Monday, December 22, 2008

From the Top to the Bottom ....AGAIN

Having written the two really fun blogs about the great time we all had last weekend,I merrily strolled downstairs to start the day and now am devasted by a five minute phone converstaion.

Having been filled with thoughts of happiness and huge satisfaction I now want to crawl under a rock or make an emergency phone call to the shrink.Now now Lellie Calm down......

Teaching and working with horses is hugely satisfying for the most part.Having travelled around the globe I have been fortunate to meet many horsemen,some good,some not so good.The good ones have given me tools of the trade,confidence and not only helped my riding ,but have taught me so many life lessons along the way.The bad ones have taught me I do not want to be like them.

Though I am heavily ensconed in the horse world, one lesson taught to me is that there is no amount of money worth your reputation. Misrepresenting either oneself or horses is something that is all too frequently seen.It is hurtful, expensive and most of all dangerous.

I am deeply saddened when I see it happening over and over.Trying to repair is always more difficult and expensive than perhaps paying more at the beginning of an equine journey.

People that enjoy teaching , are willing to help people repair but this teacher wants to scream out loud to riders out there that so much of what happens to them can be avoided!


By practicing the basics with someone that is willing to stand up and REALLY help. Will your teacher ride your horse for you when you don't understand? Will your teacher actually fix problems and teach you how to avoid issues in the future? Will your teacher give you the knowledge to ride with skill instead of luck? Will the person that sold you the horse actually help you when things go wrong? Does that person make you feel like you cannot talk to them about your own issues that keep you up at night because you think they are too busy or famous or can't take the time? Or because you have jumps in your ring you don't teach dressage?

What does Dressage mean?It means TRAINING!!!!!!!! It means you should be able to ride your horse anywhere at anytime, not just between little white boarder fencing. It doesn't only mean Dressage shows and percentage scores.

I am very sad. I hate to see people hurt. I just wrote a blog about big smiles and Fun. I am going to stop this sad blog now and go back and read the other two again in the hopes that I will be able to crawl out from the cold dark shadows of my rock. And I'm not going to answer my phone anymore for awhile. UGH! Thank God its Monday and I can wait for Dr.Phil to come on!

Lots of Fun and Smiles Part Two

The fun and smiles continued on the next day.At 7.30 am Paradise experience a petite psunami that made us all want to go back to bed, but by 8 am things were looking better.By 9 am I had three very excited riders loaded up in the truck listening to Johnny Cash on the way to the Belvoir Farm Schooling Show for another days sport.

We arrived at the show and got everyone mounted.This was a great opportuntity for our riders as everyone had their own personal missions to accomplish.This was Taylors first horse show with her new horse Spencer.Boyce is an experienced show rider but today she jumped real courses not just cross rails.Her eyes became big as saucers when I set up her first oxer.I saw her take a huge gulp and kicked right on down to it.Within minutes she was bombing around the entire ring,eating up the lines with her fabulous pony Miss Rosey!

George Zaiser arrived on Friday for a casual weekend .There simply is no such thing.Upon arrival I asked him what he wanted to do and he said,I can't get my horses head down.Right then.Two dressage lessons later,he was ready to challenge Anky van Grunsvan on a good day.So naturally without further adieu,day three needed to be a horse show over fences.We simply do not mess around at Paradise!

Taylor went from the Ultimate careful housewife to a ferocious competitor gaining confidence with each round.She an Spencer are extremely well suited to each other earning high praise from our host Mike Sharp.Boyce had bugs on her teeth the entire day.And George went from not being able to get his horses head down,to winning a couple of classes!

We need a wheelbarrow to bring home all the prizes.Everyone won a championship or a reserve.It was simply amazing!

It is SO REWARDING to see my friends having this much FUN with their horses.It absolutely made it a perfect weekend,EVERY bit as exciting as the Rolex Three Day EVENT!

This weekend was my Christmas.I finished the day by putting my farm to bed as everyone that works here is on holiday.I enjoyed taking care of the horses myself for a change as I used to.

With Christmas only a few days away things will be fairly quiet at the farm.I still have a few horses in work and we are still hunting.The only major thing left to do on my list for 2008 is move the years maure pile.What a way to end the year!

All my love and Thanx to everyone.No doubt 2009 will bring more adventures.Stay tuned!

Lots of Fun and Smiles

December 20-21 was truely a great weekend in Aiken.The Aiken Hounds had our annual Christmas meet at the beautiful Green Boundary Club.Three years ago,on a dare I wore a full fledged Santa Suit to the meet and hunted the hounds.With a FULL wig and beard I galloped through the woods blowing the horn hunting, the hounds with the added excitement of a FULL set of sleigh bells around my favorite drag horse (machine) Charlie Ferrari.

With each year this meet has grown in size and in fun with all the field and foot followers adorning all sorts of Chritmasy things.There is/ are lots of tinsel,ribbon,balls,elf hats,antlers,bells even Christmas blinking lights in the manes and tails.Last year we even had a human Christmas present show up.This year I added a full pillow and more bells to my attire.

Rudolf,and all the other reindeer show up, more elves, a few angels and even Mrs.Claus was there this year.This meet is especially great for the local economy as all the local emporiums benefit from this excercise.Target,Wal Mart and CVS Drugs were VERY well represented as well as many of the local florists.All the staff horses adorned magnificent wreaths that were carefully homemade.Beautiful Christmas stock ties were given out as presents.Tons of great photos were taken.Smiles were everywhere.

I counted over 65 horses in the field.What a magnificent sight it was to look back at all the horses hacking down Berrie Road to the woods.Many thanks to our traffic control volunteers.

We had a lovely go with three drags.Lots of jumping that brought even more color to the field!There was plenty of Christmas cheer at each check.After a cool drink for the hounds , off we'd go with the next drag.We finished our day at the famous Crawford fences and hacked back to the meet.

But the day was not over.A delicious breakfast was to follow at the Green Boundary.By the end of the morning Santa Sat in the chair with a belly full of the very famous lace cookies and took Christmas wishes from most our male foxhunting friends.He will certainly be very busy this year.Hopefully after a day like that he will fit down the chimney and not get stuck!

Long may this tradition last.Each year at Thanksgiving, it is hard to describe the wonderful feeling of putting on the green coat for the first time.Putting on the sleigh bells and the red suit is another great honor!There is nothing to compare to the sound of the bells in perfect rythm while humming on down to the Aikens behind hounds.The sound they make while galloping being broken only when airborne over the jumps and then repeating towards the next fence will be with me forever.

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aiken Hounds Opening Meet

Despite gloomy weather reports Thanksgiving Day was beautiful.For me it is a day of tradition and ritual loaded with honor and pride not just for myself and the horses but it is one of the things that makes Aiken so special.

The day before Thansgiving and the early morning is loaded with stress and anxious anticipation.Horses need to be washed ,clipped, braided and sparkling.This is a two day process.Tack needs to be in perfect order.And then there's the human wardrobe.Will I fit into my boots this year?I have learned to find all the clothes at least a week before instead of the morning of.Pins,hairnets,white gloves,white breeches,spurs,whips,extra this and thats.

Hurry up,get to the meet early.I have my annual secret hiding place away from all the other trailers.Getting a place to park is a mad dash.I leave at 9.00 every year for an 11 oclock meet.I live 6 miles away.

