I had a moment yesterday when I had to stop and pause and smile at just how good life is...  after 4 hours on the road, driving back and forth to West Virginia for a (wonderful!) jumping lesson with Jim Wofford... having an epic battle with Mi about peeing in the trailer, and trying to gather up the energy to tack up Katchi...  I had Katchi half tacked up in the cross ties and Mi, wet, in the wash stall... and the two of them, looking across the aisle at each other (each wondering with baited breath what the other was getting that might be coming his way next), and watching me - the giver of treats, and any passerby who might have a treat too...  it made my heart just swell... it was the cutest thing I've seen in ages. Their innocence, and anticipation, and delight.  And I thought, I must be the luckiest girl in the world to have such incredible ponies in my life!

Thinking back to everything that has happened the past TWO MONTHS...  the first big event was Ride for Life!  This was the 10th anniversary of the event, and my 7th consecutive year as a competitor... and as it turned out, my 3rd year winning the high pledge award for the "open" division!  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who made a donation to this event in my name.  Each year, I ride in memory of my first dressage instructor, Joy Court, who valiantly fought and won several battles with breast cancer until we lost her in 1997.  Joy's love for dressage, horses, and her students was incredible and I like to think that I carry a little bit of her with me each and every ride (I know she's with me every time I put on a polo wrap as she's the one who took the time to show me how and why, and made sure I did it properly every day!).  I was especially thrilled this year to enter the arena with both Katchi and Mi, and Joy on my shoulder, watching over me as Mi and I embark on our new adventures together.

Both the ponies were really outstanding, bringing home many pretty ribbons and making me very proud!  And while everyone wanted to check out the new pony in his dressage debut, Katchi was a star as well, and made some new friends too (specifically, he has a two year old boy who learned to say "Good Boy Katchi!" and who cannot stop talking about him and his treats!!!!).

Kathi and his new little friend, Beckett

Mi checking out the BEAUTIFUL high pledge cooler and ribbon

Good Boy Katchi!

Mi, very proud of himself after his first test - and looking for the jumps to come after dressage!

Mi in his first recognized dressage show!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Before you read this post, let me dutifully warn you that it may be perceived along the lines of, "Please sit down... I have 1,000 baby pictures you're going to love!"  Or, "Would you like to see the pictures from our family vacation?  We took 30,000!"  You have been warned ... here come the FENCE photos! Yep, in every photo - posts and rails.  They're like a dream come true to me!  "Fencing Phase 1" was completed yesterday by Robert and his crew, All About Fence.  They did an absolutely beautiful job, and pretty much, I LOVE MY FENCES!!!  After the wood dries out a bit, we'll be staining them dark - it's not too early to volunteer for the painting party! I promise pizza and beer, and pretty much anything else you want!

Before there could be a fence, there had to be posts!

And then, voila, there was a fence! And it has a gate!

Oh look, another fence!  It has 4 boards too!

OOOHHH... Double fence! Anyone fancy a hack around the fields??

This is "the cow fence" - I hope the cows next door don't have an appetite for wood!

The driveway - with a fence!

Oh look, my mom with a fence!

AH HA!  Horses in a fence!  Katchi & Mi came to visit during our Cinco de Mayo party - they were  begrudgingly confined to the one finished fence at the time - the future sacrifice area - not so big... and all that lovely grass in the distance!  Total horse abuse.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rolex 2013

Sharon & me & Bruce
Yes, I know, Rolex was an entire month ago!  Where does the time go?!  But some of these pictures are just too fun not to post for everyone to have a good laugh over!!  This was my 3rd trip to Rolex, and my mom's 2nd.  This time she came in with a battle plan.  Credit card companies notified - check.  Savings account money available - check.  Shopping list in full detail - check. Dressage schedule carefully assessed to precisely balance the right amount of shopping and dressage - check.  Cash for Funny Business drinks - lots of Funny Business - check.  For several months leading up to Rolex, we had quite a debate about whether we would take the Camry, the truck, the truck with a flatbed... it even got so bad that I had to tell friends they couldn't ride with us because we did not expect to have room for them, one allotted small suitcase, AND OUR SHOPPING!!!!  This is how seriously we took Rolex this year.  

Rolex 2013 was especially fun because 4 wonderful friends and students came along as Rolex newbies!  We tried to explain to them just how good it would be.  Now they have seen the light.  We finally caved and let Sharon have a spot in the truck, and she dutifully packed light and brought travel games and supplies to make Sangria.  She earned her seat.  Kerry flew to Kentucky to meet us Thursday night - while she missed 10 hours of good shopping, she also spared herself the trauma of 39 degree windchill during Wednesday's jog.  I still think we got the better deal.  And Debi and Patrick ended up with dressage seats right next to us on Thursday - not planned and not purchased together!  What does that tell you about how many people actually bought Rolex Thursday dressage tickets the first week they were on sale???  And Amanda (a former student now in Tennessee - not a Rolex newbie) also met up with us on Friday.  What a fun group we had!

