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.