Its a huge honor to put on my green coat.I have a new coat this year which makes me a bit sad as it breaks my tradition but the old coat was truely in need of a rest.Riding down to the meet is always special.There are so many happy faces to meet and greet.Every year more and more people come to see the horses , hounds and the woods.Every year is it such a pleasure to see all the riders come out for the very special blessing of the hounds.I always try to imagine Mrs.Hitchcock on this day.So many great people have taken these hounds out. It is an honor to be a part of this day each year.

I truly miss not hunting the hounds anymore and I am sad that more people choose not to jump the aikens behind the field but I try not to think about that and think about the history of the hunt and Aikens past.Preserving Aikens great history is what is important.

It was another glorious day and the beginning of our new season.No doubt there will be many stories this year to tell.Stay tuned.

Catching Up

It's been over a month now,Can't believe its almost Christmas.Time for a quick review.I wrote a long blog on our trip to Pine Top for their Thanksgiving Horse Trials and it went off to phsyber space instead of on the blog.Without going into all the details,I'll summerize.

I FINALLY made the decision to enter the three devils prelim at Pine Top.For some reason I had tremendous difficulty in makng that decision.The horses were ready and on form.But I had this strange feeling all along.

It rained and rain on the day.Pickles was drawn first at 7.30 or so and was great with his no warm up warm up.I managed not to overdo him and he managed the test without stress.A big deal.Peter Pan charged around the arena with his usual I can do it attitude.He even gave me a rein back.This was special as I had not practiced that enough,considering he had only done less than 10 in his life.Ooops forgot about those.....Harry didn't like the rain and wanted to go back to the trailer.He gave me the test but wasn't his usual rythmic self.

I was very nervous for show jumping and they were great.Peter had a rail going into the fence before the triple but fair enough.It was a busy line with lots to look at.Harry and Pickles jumped lovely clean rounds.I was elated.Once again I managed to ride them forward and put my picking monster to bed.

I withdrew on the Sunday morning at 4.30 am.Text messages and E mails were sent out all over the place.I did not want to risk my boys.They had an exceptional season and I could not live with myself if I had made an error or taken just one too many pulls on the XC.Had I been on the grounds the morning of and been able to feel the footing perhaps my decision would have been different.But it was so dismal at my farm that morning I decided to scratch.

I felt guilty.I had never withdrawn before for those reasons and felt like I was playing hookey from school.Many friends phoned from the event asking why I wasn't there.Even tough I was in the money with all three devils,I couldn't take the chance.

After seeing them all playing in the fields now,fat and hairy,I know I made the right decision.There is always another day.

The devils did a lot this year.Peter Pan has come from a wild bucking bronco to a preliminary eventer in one year.Next Dance has overcome his issues with water and ditches and has gone onto some seriously good dressage work.He honored his stablemate Riverdance.They are stabled next to each other and must talk in the evenings.I can only imagine what River is telling him.Pickles has also had a good year.Aside from MY two errors in show jumping(Forgetting a fence at Tryon and misjudging a distance at Rocking Horse) Pickles has been very consistant in his jumping and his dressage is a work in progress.

I am happy to give them a rest now.we all need it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Clinics and Lessons

Last week I was very lucky to have three days of lessons and a Jumper Show under my belt. I view having lessons as a combination of a trip to a spa with a shrink session thrown in!

For some reason, last week after my trip to Florida, I found myself on a real downer in my head about the way I was riding and managing the horses. I suppose this is fairly normal after having been on such a high for so long. I was very upset with myself for making the same mistake (twice resulting in elimination!) with Pickles at Rocking Horse.

There was definately something missing in my flatwork, which I had been feeling really good about up to that point. I'll tell you the truth, I had to get off one horse after 15 minutes of sheer frustration... and very bad thoughts. I thought it best to simply walk away and get on another one. I did not have a plan, I had no feeling. Everything I asked for on the flat seemed blocked and the horses were unhappy. I couldn't wait for the Doctor to arrive. Wait Wait wait........I am not good at that.

On top of that I am not good at indecision and it EATS me ALIVE till I make a decision, then I can go on. I am contemplating moving Peter and Harry up to Prelim. but there is something keeping me from making the committment to myself. In the past I would START horses at prelim. without a second thought. So in the two years that I haven't been riding the biggest tracks in the US with regularity and riding mostly young green horses, something has changed. HMMMMMMMMM.

Enter the Doctor. Five minutes of whining with TEARS in my eyes and a frog in my throat, sounding like a complete imbecile, she says.Go off do this. And as usual, ZAP! all the world was right again. Well ,as usual I was going to the wrong part of the horse, asking the wrong questions first, so I deserved EVERYTHINGI got from them. As usual the horse was right in saying, "I am not going to answer you because you are asking me the wrong way." DUH! So I had 7 lessons in a row into the dark and said, "Wish you could stay the night." ZAP! "OK," she says!" Fortunately I have already paid this month's mortgage so I am OK there... but the light bill may be a little high!

So we had a great dinner and got up early the next day and did the Four Devils in a row - River included. Enter the double bridle.I felt like I was training for the Russian weight lifting team. Dressage is SUCH an illusion. There is little that is easy and light in the way I ride at the moment! Anyway, I learned so much.So much that I have heard before but FINALLY I am ACTALLY able to understand so many of these things I heard for 35 YEARS!And I am starting to hear the words Pre Saint George and Grand Prix more often. Can ANYONE out there believe that?

So we wrapped up the Dresage portion of the day and had the Three Devils on the truck by 12 Pm and off to the local jumper show we went. Ann K brought Norman as a forth for her debut into the outside world.I was sad to leave River home but he was too wooley to go out in public anyway. (Sunday is reserved for clipping all day!)

Harry and Peter were to make their debut into the 3'6" division. My babies are growing up. I had to be a big girl and not allow myself a practice class at a lower height.I was going to go straight in. All my "advisors"(Barbie and Ann) assured me I was ready for the big one!.

Oh GREAT! Guess what.3A-B was and oxer to a verticle one stride right in front of the in gate. Exactly what I had botched up the week before on Pickles! I HATE stopping at fences and don't do it that much so now its another current phobia after Rocking Horse.

OK I'm going in.... Just like jumping off the helicopter in Vietnam at night.Pickles first.Pickles hates the warm up and hates other others going around him so the warm up was sticky as usual. But he jumped around in the ring like his old self, was great in the jump off and got a prize in the class. Peter next. He jumped like a star, wasn't overfaced. I did have one rail that kept us out of the jump off but that was ok. I was a very proud mother.

Last was Harry. He ate the course up and jumped very well. Straight, sqaure,with power that is scary sometimes. Alas I had the same rail as with Peter in the jump off but that didn't matter. We left the show alive, in one piece. We won the war. I wished I had River there as the Mini Prix looked doable to me... maybe next time.

Next day,two entirely different types of horses to Jump with Micheal Tokaruk at the SPCA clinic.I am lucky enough to ride Strider a lovely grey polo pony that Terese Scott owns and a Budweiser horse from Georgia. Strider was a champion as he doesn't own his canter at all yet, but went around and jumped all kinds of great questions presented to us both by Micheal. I simply did my best to steer and stay quiet as the horse worked it all out. We left with a lot under our belt.It is good for me to practice riding difficult situations as it makes me better in the long run...

Budweiser was also a star answering even more difficult questions. Micheal presented all normal tests for us all to perform but I was on horses that wer very green to this game.They were stars.It was easier for me to work on myself with the second horse . I had a great time with this wonderful opportunty to ride.

I THRIVE on my lessons and can NEVER get enough. I hope as a teacher that I make my students feel that way too.I am out of my cave of darkness again and am looking forward to getting back going again. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rocking Horse Stable Horse Trials

Barbie and I were looking forward to our trip to Florida after what seemed a long times between events.Our own competition at Paradise really knocked us out of our gear and we were hoping all would stay on track for our next event.