While my mom was on a tractor shopping mission, the other girls and I entertained ourselves by pretty much playing like star struck teenagers backstage at a rock concert!  And the funny thing is - I know all these "rockstars" that we spent 4 days snapping ridiculous pictures with like we'd never met any of them - and like none of them had ever yelled at me in a lesson!  Yes, we enjoyed the Man of War drinks.  A lot.

(Me + Man of War) + (Mom + Funny Business) = Good Times.

Mom & Mower!

Sharon with Boydo!

I have seriously considered changing my FaceBook profile picture.  Boyd is one cute Aussie.

Me & Mom - Dressaging it up!

Me & Kerry posing with Phillip Dutton - there was almost a brawl  to get to him when the line turned into chaos.  Someone may have pushed a child or two, but we got our books signed AND a picture!  Jeeeeezzzzuss. 

And what luck - we found Jimmy signed his book too!
Yes, folks - EN sponsored mimosas and cookie cake for breakfast.  Best cross country Saturday ever!

Mom meeting the BIG MAN... HENNY!

Good Boy Henny!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Golightly Sport Horse...s!

With much excitement, I am back with big news!!  For several years, ever since selling my beloved baby OTTB Stealer, it's been a bit of a joke that Golightly Sport Horses has been THE Golightly Sport Horse -- aka Katchi!  It's been a competition string of one. Of course, the string also includes my lovely students and their awesome horses, but riding vicariously isn't much riding at all!  So, without further adieu, I am thrilled to announce the doubling of my competition string size and the transformation, again, to Golightly Sport HORSES!!!  With Katchi's untimely retirement from eventing and rerouting to a dressage career, I was left in the sandbox without escape!  So I've been keeping my eyes open, casually, for a new eventing partner.  I've tried a few horses over the past few months - everything from greenbean babies right off the track to Irish imports with solid competition records.  It's been painfully hard to let go of the "run and jump" partnership I have with Katchi in search of a new partner - and deciding what exactly I was looking for was way harder than I expected!  And then the guilt kicked in.  How could I tell Katchi he'd been replaced?  Heartbreaking.

I looked here and looked there.  Not really expecting to find the one for some time.  I talked with Phillip and Silva and kept looking - I talked with my vet, farrier, mom, and friends! And I kept looking.    And, then one day, a horse listed online caught my eye ... only problem was he was snowbound and furry in Michigan! But we got through the snow and fur, and so Katchi now has a brother - just a few weeks younger, and what do you know... he's a bay (he had to be a bay - 30 years of riding - always a bay!).  Tall, dark, and handsome!  

Dusty Dazing
2001 TB bay gelding (Texas)
Jockey Club tatoo, but unraced.
Sire: Stephene Mon Amour
Dam: Amber Dust by Dust Commander

As the new pony has been here a few weeks and we're getting to know him, we've been working madly on coming up with a new barn name for him (SORRY MICHELLE!) - and the "no name horse" finally has a name!  Mi.  Pronounced "my" - for "the Michigan horse" and also for Mi Taylor, the race trainer in National Velvet.  It seems to suit him quite well, and he's already learning that his new name = lots of treats.  So, he seems to be adjusting through his identity crisis as well as can be expected for any "no name horse!"

It will take a few weeks to get Mi running full speed and me able to hang on, but look for us out and about very soon!

New horse checking out his new home at Baywood.

Settling into quarantine before joining his brother in the big barn.

Mi in bling!  Fancy halter and bell boots!
Sorry Jimmy - this horse is not a bling-free zone!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Train the Trainer

Thank you to everyone for all your caring thoughts and sympathies over the news of Katchi's retirement.  We all wish they could run forever, because they really were meant to, weren't they?!  It means so much to have such wonderful friends, many of whom I've never met! Your kind words remind me why I love horses and the people who love them!

I wanted to take a quick moment to catch up on another (happier) topic that I've been meaning to write about for some time.  With purchasing the farm and trying to get myself set up with the facilities to help my horses and students (and me!) reach our dreams, the timing also finally came together to begin the USEA's Instructor Certification Program (ICP).  In December, I submitted an application for the Area II's awarding of the USEA Cindy Burge Memorial ICP Grant - and was selected as a recipient!  The grant contributed a nice chunk of the ICP program costs and I pulled some real luck when a new workshop date was announced in Area II - as a condensed 2 day version (versus the normal 3 day training) and one of those days was on a holiday!  That meant only one day off work and no travel expenses (although I did break down and stay at the lil' ol' Best Western down the road - which left much to be desired) - the stars had aligned and I was off to be a trained trainer!