The Devils are great shippers and travellers in general and the trip was a breeze at 6.5 hours.We arrived at Rocking Horse Stable a day early to allow us all to settle in and relax.Theres not a chance of that at home so we felt like we were playing hooky down in Florida.WE had fantastic stables right next to the wash stall and could park right in front of our stalls so camp was made and we were all tucked in ready for things to begin.

The horses worked in really well the day before as we watched everyone ship in and get ready for the next days competition.Upon walking the cross country course that afternoon,I wish I had moved all the horses up a notch as I felt the prelim would have been well suited for a first time start,but one never knows.Both the prelim and the training were on the soft side which makes me just as nervous because one must never get complacent about anything.

Dressage was not a high point for me this time.Pickles was nervous again,just a bit tight and had very poor marks.I felt badly for him.He had warmed up well but wasn't happy in the ring. He is a very sensitive fellow that I must continue to try and find the key with.I know a good test is in there somewhere.
Harry (Next dance) moved beautifully and was very obediant.I was delighted.He is such a cheerful,uncomplicated fellow.As usual,when one likes the test,we had a surprising score and were left feeling rather defeated by the judges opinion.
Peter pranced around like a trooper.He is getting stronger by the day and really beginning to grow up.Though we were again shocked with the score at least he was a credible 2nd.

My dressage times were rather close to my first show jumping ride so I barely got to run round the course.I was felt pressure to get out of the ring so the class could start and I did not walk the related distances.I thought just eyeballing would do.It normaly does and I get away with it.Well folks.NOT THIS TIME!!!!!

Pickles warmed up like a zillion dollars.Loose rein,soft,both leads.Great.All the right stuff.A GREAT track in the ring,I was excited and ready to go.We cantered in,jumped the first four really well ,came around the corner ,jumped 5A an oxer to a one stride verticle out and BANG!Pickles stopped!I was really surprised.I cantered him around quietly till the bell rang again ,Found my line ,came around the corner,jumped the oxer agin,soft as you please and BANG!Whistle,I got the big E.Two stops and your out these days.

I was very surprised and went straight back to the practice jumps and he was a star again,so there was nothing wrong with him.I was shocked so I watched a lot of other horses ride the track and there were several akward jumps at that end of the ring.And there were a few that stopped there as well.

It turned out that the distance was a bit longer than I anticipated and I actually should have approached the double with a different canter.Hindsight 20/20.I could not blame Pickles as he was jumping exactly as I had asked him to but I was mad at myself for not being more astute!So I will certainly pay more attention to the track before I ride another one!Yet another lesson learned.I opted not to run Pickles XC as I felt he did not need the run so he was done for the weekend.

Harry and Peter had double clears in their show jumping.I was please they didn't look at the liverpool as they hadn't jumped one in a while.

Harry and Peter bombed around their training cross country tracks .There were two skinny types fences that they had a look at but they ate up the rest of the course.

End result.Peter pan second to a lovely horse that deserved the win.Harry moved up to 5th and Pickles the big E.

All the way home Barbie and I discussed what we needed to do for improvement.Maybe another event where I move everybody up to prelim.I think they are now all ready and I need to get my======in gear.

There is a local jumper show here at home this week.You bet I am going to go practice and walk that course!!!So I needed that wake up call.I got it.I am awake.Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Robin Walker Clinic

Last weekend we had Robin Walker fly in from Michigan to teach a clinic at Paradise farm.This was organized by Amy (AHHHHHHH can't remember last name will get back to you) primarily to A: get Robin to the East and B: so she could complete her ICP asssessment.So a batch of people came from various directions for two days of hard work.

And work they (we) did.Robin gave all the applicants private dressage lessons in the mornings while I ran around managing Paradise farm.I was unable to listen in but the horses looked great and showed definate improvement in shape and rythm from a far.

In the afternoonI jumped in literally to ride in the show jumping classses with each of the three devils.I hadn't jumped a fence since Pine Top several weeks ago and relied totally on Barbies preparation.

A small aside about that.I don't know which is harder ,setting up a horse trials or taking it down.But we are still suffering from major aftermath and rebuilding of "Paradise normal" (if there is such a thing)So Robins clinic was a good place to get going again.A good thing as I am competing at Rocking Horse on the next weekend.

Robin helped everyone on an individual basis.Each rider having different issues.So a small spate was given to all .Peter worked on sharpening up his front end.Pickles on his rythm and Harry was just a star and was so darned good I just had to get off him before something went a muck and I needed to fix it.Scary.So it goes to show I need to leave it up to Barbie more!

I do not often get to ride with other instructors and I was pleased to be given a new idea that I will use in further training.An octagonal construction of many show jumps all on a set distance that was very useful in establishing and maintaining rythm.I plan on praticing it again as my prep for Florida.

Cross Country was the next day.Again I jumped in on 3 rides with the devils.Peter was first and pinged around making Robin squeel and sparkle.Sadly as I zoomed back to the stable to hop on another one I said to anne Kinney this horse is lame.How quickly one goes from the top to the bottom again.OK 5 days till Florida......Lame horse.Great Reality Bites!

The SCARY thing about this story is I naturally picked all feet up .pressed and prodded all legs,pretending I know something about legs,saw nothing and went onto the next horse.I put my fingers in all 4 feet (white feet) and pressed around and saw nothing.Remember this part of the story.

Harry next.Jump Jump Jump.A star.I am so pleased with the way he is handing everything.Cheerful and confident.Don't need more at this stage.A BLESSING.No smoke or fire.Something I am not used to.

Pickles number three."what do you want to do with this one?"Robin asked.Gulp,"I guess since I am riding my first prelim in over a year I better do corners.But I don't want to do the big ones in case I screw it up before ther event,so I'll just do the training and be safe",replied chicken little.
"That sounds fine "replied Robin,thinking yawn yawn.

Off I went.With that old familiar feeling in my gut.All I had to do was ride a straight line.Duh!Pickles zoomed off and I tried to maintain a rythm as he flung his head all around and jumped the trainig corner perfectly both ways.

Oh no.Robin is now parked at the prelim little nasty corner by the fenceline that I always shake my head at and think is a bit testy on my own course.To be honest I have never even jumped my own prelim track as I am alone a lot and don't risk much on my own.Well of course I now have to jump the darn thing with all these people around and the event coming up.Wait, Wait ,Wait, PING!Gallop away ,roll back turn,wait wait wait PING!OK both directions under the belt.

Pickles is getting fired up and I am trying not to.So we went back to another waiting and control type fence,a brush to a drop to another brush table type thing,sorted out the smaller step ,waiting and finished up with the two corners again.Then I felt pretty good and went onto the last bigger corner,copied from Fox Hall Three day event.A nasty upright thing.Ping ,again but I think I took down the imaginary flag on the left(not straight enough)Again ,again,again till I owned it and put the stomach demons back down into my feet where they belong.

People think that professional riders don't get nervous or feel that dreaded intrepidation.I felt it very difficult during the two days clinic situation to watch the other riders and them have it be my turn.With the corners I was glad Robin let me get it all done at one time while I was switched on.With the other horses I felt it difficult to ride then sit then ride again.AsI teach more than I take lessons it made me RE realize the necessity of being properly warmed up before heading to a jump.Make sure your horse is switched on also! It is not fair to them!

All in all we had a fun weekend.Amy got her assessment! YEA! By the way she used RiverDance and I as her Guinea Pig for her test.Rivers horns (and my worms) showed themselves.Amy had her work cut out for her.So congratulations to Amy!Everyone learned a few things.

All the riders had fun and I was so pleased to use Paradise again for safe,effective riding.Thanx to Robin,Amy and Geoff for all their efforts.Now it's time to go to Florida!Stay tuned!

And the end of the scary story I forgot!Peter had a HUGE HUGE SCREW in his frog of his hind foot.I COMPLETELY overlooked it.NEVER saw it.VERY VERY SCARY!!!!I cannot imagine how I missed this.So you can NEVER be too careful.Barbie found it.So a quick trip to the angel vet on Sunday evening produce a BOX FULL of antibiotics .Lots of saoking and cleaning and attention later,it looks like we can still go.So go out there and check every horses legs and eyes and ears and EVERYTHING all the time!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Paradise Farm Horse Trials

While America's upper level riders were up in Fair Hill Maryland, getting ready to qualify for next years Rolex Three Day Event, the rest of us were down here in Aiken enjoying a beautiful afternoon in Paradise. The morning started very dark,windy and cold but the afternoon was lovely. Thank God we were rain free! A little drizzle the day before made the already perfect footing even better and the new road held up just fine. (A huge story in itself, definately worth an entire bottle of Excedrin PM's)

Can't believe the event has come and gone. It was a great day, ran smoothly due to all our wonderful friends that made it happen... and I STILL CAN"T SLEEP! Organizing a horse trial, even a small one like our past competition (approx.100 horses) is such a large undertaking. Pulling the grounds together requires millions of hours and many many people. Mowing, chain sawing, weed eating, collecting brush and stuffing it, painting, staining, moving jumps, dragging,telephoning, emailing, having the right nails, screws, tools for dressage arenas, radios,, jumpcups, flat cups, deep cups, safety cups, maps, programs, duplicates of everything. The list goes on and on....

Barbie Reeser and Ann Kinney rode all my horses every day for the past two weeks,plus kept all the other horses in gear.Not only did Ann help Barbie with the riding , but she put the event program together and managed all the website stuff and bought "Norman", a lovely grey gelding that lives here. So congratulations and best wishes to Ann! Together Barbie and Ann managed the riding and the meds and bandaging and now the wretched blanketing as well. A huge ordeal with 15 horses. Antonio and several others buzzed around carrying endless lists in their pockets that grew and grew each day (instead of shrinking).My Spanish was put to good use. I learned lots of new words!

We had a new event secretary this year and our old secretary assumed the position of TD. Juli Hearn enjoyed getting out of the office and actually seeing the event work for the first time in about 14 events! Nancy Russell was a complete pro and handled everything like she'd been there all her life. Barbie didn't ride on the day and held all the volunteers and radios together -Two more huge jobs.

Three rings of Dressage ran smoothly and were finished by about 12 o'clock(ish). Sort of sad to see such a short day, compared to the spring event where we run 310 horses and the 4 rings go all day.

The Paradise Farm Show jumping team were very excited to see how the course was going to ride.I hope one day to have enough time to start attending lots of course building seminars as I am extremely interested and get great satisfaction out of course designing.

I do not believe that Horse Trials should be won in the dressage ring, and this years show jumping course helped sort out the men from the boys. One of the event's highlights was a visit from Gand Prix rider Micheal Tokaruk, who took time out of his incredibly busy schedual to come watch. He compared Paradise to a European event, being in a field on undulating ground ect. A huge compliment, one I understood completely having competed in Europe a lot myself.

Americans are mostly used to competing on prepared surfaces now and having permanent stabling on the grounds of the competition. One very rarely sees that in Europe. People are very used to working from their Horse vans and trucks,and they are home for dinner on the same day! I enjoyed showing the cross country course to Micheal as that is a different world to him. I do hope he comes over and brings his jumpers to play on the hills and over the jumps.(Especially my favorite Rodger Rabbit!) But I don't think I'll be able to convince Micheal to make the switch to eventer!

The cross country course looked great.The Paradise farm "Ladies Flower Society" is growing. Now this is a job I NEVER used to allow anyone but myself to do. Everyday, we must all be grateful to my very good shrink for teaching me to let go, Let Go, LET GO..........Now, if I could only sleep!

Anyway the point is,there is definately more than one Martha Stewart in this town, and they were all out there in the field making it come alive with flowers and color, paint and stain..It looked beautiful.

The new Tadpole course was delightful. Juli said it was a perfect introduction to eventing,but next time look out all you baby froggies! We are going to include the water, a half ditch, and a baby bank... so get practicing!

People work very hard at eventing.There were many struggles as well as triumphs out there on the courses. It was definately not a dressage competition. When you come to Paradise you must be ready to play... and ride.

Personally I saw some riders that I know do their utmost to take their courses on at their respective levels. They worked VERY hard. There was serious preparation done to make sure they could get themselves around those courses and I applaud them for their efforts. In these difficult times, so many people pushed themselves in so many ways by giving their time, their effort and support all for our great sport of eventing.

It is hard to thank everyone. So many wonderful people come out to volunteer that sometimes I don't even see them all.The volunteer list changes so much from when we start calling people to the actual day that I am always pleasently suprised at how the day goes. Aiken has so many great people that are willing to help out. So a BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FROM PARADISE!

And of course, special mention needs to go to Nanu for the GREAT LUNCHES! Now that the event is over, Barbie and I will be eating sandwiches for a long time.

I am looking forward to getting back on my horses...I haven't ridden since Pine Top! The Devils go to Rockng Horse In Altoona Florida next. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sweatin in Paradise

On Oct ober 4-5 we had another fun "Sweatin In Paradise" clinic for the Aiken SPCA. This day is always a great excuse for lots of laughs and we are able to make a donation to help our town's animals. Betsy Minton did a fine job of organizing it and we had bodies from all over come once again.

This time we focused entirely on cross country riding rather than a combination of cross country and show jumping as we had done in the past.

I have to say that I was always opposed to the tadpole division in eventing, but now that I have built a tiny course, I am using the baby jumps quite a lot for the cross country teaching.They are small enough to walk and pop over and are great tools for getting a rider's confidence up at every level.

Lucinda Green taught me about walking over jumps and I think it is one of the most important cross country tools I have ever been given. Walking over the jumps teaches horses to simply sight the obstacle and pop over, to wait, to avoid using speed as any aid (actual detriment) and it is the best at teaching the riders WHERE TO BE! Balance and the USE OF THE SEAT is critical for this exercise.

So we startred everyone with that at the walk - then on to trotting and cantering. As usual, I bellowed "STRAIGHT STRAIGHT STRAIGHT!" so a lot of time was spent with a very hot iron trying to straighten out all the wobbles and kinks of this great batch of enthusiasts!

We had wobblers, crumplers, stoppers,bolters. over jumpers, under jumpers,f ast, slow, big, little.We also had grunts, groans, moans.... but mostly laughs.

Teaching is by far most effective when done on at least a 2 day scale.This way everyone can start the second day with their guns loaded.They have NO DOUBTS when they come back for the second day what their issues are and where their focus needs to be. And of course, if they are in anyway doubtful, they shall soon be reminded!

The first day is always a reintroduction to concepts and ideas. Specific tools are introduced and employed in a repetetive basis to try and solidify skills.The general idea is to get everyone to try and ride by knowledge and not by luck.

On day two, we always begin with a review of the previous day's tools. Then and only then if everyone "owns" their newfound skills they are allowed to fly out of their cages and go out into the real world. This is where the fun begins!