The first 2-day workshop was in January and focused on dressage, with a bit of dressage over poles on the second day.  The workshop had 5 candidate instructors - the small number really surprised me as I think I expected there to be more like 20 "trainer-students" but they limited the numbers to allow us each multiple times to teach.  It was quite a different experience - much more like my old pony club days - and it was harder than I expected.  We each taught 3 lessons, and were provided with incredibly specific feedback.  The benefit of not only teaching my own lessons and receiving feedback, but also of watching others teach and hearing their feedback - it was incredibly insightful.  We all spend so much time trying to perfect our riding, so this was a real turn of the tables and gave me so much more to think about.

Two months later, I was able to join the same group of 5 candidate instructors (with one swap-out) for two days of jumping "train-the-trainer" sessions with Phyllis Dawson.  Phyllis was a pleasure to learn from and her enthusiasm for her horses, riders, and the sport was infectious.  We primarily taught her working students on sales horses, and she made each one arrive to their lesson fully braided (why not take the opportunity to practice braiding when it's 30 degrees and snowing outside?!?!) and she dutifully inspected each one. I suspect some riders had to repeat their braids later that week!  Phyllis emphasized the importance of empowering your riders.  Tell them what you want - then make them responsible for getting it done.   She also hammered on all of us to not talk the entire lesson - a little quiet is a good thing, especially 6 strides out from a jump when either the rider is a) listening to you and not paying attention to the horse and jump (bad thing) or b) not listening to you, in which case you might as well shut up anyhow!  She did caveat that you area allowed to scream "You're going to die!" at less than 6 strides out, should the situation warrant such an outburst.  Lets all hope I never scream that and you (or me!) never hear that!  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we had a wonderful 2 days really picking apart our teaching, laughed some great laughs, and came away inspired and determined to become better teachers!

The USEA's Instructor Certification Program is still young.  It has some kinks to work out.  And I'm really happy I had the opportunity to participate.  It was tough.  It was specific and challenging.  It's not perfect.  But I learned an incredible amount and came away with a better sense of clarity about what it means to be a good instructor.  It's a solid useful program, and I think those who take its teachings to heart will come out at the end as better teachers.  Thank you to the USEA for developing the program - to lend a bit of credibility to those who say "yes, I teach" and a huge thank you to Area II for supporting my own personal development in the program!

At the end of both sessions, I (thankfully!) received a recommendation to proceed to assessment without further training or mentoring.  What a relief!  I'm not sure when the next local assessment will be held, but I'm hearing rumors about this fall.  So, don't be surprised if I ask a few of you if I can have ME videoed during YOUR lesson in the lead up to the assessment!

Phyllis Dawson leading the ICP jumping workshop.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Old Goals, New Goals, and Old New Goals

With everything going on with the start of spring, going through the USEA Instructor training program, and the excitement of starting work on the new farm - lots of people have been asking why my blog has been so quiet, when I obviously have so much to report! The honest answer is that I have known what the next post had to be, and I just haven't been able to make myself write it.  I've been trying for 3 months, and I couldn't get the words out.  But here goes.  Katchi has been retired from eventing.  I've just about gotten to the point that I can tell people without crying, but I feel the tears coming as I type.  It's the right decision.  If only it didn't hurt so much.  My entire team agrees that the time has come to move on.  But neither Katchi's heart or mine agree.   It has been incredibly hard to explain to Katchi that he can't be allowed to gallop and jump.  He loves eventing so very much, and he just doesn't understand.  But sometimes we have to make decisions with our heads, on behalf of our horses and in spite of our own heart - and theirs.

Over the past several years, Katchi and I have battled repeated soundness issues.  Never injury - never something that just needed time.  If he needed time, he could have all he ever wanted.  I'd wait forever for him.  But time is not working in his favor.  He has some basic structural flaws that we cannot change.  And the more I push him, the more those issues effect him.  In ramping up our training in preparation for Aiken, it became clear Katchi just wasn't holding up to the pressure, again.  It's not his fault.  He tries harder than any horse I've ever ridden.  He's my partner, my friend, and my confidant.  And he needs me to be all those things for him too.

Perhaps it's so hard to make this decision because of all the goals we didn't achieve.  Or perhaps because of all we did accomplish. Or for all we very nearly accomplished.  I've never worked harder with a horse - or enjoyed the journey more. I owe him so much for all he's taught me about riding and horsemanship - and lameness diagnosis and veterinary medicine!  I'm heartbroken that I finally just figured out how to ride him over those darn colored poles, and now we have no more colored poles in our future.  I'm heartbroken that I'll never gallop through another finish line cheering and patting my "GOOD BOY KATCHI!" all the way home.