Once the little birdies begin to fly on their own, the doors open and everything starts all over again!

After two very serious long full days, all our participents were blasting around up and down the hills at Paradise. Again it is such a great sight to see these people use this incredible land this way - exactly why I bought this farm in the first place.

There are many, many tears out in the cross country field at Paradise.It is HUGELY difficult to keep that back field up alone.The TEARS and frustrations associated with the mowing and the machinery and the MANPOWER!(Grumble Grumble)

But,when I see the people out there jumping and having the time of their lives with their horses, I am reminded that in the end, it is well worth every tear, every hour and every dollar. I am so grateful to have found this farm and grateful for every single day that we can use and enjoy it.

Thank you Betsey Minton and to all of you that came to this year's clinic!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pine Top Horse Trials

I always look forward to Pine Top and this time was no let down either! Janet and Glenn Wilson do a fabulous job and we are so lucky to have this quality event so close to home!

Pine Top is a real event with real tracks that are for the horses. I think we need more of those. The event is well presented yet simple. The tracks given to us (the riders) are always challenging and up to size and the footing is good enough to really have a go. When I saw Glenn out on the cross country I wanted to thank him so much for all his time and work because his cross country is outstanding - all the time. His tracks give me the same feelings as so many of the tracks I rode across the pond. Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou!

Again I must say that I have been serious this summer about taking lessons and practicing. Barbie and I have been serious about the preparation of these horses. Did I ever mention that this is the first time in my career that I have ever had a full time groom? To FINALLY have a reliable helper is a miracle. Paradise farm is a VERY busy operation. Antonio Henandez runs all the man(farm) stuff. Barbie runs the horse stuff, I do the riding and not sure what else stuff and there are several really good friends that ride out at the farm. SEADFAST keeps the horses together along with CONSTANT vet and farrier stuff.

Anyway, only half an hour before I have to run into the woods for a foxhunter safety clinic. Pine Top. Fab event. Harry First, Peter First, Pickles second .Again, I had a rail with Peter in SJ and one very awkward last fence but got away with it but otherwise we were on track with the three devils! WOW BIG WOW!!! Lots of tears and hugs. I do not take this lightly.

Now it's onto Paradise Farm Horse Trials. Two weeks out. Fewer entries than expected. Sad...The gas is killing everyone. But I am keeping the glass half full.Some nice write ups on the Chronicle of the Horse bulletin board. And I even had some very nice comments from an official that I used to hide from as I knew he had some thoughts about my riding. So I tell you folks, Go out there and keep trying as long as it takes (and it has taken a VERY LONG time for me!) but every once in a while the stars do align.Take it while you can and be so grateful.

Thank you Janet and Glenn, STEADFAST, Barbie. Thankyou DEVILS!

Full Gallop Horse Trials

Just a quick update on our eventing scene. The Devils prepped for the American Eventing Championships at the Full Gallop Horse trials here in Aiken. A great event for us due to its proximity to Paradise. I can ride in an event and teach and ride at home all in the same day.(Very necessary in today's economy!)

I think Full gallop was Peter's debut last year at this time. He came out in the dressage ring and nearly bucked me off in the left lead canter depart. During his first test and the prep. before that, I was seriously thinking of contacting the PBR (professional Bull Riders Association) as they make tons more money than eventers do. I thought,"I'll just strap on a pair of bull horns instead of devil horns,they might not be able to tell the difference and it's certainly worth watching the show!"

Wouldn't you know it, The same two ladies that saw that first test last year were in the darn car again this year. Fortunately, Peter was very good.I took my eye off the ball for one second watching an approaching little boy that came dangerously close to A. Peter was also eyeballing him ready to eat him. I made an error in my test by asking for a "pay attention" half halt and Peter walked by mistake. Otherwise had a great test and finished 6th after the dressage. Just goes to show, one can never ever take their eye off the ball! (Learned that the hard way at Rolex 2004. Another long story...)

Harry won his dressage with a 25. How exciting! Pickles was also great for him and was 3rd. I was so proud of how he handled himself, as he tends to get so worried in the warm up and then confines of that little white rectangle we have to navigate every two weeks!

I am trying SOOOOOOOOOO HARD not to fiddle with them in Show Jumping! This is something that has plagued me all my life. I am also trying to allow them to go forward instead of backwards to the show jumps (what a concept). So Pickles and Harry were very good and not too difficult and went clear. Peter tapped two rails down as I got a bit strung out asking for the bigger canter. I hated that I now had three mistakes on board with Peter but we still had the cross country.

I had three rides, each fifteen minutes apart from one another. I LOVE doing it like that because there is no time to think or even better worry! It's all about instinct and reaction at that point. And you only have to remember one track. Of course the close timing puts tremendous pressure on Barbie, but the devils are used to being tacked up for a long time and are all fairly well behaved in the holding area.

It has taken us most of the summer season to get all the tack sorted out but we finally have it right I think. Peter and Pickles have only 2 bridles and saddles (each) but Harry needs a different bridle for each phase.

Zoom, Zoom, Jump, Jump.Three double clears .Wow! Pickles is getting to be like my favorite loafers. It has taken a year at training level (after being ready to go Intermediate ) but he is definitely back. Harry was good but still green. He is getting very close to moving up a class but I still want to be careful. Peter Pan had on his fairy dust and skipped around.

Jimmy Wofford said something to me after a ride at Radnor Three Day event about having bugs on my teeth after cross country - meaning I was smiling so much. I needed a blow torch to get them all off this time. Harry first, Pickles forth and Peter 8th. A great day!

It's Training level, not Advanced but these horses and I have come such a long way and I am really having fun. A big Thank you! to Lara and Andy, STEADFAST, and Barbie.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All Kinds of People

Continuing with the Fox Hunter saftey Clinics, I want to take a (should I say another) moment to describe the value of these sessions. We have had so many different kinds of people and horses participate this year. Everyone has a common goal - to ride safer! All the horses and all the riders are improving and having fun. Everyone is leaving the clinics with homework and something to work on at home.

The issue of safety, of course, is not my idea, nor is it a novel one. I must admit that the concepts I bring to these clinics were taught to me by other great riders. To name a few of the dozens of "visitors" who waft in and out through the airwaves during our sessions, we have had Lucinda Green, Jimmy Wofford, Bruce Davidson, Katie Monahan Prudent, William Steinkraus, George Morris, Carol Bishop, David Hunt, Micheal Tokaruk and a zillion more - a VERY impressive cast of characters. However, these are only a fraction of the names I could include and I mean no disrespect to any of the people that have helped me over the years.

Learning to ride and bond with our horses in any discipline is a lifelong journey. Just about the time you think you are getting somewhere, you find that you need to start over or another journey begins. It is truly endless...

This year, we have had Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs, Landscape Architects, Housewives,Nuclear Scientists, Shrinks(can't spell the real word) Masters of Hounds, Hunt members from numerous packs, Horse Show riders, Eventers...the list goes on and on.

As for the horses, we have had Arabians, Percherons, Quarter Horses, Thouroughbreds, German horses, French, Spotted, and even Tenessee Walking Horses. I know I am forgetting some but you get the idea.

I have mentioned over and over the things we work on and they never end. The Hitchcock Woods offers us an incredible classroom... and I am starting to think that one way to solve the world's energy crisis is the illumination of all the light bulbs that keep popping on and off at Gaylord's Manage! Til next time...

The Ridge Track

I am VERY far behind in my blogging, so I am going to give you all a huge overview of what's been happening with the clinics. There have been so many different groups this year and the interest has been terrific.

You heard about the men's group. That was a hoot!

We also had our experienced ladies group that wanted to gallop over fences. I must mention we had one brave gentleman attend that class. Now this particular group was composed of the "die hards" who have lived through many previous sessions so they knew what they were in for.

I always begin the classes with a group discussion, which gives me general information and insight as to the direction our session should take. After reviewing goals and issues with our 7 participants, we moved briskly up to the famous "Ridge Track." Before jumping, we practiced adjusting strides (balancing techniques). The riders were asked to demonstrate various sizes of canter to gallop and vice versa. As always this was done on a one on one basis. After everyone had completed his/her individual "go" (opening their very own personal can of worms) they were asked to set off in a group with the leader picking the pace and adding abrupt stops turns and zoom offs.

Needless to say, we had a few fly-bys, grunts and "I'm sorrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee's. OOPS! The riders are NOT allowed to use the "bale out, pass-by" system. This class demands that the riders understand how to stop their horses before a pass-by occurs. At this level, they are EXPECTED to be able to rate their horses. It follows that if riders have earned the right to go at the gallop they MUST be able to deal with, and control the consequences of, speed. Hence, the hours and hours of practice learning how to control the size of the stride and control issues. Remember...THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT THE GO IS THE WHOA!!!!!!!

Of course I hear a lot of "Well, he does this and he does that!" My answer to this experienced group? "Ride Better!"

So began the clean up squad and after we had made some adjustments, everyone jumped a few single fences to ensure they would stay together with the horses. Then, we set off to attack the drag lines at a reasonable pace, maintaining ORDER, size of stride, balance, and DISTANCES.

We also had a couple of horses that wanted to work on the very same elements - order, balance and keeping one's distance - without jumping. They followed the jumpers and had a very successful outing.

When I mention "Balance" all the time, I am referring mostly to pulling prevention and maintenance. Our riders need to have the ability to gallop (or trot or walk!) without their horses ripping their guts out, always feeling like they have to be in front.

After two hours of this, our riders all earned their gold stars for the day. This class will meet again soon for further excercises. Next time look out. We're going to the famous Bear Pit Line!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The American Eventing Championships

I am way behind on my blogging and I apologize to the huge following this thing seems to have. I am amazed at the reponses we are getting, and I am delighted you all are getting a kick out of this as I am having fun with the stories!

It took a week to pack the trailer for the week's journey to Illinois. Barbie, myself and the Devils finally got into the truck at 4 a.m. on Sunday Sept.7 and headed to HalfShire Farm in Atlanta - our first stop - to teach a clinic.The horses were put to bed in beautiful stables and had a nice, restful day. I taught until about 6.30 p.m. and also had a great day.

After the clinic, Barbie and I were traeted to some DELICIOUS Blueberry martinis that went down very easily.They were JUST the ticket, along with a delicious dinner our hostess gave us.We sang ourselves upstairs chez Jakes, had a wonderful shower, and I was FAST asleep within minutes.

The clock rang at 11.30 pm and we waddled out to the stables, loaded the horses once again and were on our way to Wayne,Illinois. Two Red Bulls,Three cups of coffee and lots of M&M's later we arrived at a VERY WET Lamplight Equestrian Center. It was POURING RAIN and FREEZING COLD!!!!

We unloaded the horses, bedded down all the stalls ect., gave then a short walk and went to bed ourselves in the trailer.Our trip was uneventful and we made it from Atlanta in about 13.5 hours as planned. All was well with the world.

We slept till 6pm or so fed the horses and went out to eat and back to bed. The horses looked well but a bit tired.

Next day we set everything up in the tackroom and had to use my great STEADFAST banner as a rain shield for the tackroom. It worked perfectly.We were very proud to have our sponsor support us in so many ways! The horses were all ridden round Lamplight and were fairly unfazed by the enormity of it all. We were allowed to ride in the competition rings, which I think was a big advantage for us.

I must tell you all what a miracle it is for me to have Barbie Reeser with me as a groom. She is meticulous and thoughtful and knows exactly what to do. All season we have been competing the three devils in the same division.That translates into at least 6 saddles and about 10 bridles to keep up with as well as ALL the other stuff. I have a BIG trailer and it was VERY FULL when we left! Everything bright and sparkling and in its place.Ha ,wait till then end of this blog!

We were ready to compete Peter Pan in his dressage the next day. He went very well. Peter is all business for such a young horse and we were delighted with his test but a bit dissapointed in the score, however I've found that this is usually the case when one is satisfied with a test. (I seem to do better when I come out of the ring moaning about something), which just shows you I still don't know what I am doing! Pickles and Next Dance got to practice another day.

Next day I had a bit of a mad dash to get 2 horses braided and one cross country ride in before 9 am, then zoom back across the road, change gears and get into Dressage clothes and remember the new test.

Pickles warmed up the VERY BEST he had EVER been, but sadly lots his confidence when crossing over to the competition ring and froze up in the ring to get the worst score of his 2008 season and also the worst score of my class. We were, alas...last.

Next Dance came out that afternoon and completed another good test. He had won the week before with a very good score so I was confident. Again, I was disappointed with a 21st place finish. I wanted to go home! But after whining, moaning and kicking myself around for a while, I got over it. Tomorrow was a new day... and we had a lot to do.

The next day Peter Jumped an immaculate cross country and show jumping round to finish on his dresage score in 8th place. It was POURING RAIN again. As I was in the prizes, I felt duty bound to my sponsor, STEADFAST, and to the event itself to stay for the awards but it meant I was an hour late for my cross country rides with Pickles and Harry (Next Dance).

I galloped Peter back to the barn. We had Harry and Pickles tied up for over an hour and quickly stipped off my hunting coat. On went the XC gear and then I zoomed over to the cross country across the road riding Pickles and ponying Harry. Fortunately, I was allowed to go - nearly an hour after my division had finished! All the junior riders were looking at this old granny obviously lost and out of her mind for being in the warm up at this time. :

"Miss Ward, you can go right now!" Oh great. Sure I'm ready. GULP!!!Fortunately, Pickles may be a wreck when it comes to Dressage but he's always ready to go XC. So, after only one warm-up jump we were at the start box. Pickles zoomed around in slick mud like a complete pro. He NEVER missed a beat - inside the time - a star. All was forgiven about the dressage. Any horse that can be that good under those circumstances is worth working with no matter how long it takes. I only wish it had been an advanced track!

"OK Miss Ward, we need you to go right now." This was about 8 horses after my ride on Pickles. We switched saddles.Zoom,jump,jump,jump.Clear,inside the time again.WOW.Harry had never dealt with mud before and handled it like a pro.Keyword...BIG STUDS and OUTSIDE REIN!

Next day Show Jumping.Another 8 inches of rain.Lamplight is a fabulous place and the rain made no difference to the track.Two clear rounds again.Harry (Next Dance) finished 9th and Pickles 22 from 46th or something.

All in all we were pleased with two top 10 finishes.I felt badly for Pickles nerves in the dressage but we have a new plan for next time.Again,any horse that jumps that well is worth the wait in the dressage ring.I shall put the noose away for another time.(the noose is for me ,not Pickles)God has a purpose for giving me Pickles.I suppose it is to teach me to be patient.Something I am not great at.One day,one day I am going to be able to ride him in dressage with a softer hand!Thank God for lady Clairol!