So what's next for Katchi?  He has a forever home with me.  And we are all hopeful he has many years left in him to do a little "horse ballet" in the sandbox.  I still have my eyes on those flying changes and a USDF bronze medal. I still have big goals for Katchi - so long as he tells me he can.

After 3 months being confined to the rectangular sandbox... while I love it, one thing is for sure... I am an event rider through-and-through.  While I'm letting go of some goals, and setting new goals... I also have the same goals.  Eventing.  Jump all the jumps.  When one door closes, another is sure to open - and sometimes things that seem tragic at the time actually lead you down a path you might have never pursued otherwise, but end up taking you places better than anywhere you could have ever imagined you might go.  I'm looking forward to that new path.

Good Boy Katchi.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Words from the Captain

As I've been trying to recreate the amazing feel Mark Phillips helped me establish in Katchi, I wanted to be sure to share his two big themes in my lessons - for as simple as they were, they made a tremendous difference in the quality of Katchi's work.  This is what has always struck me about Mark's teaching of our high performance horses and riders - they may be 4 star horses, but their lessons unfailingly focus on the basic connection, feel, and quality.  When the foundation is solid, the upper level movements flow effortlessly. When the foundation isn't there, it will always be a fight.  I also really appreciate Mark's teaching style in that he explains his assessment of your major challenges, how he advises you to address them, and then leaves you to feel, act, and feel again with validation and reminders as needed.  He does not over-teach, but he is adamant in his expectations.  With Katchi, I had two major challenges to correct:

1) Katchi must be responsive to a whisper from my leg.  On an intensity scale of 1 to 10, I must be committed to ride Katchi off a whispering 1 leg aid.  And any time Katchi doesn't jump to the whisper, he gets a 10 ... and he darn well better gallop off!  And then we go back to riding the whisper.  

2) The rules of life for Katchi are simple: he must move with energy flowing through his back to a light reaching even connection, without leaning on me for support (as Mark said, I am not allowed to be Katchi's walking stick!).  We spent a lot of time warming up in the walk, pushing Katchi's energy up through his back into an even connection (the evenness is definitely our biggest challenge).  It was a wonderful opportunity to feel the change I can make in the quality of his movement by using a light leg, receiving hand, and encouraging seat to move Katchi off the leg, bend his body, and engage his hind legs.  By the end of our second lesson, Katchi felt like he had the movement of a floating warmblood - it was fantastic!  I'm trying to remember that feel over and over and over in my head in hopes that I can replicate it without Mark's encouraging words of "THANK you" "su-per" "perfect" and "now you're riding" to let me know I'm on the right track!

I pulled a few video clips from our second lesson into the below video - my favorite part of the video comes at the end when Katchi got a little cuddle from Mark, and managed to sneak in a good nose-push to show Mark just how much he did not appreciate the level of work he was just made to do without a walking stick!! So much for good manners for the Captain.

This past week, Kerry also had outstanding lessons with both Mark Phillips and Jennie Brannigan.  The theme in all Kerry's lessons was the importance of keeping Atticus engaged without getting quick, long, and stiff.  While the theme wasn't news to us, it was fantastic to see 2 different expert instructors pinpoint solutions and give Kerry some new tools.  So often in the competition year, you get caught up getting from one event to the next without having much opportunity to take a step back and really reinvent your riding and your horse's way of going.  I think this trip to Aiken did just that for Kerry. Below is a clip from Kerry's lesson with Jennie on Thursday - she really nailed it here, and to quote Mark Phillips, "Super Riding!".

Katchi & his cats.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Aiken Adventure

Our Aiken adventure is keeping us busy running from lesson to lesson and watching out for the cats!  Katchi doesn't know it yet, but he's losing his best friend tomorrow as Kerry and Atticus head back to Maryland. Atticus, on the other hand, will probably be thrilled for the rest and relaxation of home!

The big thrill of the week was having the good fortune to train with Captain Mark Phillips!  Katchi and I were able to do two dressage lessons with him that were fantastic!  I've watched many of Mark's lessons with the high performance riders, and I had high hopes for what I might learn from him - I was not disappointed!  He has a tremendous eye for the subtlety of feel, and I was thrilled with the extravagant movement Mark was able to help me bring out in Katchi.  He even sat on Katchi a few minutes - what fun to watch!!!

After watching my lesson on Tuesday, Kerry scrambled and was able to sneak into a jumping lesson with Mark the following day - it was equally as impressive!  Again, his eye for the rider's feel proved tremendous and he made a few tiny changes with Kerry and Atticus that had a hugely positive effect.  It was so much fun to watch and learn!

Kerry & Atticus (far left) in lesson with Mark Phillips.

In between horse lessons, there has been no shortage of entertainment  at the cat farm...

Katchi enjoying ring-side seating of a good old fashioned cat fight!  

The breakfast line at the Aiken cat farm.