I Knew there would be a lot of very nice horses at the AEC"s and the dressage would be the issue.To be honest ,I wish the cross country had been more was to my great adavantage that the conditions were less than ideal as I have so much experience riding in mud from the UK and hunting.Thank God there were no injuries due to the conditions and I think the organizers were smart to pull the Cross country.I was very glad to be the last horse to go though!

After Show Jumping everything was soaking wet.It took me five minutes to peel the coat from my body back at the stables.Barbie and I cleaned what we could.Took care of the boys and stared to get ready for the ong journey home.

We had a FULL trailer of wet,dirty,stinky stuff.I always say eventing is like going to war.Though we definately felt like we won the didn't look that way in my trailer.It took about a week to get everything washed,folded and put away.The inside of my trailer had to be thoroughly pressurewashed!Barbie was on the go.No day off for her?(Barbie rarely takes any time off).So everything was put back in order and we're ready for the next one.

I must give a huge thanks to my Sponsor STEADFAST.Without their help I could not have gone to the AEC's.I was right on track with my budget.The trip was about Three Thousand Dollars.Hopefully I could do some small good for this great new product as I ceratinly chatted to many about it.If ever anyone gets the opportunity to attend one of their dinners,by all means do so.Not only will you have a great meal but its a terribly imformative evening for our horses sakes.please contact me or visit their website for more imformation.My horses are continuing to improve and I want to give the credit to STEADFAST!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Well folks we did it. Three brave men attendedthe famed "mens only" group of our Fox Hunter Safety Clinics. Now mind you, these are all very established gentlemen, fully ensconsed in their own time-consuming professions who gave up their Labour Day Monday for an early morning workout in the Hitchcock Woods.And what a workout it was......

A small aside. The initial session of these clinics is held in a lovely spot in the woods called Gaylord's Manage. Captain Gaylord was a tough taskmaster who taught all the children from the Aiken Prep School how to ride. What an honor to follow in his footsteps on such hallowed ground. Another reason to preserve tradition in our beautiful woods!

The men's clinic started with lots of talking as usual by me. My words were met with polite appreciation and nods in the beginning, which then lead to a few yawns and a few more nods and smiles. Then I got to the "Now let's try it" stage. This directive was met with a few grunts and kicks. Steering quickly became an issue as was size of stride and straightness of the horse. And there were a few balance issues that popped up. The men went around their small course at the walk, passing the test and were ready for Phase 2.

Up and down the hill they went and over and through our famous "starter ditch." I use this rather rough terrain as a training tool to check for balance and control issues and to make sure we can progress to Phase 3.

"OK men, now lets do all this at the posting trot!, I merrily suggested. One response was,"Whats that?" We were nearly an hour into the lesson and when I heard that I thought, Oh boy here we go. So we practiced the trot for a moment and everyone got it. They were ready to be released from the cage and practice their undulating course at the trot. Now, please keep in mind, we try hard not to leave any stones unturned. These men do not ride a lot (though I have to say one was quite experienced) so he had to be REALLY good or else!

The men were seriously working at their tasks and doing a very god job. However, it had become very clear to them that we were well past the time for polite nods and yawns. They were now in deep. Everything they had been forewarned about was rapidly becoming a reality. And don't forget - it was at least 99 degrees at this point. Purple was rapidly becoming the color of the day.....

We progressed onto another ditch and terrain question and culminated the day with a very long course combining both excercises making the men go all the way round the Show Grounds at a trot in a group!.This course took easily 5-6 minutes of serious concentration, steering, balancing, and control. And then.........they were asked if they were lucky or they were good. Of course the answer was the latter so my answer was "right then do it again!"And off they went a second time proving their skills and improving their confidence.

By this time, a sizeable audience had materialized. There were huge cheers for our men. They were amazing and I was very proud of them all. What an honor it is to have this opportunty to teach these people. Our safety clinics really are great fun.

These men have two more sessions to go...can't wait to get to cantering!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Need to Keep Practicing

I went for my jumping lessons with high hopes and a trailer full of bright, shiny horses due to Barby's hard work. We were very excited to go jumping with Micheal Tokaruk, a sucessful Grand Prix show jumper based here in Aiken.

The day before was not ideal. It was Barby's day off. Now I have become very very spoiled with Barby around. She hands me horses all day long and takes care of everything in between. When she is gone, I can't find anything and it takes me all day to get anything done. Needless to say, I got hung up with various issues around the farm and put my horses off 'till the end of the day. Thinking they would be easy to ride and I would have enough time to prep them for my upcoming lessons, which meant a lot to me. Boy, was I wrong... Then the rain came, and with it lots of lightening so I couldn't ride my horses. Well, I thought, they'll be good. They know how to jump, don't they?

Next Dance exited the trailer with smoke shooting out both nostrils. Michael had never met the Three Devils before, and I had descibed Next Dance as a "real softee." He was, of course, the complete opposite. It's a very good thing I know how to sit back in the saddle as his devilish horns were protruding so far out of the top of his head it was by pure luck that I was not impaled. We did not progress beyond two cross rails. Micheal was very polite.

Peter Pan was next. Our first exercise was a 2 ft.high cross rail with a small flower box underneath. He jumped it so high I nearly fell off. You get the picture.

Next comes Pickles, whom I had described to Michael as being my most difficult horse. He was the only good one. I was allowed to jump a course.

And then there was Riverdance. My Superstar. Michael had seen River in a previous clinic and thought a lot of him. Thought he'd make a serious equitation horse. A huge compliment. Well I was SO SURE I would redeem myself with him. He was a MONSTER!!! I was asked to jump with one hand behind my back so I wouldn't use my hands so much - a very good excercise that I hadn't used in ages. But, I have to tell you, it felt like I was about seven years old and back in pony club! Certainly by now I MUST be allowed to ride with two reins don't you think? (Obviously not!)

In conclusion, I had a great time as it is always an honor to ride with someone so experienced at their craft. Michael was VERY kind and kept his horror to himself. It just goes to show... don't get too big for your breeches hotshot.

I headed for home with my tail very far between my legs. After beating myself up for the 20 minute drive, I then got on a wonderful 15 hand Indian Chief here at the farm that made me feel like a star. I could actually jump 2'6" without a pull. There was hope...

The point is simple. If you are going to go have a big day somewhere - an event, a show, lesson, a hunt, or even a group ride with friends, you'd best be prepared. Don't skip your horses. Don't leave any stones unturned. I shan't soon forget that lesson. Michael look out, I'm coming back!

Monday, August 25, 2008

They Say Practice Makes Perfect

So, The Devils were good at last week's Jumping Branch combined test - their first outing of the fall season. Due to some minor drama the preceding week, we decided to drop Next Dance and Pickles from Preliminary to the Training level with Peter Pan. Peter stole the show and was second, Pickles 5th, and Harry (next Dance) was 6th. So a good start. Full Gallop is next to prep for the American Eventing Championships in September.

It's all well and good for me to ramble on about all the lessons, toture, and adventures in Paradise, but I thought you all may be interested in the other side of the goings on. Why do we do this day in and day out? This is a question I ask myself almost daily. Simple answer, because I love it. One of my favorite expressions I heard somewhere (can't remember when) is that we need to own the ride.We need to be able to own our nerves, own the track, own the size of stride. That means we need control. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Own the ride. I teach it all day long. Sometimes I teach it for 14 hours straight in a clinic situation, like last weekend. Over and over. I ride it over and over on other peoples horses without issue.

But...when I get on my own horses....different story. All of a sudden one gets weaker in the knees. Self doubt creeps in. Something doesn't feel quite right. Oh no......pressure.What's the countdown to the next competition? How many days do I have to get this sorted out?

At the moment I am feeling great about dressage. (of course, that could change at any time.) I am usually good in that department for about 2 weeks. But then I need another "fix" and I can go on again. Without my dose of "sit here, do that, move this" every two weeks, I would be a puddle of complete mush. I am so lucky to be able to get these fixes on 5, 6, or more different horses each time.

The other day, I was show jumping in my great ring with Barbie (the angel that helps me at home) and got to the end of my knowledge ladder with the horses. I set up an oxer for Riverdance to jump and got all mushy about it so I had to ask Barbie to put it down. I got to a CLEAR point. I needed help. For some reason, Show jumping is very difficult for me. It is far easier for me to gallop and jump natural banks, ditches and water than poles that fall down. Go fiqure.

I have gotten to the point where I am comfortable jumping them over some sizeable jumps. Point is, I dare not go any higher unsupervised. It is important for everyone to realize when they need help, advise or support. It is also very important for people to know that even people who ride all the time go to other riders to work on their respective STUFF! So tomorrow I am taking the troups for some Show Jumping lessons. Can't wait! I haven't jumped with anyone in a long time! One would think with all my preaching I would have this stuff all figured out by now. So off we'll go to seek ownership of many things. Mostly my nerves. Wish us luck!

Friday, August 22, 2008

River Dance to Tower-Ready for take-OFF!

I am starting this blog in the dressage ring. No,don't go away... I have to tell you, I have ridden around Rolex four times, and all around Europe on many different horses - and what I am now learning about dressage has me as fired up as any cross country course has ever made me.

What a challenge to learn about such a high degree of control and communication with my horses. (Emphasis here being placed on the word learning) When I get Big Riverdance sitting down to get ready for a medium trot it is like sitting on a 747 getting ready for take-off! I come around that corner and baby get ready to go for a ride! Just writing about the feelings he gave me yesterday gets me all choked up. I can barely mention River's name without getting a frog in my throat. He gave me some tempi changes yesterday that got me so excited I had to pull up. I couldn't take any more!

The Devils were also very good. They are not allowed out of their respective cages. We are hammering away at calm, forward and straight. They begin their fall season this weekend at a local combined test...

Another goal of mine is to jump River around a 4 foot course without drama. We're getting close. I am having some jumping lessons next week...

I had a wonderful one on one lesson with one of my new male foxhunter saftey victims (I mean participants).What a star! Do you know how important this is to have people actually looking for help with their riding, and then even enjoying a flat lesson? It is so important for the rider to get that look of "wow, I actually felt that !" Learning new tools is very exciting for me, and to be able to pass these things on to our local friends is an honor. I can't wait for the men's group in the woods this weekend. Ladies look out... and stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Foxhunter Safety Clinic Kick Off

So much has happened since our last entry. Todays news...Arenus, makers of "Steadfast" have decided to really help me and the Devils get to the Championships in Illinois in September. What a great feeling to have even more support.It boosts one's confidence to the hilt. I had a wonderful meeting with them last week and together, I think we can really form a wonderful partnership.

Eventing on a large scale is difficult. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. The health and well being of the horses always comes first, and Steadfast is helping my horses in a way that I cannot. They are glowing and enjoying their work with confidence and less stress. Needless to say, I am delighted with their attitudes and well being. So... fingers crossed that we can keep it up!

The Fox Hunter Safety clinics have begun! Last Saturday and Sunday, we had 6 brave souls show up. I asked them if they had been forewarned! There was quite an assortment. We had a giant Percheron, a classy Thouroughbred mare, a polo pony/hunt horse, an Indian Chief, a delightful 19 year old mare, and another Percheron cross.

The first day we set a small "course" that required a multitude of skills. Our course consisted of a log to an uphill through the trees down hill over a ditch and then a left turn to another log. WE started at the walk, one on one, progressed to a trot and ended with the entire group going as on a hunt(only trotting). Chaos ensued. PERFECT!

All sorts of things happened! Steering, confidence, balance, bucking, pulling, ducking and diving issues were quick to surface. EXACTLY what the doctor ordered! So after lots and lots of talking and explaining, I sent the ladies out to try again round their tracks and, what do you know? Each time got better and better!

When all the ladies were sufficiently exausted I simply smiled and said, "See you tomorrow, bright and early," and off they went moaning.

Day two was about technique. In a nutshell, we practiced getting control of our horses' shoulders and also being able to own and change the size (and temperament and attention span) of the horses. A few changes of equipment and education of specificaly how and where to "influence" the horses gave everyone a thrill and ultimately led to newfound confidences. The second class was not as "exciting "as the first as I kept the ladies more "confined," but they got the point.

There certainly was a lot more groaning from both horses and riders.(I love to go deep) and with this bunch it only took two rides! We accomplished a great deal and everyone was excited to come back for more.

I have many more tricks up my sleeve to quietly let these brave souls find out how to make their own riding skills better. Hopefully, clinic participants will enter into discussion on this blog and give their feedback in the future! Stay tuned.

Next class wil be even more fun! We have 5 or6 men starting out! Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Welcome to My New Blog!

Here goes...The first blog. After a sucessful spring season of eventing culminating with the Area III championships, all my eventers, Pickles, Next Dancem and Peter Pan (also known at farm as the Three Devils) have been spending a hot summer hacking in the Hitchcock Woods and practicing LOTS of dressage and show jumping in our ring at home. Hopefully this work will strengthen our base for the fall season.

Riverdance has switched hats. He will soon be wearing the top hat and tails of an upper level dressage horse. Can you believe it! WE are learning things I never thought possible and having a GREAT time. It is a complete honor to ride him and learn this new balance. I still cannot speak about River without tears of gratitude and joy. He is a horse of a lifetime for me and together we are going to conquer those pirouettes and tempi changes! Currently my goal is mastering the extensions. It is still hard to keep River connected to planet earth as he LOVES to fly! Patience HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

I also am proud to announce that I have gotten on board with a great new product called Steadfast, produced by Arenus. I really think this has helped my horses and they also are helping my team get to the competitions in style. I am excited and delighted to promote the product that has helped my boys look and feel terrific. Not only has it helped them look and perform at their best but I think it is helping them cope with the many stresses of competition and travel. To me, managing stress is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and for our horses' atheletic performances. Please vist my website and click on the Arenus link for more information regarding Steadfast!

Lots happening at Paradise. We have about 15 horses in training. Needless to say, days are full. As I mentioned earlier, the Three Devils are all quailified for the American Eventing Championships in Illinois in September, but I am torn between going there (a very long way to travel in today's economy) or going to Chatahoochie Hills in nearby Georgia. Currently I am leaning toward the latter. However, I have a meeting with Arenus this Friday and they just might change my mind! Stay tuned...

To prep for those competitions I am aiming the three devils at a local event as an easy go to get them back into the fall season. We're not sure when River's coming out will be.

The Aiken Hounds have been excercising all summer in the Woods but we are concurrently cross training them for syncronized swimming and relay at the Paradise Farm pool on Wednesday mornings. Not only are the hounds getting a workout, but many of our members and friends (and their horses) also are vying for spots on the team. Our current star would have to be Mrs. Karen Dempsy followed closely by Ms. Dawn Beckering, our new hunt secretary!

The foxhunter safety clinics start up again Aug.16-17. We have 5 groups this year. There is a lot of interest and buzz in Aiken about it and the the clinics have really grown. We are especially pleased this year with the new entry of the "MEN'S ONLY" group. So ladies better LOOK OUT this season!

Stay tuned for further "Adventures in Paradise!"